Not every runner aims to be Haile Gebrselassie or Paula Radcliffe; every day, millions lace up their trainers for fun, fitness and the sheer joy of running. That doesn’t mean those runners are not interested in running longer and further… if only they had the endurance to go that extra mile!
How to Improve Your Endurance?
Follow these tips to coax more from your muscles and increase your stamina.
Just as putting the wrong type of petrol into your car will result in poor performance – if not do outright damage, putting the wrong fuel into your body will affect how you run and how far you can go.
Besides eating the protein and fat your body needs for energy and muscle growth/repair, you should also load up on carbs. A high-carbohydrate diet will provide you with stores of energy to burn as you run and the best part is that they digest quickly so that they energy the provide will be ready when your muscles need it.
Far from being a dietitian’s nightmare prescription, eating the right amount of calories for your age, size, gender and level of activity will ensure that you maintain your optimal weight while providing all of the fuel your body needs to run as far as you want.
Nothing throws a runner off their stride faster or more annoyingly than muscle cramps. Having to stop running, work the cramp out and then finding the rhythm again is a sure deterrent to building any kind of resilience as a runner, especially if the cramps recur. Fortunately, the solution to cramping is simple: keep well-hydrated.
Barring any serious medical conditions – if you continue to experience cramps despite drinking plenty of water, you should talk with your doctor about them, staying adequately hydrated should keep your calves from cramping.
Running must be the only form of training for runners, right? Wrong! Just as it’s common to find cyclists active in the weight room and boxers jumping rope, dedicated runners build endurance and improve stamina by taking up sports unrelated to running.
Swimming is an excellent low-impact, aerobic workout that works your core and upper-body while still targeting the same muscle groups you use to run. Yoga would be another great cross-training choice by increasing your flexibility and your body’s overall conditioning.
Both yoga and swimming would also make for great recovery workouts.
Add Strength Training
To use oxygen more efficiently as you run, the defining factor of endurance, you have to increase your stamina and build your muscles – all of them, not just the ones you need to run.
A runner’s strength training routine is a bit different from a weightlifter’s or any other athlete, your target muscle groups should be those that keep you stable and moving, like your core and back muscles.
Make planking, squats and lunges a part of your strength-training routine and, if you’re working with a personal trainer, ask them to show you how to workout with a stability ball. Feel free to use dumbbells at you squat and reach to intensify your workout.
Make a Plan and Stick With It
Who doesn’t know someone who, out of some unformed longing, took up running but, once the benefits of their newfound passion manifest themselves in happier moods and better sleep, suddenly find reasons to not lace up their trainers?
You don’t have to contemplate running marathons to consider yourself a serious runner but you do have to be consistent in your running and workout routine to build any kind of endurance.
You may schedule a short run on Monday, a gym session on Tuesday and swimming on Wednesday, repeat that sequence and then head out for a long run on the weekend.
Change Your Route
One reason novice runners give up before they fully get into the sport is boredom. Who wants to see the same scenery all the time? Another reason to mix it up a little is to run different terrain.
You may run a level course one day but a more hilly one the next; you occasionally opt for a winding path through a forest or even up a mountain.
The change of terrain will condition you to respond differently. For instance, the pavement will allow you more bounce (but create more impact) while running on a beach will make you work harder to pick up your feet.
Changes in the level you run at matter too. Running uphill will be more demanding while twisting paths will call for more control and shorter strides.
Go Long and Slow(er)
If you live on flat land, away from sandy beaches, you can build your endurance and boost your stamina by running longer and slower than you normally do.
Remember that endurance is the efficient use of oxygen by your muscles so putting them on a slow burn for longer will increase that efficiency.
Consider Elevation Training
However, if you live at a high altitude, the air you breathe has less oxygen content which forces your body to burn it more efficiently. Kenyan distance runners are a prime example of this phenomenon.
They train at high altitudes, which forces their hearts, lungs and muscles to work harder. When they compete at lower altitudes, they far outshine their competitors.
Moving to the mountains may be an impractical solution but an elevation mask can duplicate those high-altitude conditions.
Run With a Partner
Some runners prefer to run alone but there is a strong case to be made for running with a partner, especially if you run long-distance.
A sense of competition and staying motivated are two of the main reasons for finding a running buddy; for some, running with someone simply makes the activity more enjoyable. Should that idea appeal to you, you might check out some of the running clubs in your area.
Safety is another good reason to run with somebody else; should you sustain an injury, you would not have to fight your way back to get help.
Allow for Recovery
Earlier, we mentioned that swimming and yoga are great activities to let your body recover from the stresses of running; others include cycling, walking and dancing.
Running is generally considered a high-impact sport that stresses your lower legs, knees and hips especially. You have to give them time to rest and repair themselves from your last run before lacing up your trainers again.
Failure to do so may result in injury – anything from shin splints and pulled tendons to cartilage damage to your knees, and the damage to your muscles could become irreversible.
It may sound counter-intuitive to rest when you’re trying to build endurance and boost stamina for running but the alternative to not resting could be not being able to run anymore.
Instead, follow these ten tips and you’ll find yourself running better and farther than ever.