Sometime in the future, a distance you find challenging now will feel easy. When that happens, it means you’ve increased your running stamina. We’re not saying a marathon will ever feel easy, but one day you’ll look back and notice that what you find challenging now will come much easier. An increase in running stamina comes from consistency, that means running multiple times per week for multiple weeks to accumulate fitness – there are no quick fixes if you want to increase running stamina. It’s generally accepted that it takes 10 days to 4 weeks to benefit from a run. The time will depend on the type of run, quicker and more intense runs being on the lower end of the range with long steady runs being on the other higher end of the range.
Before you begin working on increasing your running stamina, you need to make an honest assessment of your current aerobic base and build on that. Whether you’re a new runner looking to complete their first 5k or an experienced runner looking to increase their stamina for the final stages of the marathon and avoid hitting the wall, the rule of “too much too soon” always holds true, doing too much too soon only leads to injury or overtraining.
HOW TO BUILD STAMINA FOR RUNNING: 7 TIPS
1. BE CONSISTENT
To increase your aerobic capacity and improve your endurance to run farther than you can now, you need to train consistently. Consistent training will build your aerobic base, increase your aerobic capacity (which is how much oxygen your muscles can use) and strengthen your muscles. When you begin to add extra runs to your week, they should be easy and slow – speed follows endurance! You should aim for 3 to 4 sessions per week for 30 minutes or more. Aim to make one of these sessions your long run where you plan to go farther than any of your other runs that week.
2. RUN LONG
To run farther, you’re going to have to actually run farther! Either increase your long run by 5–10 minutes or add 0.8–1.6 km (0.5–1 mile) each time. It might not sound like much but it begins to add up. When you get into a bigger volume of training for a half marathon or marathon, your long run should be roughly 30-50% of your total distance for the week. Do your long run at a slow and sustainable pace; many people try to run their long run too fast and struggle to finish strong. Go slowly and just focus on covering the distance. Remember, speed follows endurance.
3. TEMPO RUNS
These runs are normally run over a shorter distance, but at a higher pace than at which you normally train. Training like this trains your body to clear lactic acid from the bloodstream quicker, which means you can run longer before fatigue and lactic acid builds up and slows you down. It will also make your easy running pace or planned race pace feel easier – these runs are the key to improving your running speed. Tempo runs should be a “comfortably hard” pace that lasts from 20-40 minutes and up to 60 minutes for more advanced runners. They should not be an all-out effort that has you gasping for breath, but a challenging pace that you feel you can maintain over the duration of the run.
4. EAT FOR ENDURANCE
That means carbs! As a runner, you should focus on carbs making 55% – 65% of your calorie intake from carbs. You don’t need to eat a mountain of pasta at every meal, but be mindful of your carb intake to make sure it’s complimentary to your training. Before your long run, it’s key to have a carb-based meal to ensure you have enough energy to cover the distance. If you find yourself tired, in a low mood or unable to complete your planned runs, then increase your carbs. Always go for complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice and oatmeal instead of refined carbs and sugary foods that will spike your blood sugar (a spike is always followed by your blood sugar crashing).
The farther you run, the more you’re challenging yourself and therefore need to ensure your body is recovering between sessions. Good recovery comes from a good diet, stretching and sufficient sleep. Aim to eat a quality meal or snack of carbs and protein within 30 minutes after finishing your run. This is the optimal window of recovery where your body can best absorb the nutrients to refuel and recover with. Focusing on this will enable you to recover between sessions and go into each run feeling strong and able to complete it.
6. WORK ON YOUR RUNNING ECONOMY
Working on your running technique will make you a more efficient runner. If you run efficiently, you will be able to run farther without feeling as tired as you will use less energy. Good technique comes from running tall (imagine a string holding you up), ensuring your foot lands under your center of gravity and a cadence of around 170 – 180 steps per minute. If you have weight to lose, then losing extra weight will also help your running economy since you will be lighter.
7. MIND GAMES
Running farther than you ever have before can be daunting, but you can do it! Mentally preparing yourself for your longest run of the week will make it easier. Some ways to make a long run seem less daunting are to break it down to 1 mile at a time, or to treat it as 2 x a distance you can run easily, or 1x a distance you can do with a little bit more added on – a 10k with a slow 3k added on already sounds less scary than running 13k.
We hope this helps you understand how to build stamina for running and gets you covering more mileage than before!