Building up your endurance so you can push yourself a little further or a little faster is a common goal among runners. There are some effective ways to reach these higher levels of stamina, and many of them go far beyond the standard “just keep running a little further every day” idea.
The thing is, like many exercises, it’s important to working on increasing your running endurance while minimizing the risk of injuries. If you end up running too far or too fast before your body is ready for it, you could end up doing more harm than good.
So, what’s the trick? How can you strike this balance of pushing yourself without harming yourself?
Try to incorporate some of these suggestions and see how they affect your run.
Never Forget Strength Training
Strength training is a major component of the endurance equation, even though many runners focus strictly on cardio. A cardio-only workout may not be able to get you to the levels you’d like to reach, and may even lead to chronic aches and pains throughout the body.
There have even been some studies that show how strength and endurance training have a beneficial effect on the running economy. Most notably, the increased leg muscles help absorb the impact of your stride, and with more strength you can propel yourself further with every step.
On top of that, the right strength training can help improve oxygen uptake, increase coordination, and help you run more efficiently.
What kind of strength training will help your run? Generally speaking, anything involves compound movements – exercises that activate more than one joint. This could be anything from squats and lunges to pushups and deadlifts.
Just 10 minutes of strength training after every run can make a huge difference. This is a key factor for increased endurance right here. Do your strength training right after your run. Not before, and not on alternate days. If you work out before the run, you might use up all the glycogen stores in your muscles, making it harder to complete your run. If you alternate strength training and cardio days, you may end up building muscle rather than endurance.
Consistency is the foundation of running endurance. And it’s not just about running every day, but always pushing yourself a little further.
And when we say a little further, we mean it. A gradual increase in mileage will help your body adapt and increase its stamina. However, you need to make sure you’re doing enough of the strength training mentioned above to handle even these gradual increases in distance.
It’s okay to take some time between distance increases. You don’t want to force yourself to do something you’re not ready for, but you do want to keep at it until you can reach your next milestone.
… But Not Routine
A routine can be the enemy of endurance. If you keep doing the exact same thing every day, your body is going to adapt and become comfortable at that level.
Switching up your workouts, especially the strength training aspects, will prevent your body from plateauing. Move your muscles in different ways. It’s more motivating, more invigorating, and more efficient.
Find Your Rhythm
Do you ever feel your energy increase when you’re listening to your favorite music? There’s a reason for that. We know that music helps improve a runner’s cadence and builds positive associations with working out, but now we even have some studies that suggest that certain types of music can increase exercise endurance by 15%.
There’s just something about putting in the earbuds and blocking out the distractions that makes it easier for many runners to find those hidden reserves of energy and get a little more out of every run.
The Best Uphill Battle Ever
There’s nothing quite like a big hill for building running endurance. Sure, it looks a little daunting. Yes, running uphill goes against most of our natural inclinations. (“Inclinations.” Get it? These are the jokes, friends.) But it really is a great way to develop the muscles you need for better endurance.
Begin by walking up the hill. Then, as you feel your calf muscles start to compensate and grow stronger, you can switch to jogging the hill. Eventually, you’ll be running up this supposedly insurmountable hill with stronger lungs and legs and feeling great when you reach the top.
(Go ahead, hum the Rocky theme song and pump your fists in the air. Trust me, you’ll want to.)
The Running Endurance Equation
Like most equations, this one needs to be balanced. Too much weight on one side could throw everything else out of order. When you want to start increasing your endurance, make sure you’re getting enough cardio, strength training, variety, and rhythm to gradually and safely take your next run a little longer and a little faster.