How to Increase Stamina and Endurance for Running

Sport & Activity

Run longer distances by building stamina and endurance. Here's how you can adjust your training plan to keep you going for longer.

Last updated: 5 April 2024
7 min read
How to Increase Stamina and Endurance for Running

Having great stamina and endurance is a valuable asset in running. Runners who build up stamina and endurance can run for longer distances without getting fatigued. Their bodies and minds have been conditioned to push past the voice in their head saying, "Quit". As a result, they're able to keep running.

Running involves repeated movement, sustained for long periods of time. Without sufficient stamina or endurance, you'll get tired and give up soon after you start. Luckily, you can work on building stamina and endurance by adjusting your training plan.

What's the Difference Between Stamina and Endurance?

Stamina and endurance are terms that both refer to how long you can sustain physical activity. They're often used interchangeably, but to be precise, they're not exactly interchangeable.

Stamina is how long an activity can be performed at maximum capacity. It considers both the physical and mental burden of work.

Endurance is how long an activity can be performed in total. It refers to cardiovascular efficiency. This is how well your heart, lungs and muscles work together to distribute blood and oxygen around your body to sustain activity.

Sports that require stamina include anything high-intensity. That might be football, triathlons, rowing, martial arts, tennis and basketball. These sports involve bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by active recovery and going again. Having stamina allows you to keep up, mentally and physically.

Any activity that needs to be sustained for long periods requires endurance, like marathon running. Your cardiovascular system needs to be efficient at transporting oxygenated blood around your body to your working muscles to continue movement. The goal in endurance sports isn't to max out on effort or work at maximum capacity; it's to be physically capable of persistent activity.

How to Increase Stamina and Endurance for Running

  1. 1.Stay Consistent

    You build endurance by running as regularly as you can. Be consistent with your schedule, running at least three to four times a week. The exact number of runs depends on your running experience and fitness levels. Beginner runners should start small with only one or two runs per week, allowing for your body to adapt. More experienced runners can increase their running volume. But remember: recovery is key! If you struggle to stay consistent, here are some tips for you:

    • Set an alarm: Setting an alarm to work out can give you the cue you need to get going. Instead of coming back from work and collapsing on the couch, set an alarm to remind you of your goals and get those running shoes on!
    • Get a running buddy: Running with friends can improve exercise adherence. You're combining social time with physical activity time—perfect!
    • Schedule it in advance: A busy schedule can cause running time to be pushed to the side. Schedule in runs in advance to hold yourself accountable.
  2. 2.Increase Your Mileage Gradually

    Any experienced runner will tell you the 10 percent rule: Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. Small mileage increases help to prevent injury and give your body a chance to adapt without feeling overloaded.

    So for example, if you run 10 miles total in one week, the next week, you should run 11 miles maximum.

  3. 3.Incorporate HIIT Into Your Training

    High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to boost your endurance. A September 2013 study in PLoS One found that interval training improved VO2 max (a marker of endurance) more than endurance training.

    Interval training involves alternating between periods of max-effort exercise with rest periods. This might be a hill workout—running up the hill for 30 seconds and walking back down for 60 seconds.

    This type of interval workout strengthens your heart and lungs to handle the demands of longer races. Training at a high intensity will also help your muscles better handle lactic acid, a chemical byproduct of anaerobic respiration. When lactic acid builds up in the muscles during intense exercise, you might experience a burning sensation which can be uncomfortable.

  4. 4.Practice Plyometrics

    Plyometrics is a type of training that uses explosive exercises. Think: box jumps, squat jumps, clap push-ups and tuck jumps. Your muscles have to exert maximum force in a short period of time, which increases muscular power. This helps running stamina in a few ways:

    • It improves your ability to store energy between eccentric and concentric muscle contractions. Concentric muscle contractions are the weakest muscle action for the majority of people. Plyometrics increases this, creating the greatest force during the concentric phase. This can transfer into speed as your body can produce force more efficiently.
    • It makes your muscle fibres stronger. Working against a resistance with explosive movements puts your muscles under a new type of stress. This triggers the hypertrophic process in which muscle fibres get stronger and bigger in size.
    • It makes your muscles more flexible. Plyometrics stretches your muscle fibres prior to contraction, and over time, this leads to increased flexibility. For example, before performing a box jump, you bend down and stretch your quadriceps before exploding upwards.

    This ultimately improves running mechanics and economy and may even help reduce the risk of injury, according to a 2019 study.

  5. 5.Manage Your Stress

    An often forgotten component of stamina is how well you handle stress. This could be emotional stress (e.g., a hard day at work) or physical stress (e.g., a tough workout). Being stressed puts your body in a compromised state. Your immune function declines, hormone imbalance occurs due to elevated cortisol and adrenaline, your sleep gets interrupted and that's just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, a September-October 2019 study in PAIN Reports found that stress impairs recovery. Your body isn't able to focus on repairing damaged tissue because it's in fight-or-flight mode. All the other processes are on pause.

    Some of the best ways to manage stress are meditation, mindfulness and yoga. These modalities help to calm the nervous system, fight inflammation and relieve muscle tension, according to a July-December 2011 study in the International Journal of Yoga.

    Plus, an August 2020 study in Neural Plasticity found that practicing mindfulness for five weeks increased participants' endurance.

  6. 6.Run 800-Metre Intervals

    To increase endurance, add some 800s into your training plan. This training style can help runners improve their performance by running multiple shorter sprints interspersed with rest intervals. If you're training for a marathon or half-marathon, this type of exercise can simulate the effort required for a longer run while helping you build endurance.

    All you need to do is figure out your goal pace, then run it for 800 metres (two laps around a standard running track). So if your goal is 3:45/mile, your 800-metre goal time would be 3 minutes and 45 seconds. Run rounds of 800 metres until you can comfortably reach your goal time.

  7. 7.Don't Skip Strength Training

    Strength training should be a part of your training routine regardless of whether you're an experienced or beginner runner. It'll improve running economy, which will help you use less oxygen and keep your pace for longer, per a June 2010 study in Strength and Conditioning Journal.

    It can also help you develop muscle and joint strength, allowing you to activate key muscle groups more easily. The better muscle recruitment, the better physical performance. This translates into running faster, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

    Here are some strength training exercises to incorporate:

    • Squats
    • Deadlifts
    • Overhead press
    • Lunges
    • Bent-over rows

Why Stamina and Endurance Are Important for Running

Running requires stamina and endurance so that you can run for longer without getting tired. That doesn't mean running a marathon will suddenly be easy. But over time, distances that were once exhausting will become manageable. You'll be able to run without stopping and maintain a lower heart rate throughout your workout.

Once you've mastered endurance, you can increase your pace. Your 5K race pace might become your training pace, as your cardiorespiratory system is better able to handle the demands of the work. Plus, through continued training, you're mentally tougher and can push your body harder.

Originally published: 22 November 2021

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