If you’re looking for strategies to help you boost your running stamina, you’ve come to the right place.
Today I’m sharing some of my favorite tried and true ways of building endurance.
Ready? Let’s go.
The Golden Rule – Take it One Step At a Time
When it comes to building stamina (and fitness for that matter), the gradual approach is the only way to go. This one step at a time approach is the overarching rule of building fitness. You just need to be patient and consistent.
The rule applies to everyone, the beginner taking up running for the first time and the marathoner training for a sub-3-hour race. It’s the smart thing to do.
The Run Walk Method
This is for you beginners out there. You have to be extremely careful if you’re starting out.
If you’re a complete running newbie and are serious about warding off injury and/or overtraining, then start on the right foot. The best way is to opt for the run/walk method.
Start with a 10-minute brisk walk, then alternate 30 seconds of easy paced jogs and 30 seconds to one full minute of walks.
As you get fitter, run for longer and take less and less recovery. Keep doing this until you can run for at least 25 to 30 minutes straight without much huffing and puffing.
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Interval training is one of the most frequently referenced training trends. According to experts, the method is hailed as the closest thing to a miracle when it comes to achieving optimum fitness.
Interval training uses quick bouts of intense exercise to boost endurance and stamina. It’s extremely effective when it’s combined with traditional running training (think easy runs, tempo runs, and long runs).
Interval distance can range between 100 meters to a mile or more depending on your running goals and fitness level.
If you’re starting out, intervals will feel a bit odd. They’ll push you out of your comfort zone. If you’re not careful, these will leave you doubled over and in pain. And you don’t want that.
Where to Do Them
You can perform an interval training workout on any smooth flat surface. If that suits your established running loop it’s fine, but a trail is out of the question.
Here are a couple of sample workouts that will give you a strong sense of how a high-intensity interval training session works.
Go to a flat surface running area and complete a thorough 10-minute warm up. Then do 8 to 10 200m sprints at your maximum speed. Walk or jog as recovery for at least 30 seconds to one minute between each rep.
Finish the workout with a cool down.
If you want a greater challenge, perform Workout I but do it on a hilly route. Ideally, aim for a hill with a 6 to 8 percent grade that should take you 20 to 30 seconds to reach its pinnacle at top speed.
Perform Yasso 800s
Doing Yasso 800s is a simple method for increasing stamina, especially if you’re planning on tackling a marathon. So, what do these consist of? In essence, they’re hard 800-meter run intervals interspersed with jogging recoveries lasting one minute or longer.
Unless you have a good way of gauging speed and distance, perform this workout solely on a track or a treadmill. This is so you can measure the 800-meter distance (roughly two laps around a standard track.)
After a 10-minute thorough warm-up, run 800 meters at a challenging pace. This can be a tempo pace.
Jog for one to two minutes to recover, then repeat.
If you’re a beginner, do no more than four sets per session. Add more as you get stronger and more fit. Remember to stay within your fitness level the entire time.
If you’re an avid reader of my blog (you are, right?) then you know I’m a strong advocate of weight lifting for runners. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s the best complement to your outdoor workouts.
For more on the benefits of strength training for runners, check my posts here and here.
How does weight lifting boost endurance?
It’s quite simple.
A regular routine helps you strengthen key running muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. This helps you improve running efficiency and total body endurance.
The Training Guidelines You Need
What follows are some useful weight lifting strategies for making the most out of your gym time.
First, do plenty of compound moves.
These consist of total body moves like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, and step-ups that recruit a lot of muscles. Compound exercises improve strength better than classic isolation exercises, like bicep curls, leg extensions, and calf raises.
When performing these compound movements, allow yourself at least 30 to 60 seconds of rest between each exercise.
Lift Fast and Intense
For a more intense workout, lift weights at an extremely fast pace. This will help you add an element of endurance training to your strength workouts.
Try mixing and matching aerobic exercises and strength training. One example is doing 400-meter runs at a challenging pace, then working out with a dumbbell, or Kettlebell, or doing bodyweight exercises.
After a thorough warm-up, perform 12 to 16 reps of the following exercises with a challenging weight. Take one minute of rest between each set.
- Barbell Rows
- Back Squats
- Walking Lunges
Add a Long Run
Once you’ve built enough stamina, add distance to your runs, especially your longest run of the week.
Why are long runs so vital?
Simple. These strengthen the heart, flush waste from tired muscles, improve running form, etc. I can go on and on, but you get the picture.
For the full guide to the Long Run, check this post.
How do you fit a long run into an existing running program?
Make sure at least 25 to 30 percent of your weekly mileage is devoted to the long run. The exact percentage will depend on your overall mileage, training goals, and fitness level.
If you hate long runs, then this post is the exact thing you need to help you overcome that feeling.
On your next long run, stick to a comfortable, consistent pace for at least 50 to 70 minutes.
As you get stronger, aim to increase your long run duration by no more than 5 minutes from one week to the next. Gradually extending distance gradually helps you drastically reduce your risk of injury and/or overtraining.
Whatever you do, make sure your long runs are carried out at a comfortable pace that would allow you to run and carry on a conversation at the same time. If you push the pace too much, you’ll end up hurting yourself, and that’s not the purpose of training.
After a few months of strength and interval training, you’re ready for some more action, and plyometric exercises are just the ticket.
What are they and how can they help you become a better runner?
I’ve written an extensive piece on plyo training, which you can find here. Plyometric training is all about doing explosive movements. It can help you become a better runner by improving your running form efficiency.
Being more explosive benefits runners for many reasons. Once you start becoming more explosive, your entire body will start moving faster without you putting in any additional effort.
Science backs this up. Check out these two studies.
After a thorough dynamic warm-up, do 45 seconds to a minute of any of the following exercises
- Box Jumps
- Squat jumps
- Jump knee tucks
- One leg hops (30 seconds on each leg).
Rest for one minute, then repeat the cycle two to three times.
Tempo runs have one main purpose: they help you improve your lactate threshold level. This is the level of exertion at which lactic acid starts accumulating in the muscles. The better your threshold pace, the further and faster you can run.
The Ideal Tempo Pace
During tempo runs, your running effort should feel difficult enough, but not so hard that you can’t sustain your pace. That pace is slightly slower than your 10K race pace.
After a 10-minute warm-up running at an easy pace, run the next three to four miles at tempo pace. Finish it off by cooling down with a 5-minute slow jog.
To spice up your long runs and make them more challenging, do a negative split run.
Run the first portion of your long run at a comfortable pace. Once you reach the midway point, gradually pick up your pace until you’re running the last three to four miles at tempo pace.
When you’re done, cool down with a 10-minute effortless jog.
- CrossFit Training
Still looking for more endurance-building strategies? Give CrossFit (CF) a try.
CF is a diversified training program designed to improve all facets of fitness. These include speed, strength, agility, endurance, coordination, and stamina.
CrossFit is commonly referred to as functional fitness. This is achieved through the use of bodyweight training, plyo exercises, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics rings, sled pushes, Kettlebell exercises, interval-style cardio workouts, and much more.
I enjoy doing CF, and still do WODs (Workout Of the Day) at least a couple of times a week. A standard WOD might include sprinting, rope climbs, power cleans (an Olympic weightlifting move), and slamming a medicine ball against the floor or a wall.
Want to know more? Go here for the complete CF guide for runners.
Here’s a beginner-friendly WOD called the Cindy (CrossFit workouts have universally-used names).
In a 20-minute period, do as many reps as possible of the following circuit: 5 Pull-ups -> 10 Push-ups -> 15 Squats
Don’t Forget Recovery
I hate to break it to you, but running every day won’t turn you into the fastest and strongest runner alive. Rather, doing helps you achieve nothing but run your body into the ground. And you don’t want that.
This might sound like a counterintuitive, thing to do, but taking time to rest is essential. In fact, the right recovery strategy is as important as the training itself.
Downtime is when your body bounces back from the training load it’s just endured, and rebuilds and repairs damaged muscle tissue. Skimp on recovery, and you’ll be putting a large dent in your fitness progress. That I can promise.
Give your body enough time to fully recover and recuperate. Take a reload week every third or fourth week of intense training. During this week, you reduce your mileage by 40 to 50 percent. Even if you’re not doing intensive training, a reload week is a must.
At the very least give yourself a light week either when training hard for an extended period or upon noticing early warning signs of overtraining. These signs include an elevated heart rate, chronic fatigue, persistent soreness, and insomnia.
In the end, consistency and patience are the names of the game.
The workouts and training guidelines suggested here are some of the best, but nothing happens if you’re not consistent. As with anything else in life, practice makes perfect. There’s no way around it.
Don’t expect to improve your running endurance if you only lace up your running shoes twice a week.
Here are some of the things you need to achieve staggering training consistency:
- Set clear running goals. Here’s your complete guide.
- Turn your running program into a habit. Here’s your complete guide.
- Train your mind for stellar performance. Here’s your complete guide.
- Pair up with a training buddy.
- Change up your running program. Here’s your complete guide.
- Join a running club.
- Run in the morning. Here’s your complete guide.