How Beginner Runners Can Build Endurance

Whether your goal is to lose weight by running, increase total weekly mileage, or to just get into a better shape, good endurance is the bread and butter of successful training.

That said, as a runner, you should focus on improving your stamina while limiting—or controlling—the risk of injury. These two goals might be at odds with each other, but with my help you today, you’ll be able to find the sweet spot.

How Beginner Runners Can Build Endurance

Here are some of the most efficient ways to increase your running endurance.

1. Start Slow

The most crucial thing to keep in mind when trying to improve running stamina is to take it slow. In fact, going slow is the overarching principle of endurance building.

This rule applies regardless of your current fitness level—but it’s more significant when you’re just starting out as the risks of injury are higher.

So, if you’re a new to running, practice a little patience. Take your time to strengthen your running muscles and connective tissue. This helps prepare your body to handle the intensity of more challenging workouts later on.

Taking your First Few (slow) Steps

As a beginner, start by walking, then add jogging intervals to your walks. Next, lengthen the jogging portion until you’re able to run at a slow pace for 25 to 30 minutes without panting for air. Here is the full guide to the walk/run method.

Just make sure to keep your pace slow. Sure, slow, as I always say, is a relative term. So it’s really up to the runner (YOU) to find what it means.

But, as a general rule, as long as you can maintain a conversation—or recite the pledge of allegiance—with little difficulty, you’re doing it the right way.

If you were to gauge training exertion intensity, it would fall at about 5 to 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. For the full guide on RPE training, check my guide here.

Also, keep your focus on total time spent running rather than on speed. For instance, your goal should be “today I shall run for 20 minutes non-stop”. Do not worry about how fast or far you go.

2. The 10 Percent Rule

Once you’re past the beginner stage—meaning you can run for at least 30 minutes with ease—you can start increasing your mileage.

But how can you do that without risking injury?

The 10 percent rule is the solution you seek.

And here is what it’s all about: Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent per week.

Your body needs time to adapt and re-adjust to a new training stimulus.

Don’t rush it. Otherwise, you’ll get hurt. And you don’t want that.

Keep It Simple Stupid!

If the 10 percent rule is too much to follow, then simply increase your total weekly run time (provided that you’re running for three to four times) by 10 to 15 minutes. It might not sound like much, but over time, it adds up.

With one exception. On week four or five of training, take a recovery week. Reduce your mileage by 50 percent and keep your pace smooth and comfortable.

3. Cross Train

The right cross-training program trains your heart without damaging your legs.

It supplements your running by increasing cardiovascular conditioning, boosting muscular strength, and building flexibility in the entire body.

The right cross-training program can also help protect your body against overuse injury by fixing muscular imbalances.

Just don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that cross training should replace running, but it can improve stamina with little risk of injury. And that’s a good thing if you ask me.

The Ideal Options

Cross training incorporates different types of exercises or a mix of one or more. Some of the ideal activities for beginner runners include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Biking
  • Skating
  • Swimming
  • Snow skiing
  • Elliptical trainers
  • Strength training
  • And yoga.

Pick any of the above activities and be sure to practice it at least three times a week.

Whatever you end up choosing, make sure it’s training you enjoy doing. Fun is key.

4. Be consistent

To increase endurance, train consistently. Week after week. Month after month. No way around that.

By sticking to your training, you’ll build your aerobic base, strengthen your running muscles, and increase your aerobic capacity—all of which critical ingredients in endurance.

So, as with anything else worth doing, practice makes perfect, especially when it’s consistent over a prolonged period.

The longer you spend out there practicing your “craft,” the more endurance you’ll build.

How Much is How Much?

At a minimum, run three to four times,  30 to 45 minutes each session.

As a rule of thumb, one of these sessions should be a long run where you plan to cover more miles than any of your other workouts of that week.

Just whatever you do, don’t forget about the 10 percent rule when increasing mileage.

To put this into practice, you’d need a training schedule to keep you honest and accountable for your action.

After all, failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes.

Here is an excellent schedule:

Monday – Run for 30 minutes at a leisurely and conversational pace

Tuesday – Cross Train or Rest

Wednesday – After a 10-minute warm-up, perform eight 400m reps at 75 to 80 percent maximum speed

Thursday – Cross train or Rest

Friday – Long run of 45 to 60 minutes at a relaxed pace

Saturday – 20 minutes of easy paced recovery running, followed by a short cross-training session

Sunday – Rest

And that’s it.

The above principles are all you need to build your endurance when running. Now the ball is in your court, and as I always say, success is just a matter of implementation.

So, take action on what you’ve just learned.

Thank you for reading my post.

Keep running strong.

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David Dack

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