Sometime in the future, a distance you found challenging will feel more manageable. When that happens, it means you’ve increased your running stamina.
An increase in running stamina comes from consistency, which means running multiple times per week for multiple weeks to accumulate fitness. There are no shortcuts to increasing running stamina!
Assess your current aerobic base and build on that. Whether you’re looking to complete your first 5k or an experienced runner looking to increase your stamina for the final stages of a marathon, the rule of “too much too soon” holds true. Increasing your runs too rapidly, or resting too little, leads to performance plateaus or injury.
1. Be consistent
To increase your aerobic capacity and improve your endurance, you need to train consistently. Consistent training will build your aerobic base, increase your aerobic capacity (which is how much oxygen your muscles can use) and strengthen your muscles.
When you begin to add extra runs to your week, they should be easy and slow – speed follows endurance! You should aim for three to four sessions per week for 30 minutes or more. Aim to make one of these sessions your long run where you plan to go farther than any of your other runs that week.
Studies have shown that six short sprint interval training sessions increase endurance as traditional long runs do. Sprint intervals require less time and volume, so you can still build your running stamina without adding many more miles to your workout schedule. (1)
2. Run long
To run further, you’ve got to practice running farther. You can increase your long run by five or ten minutes. Or, you can add 0.8 -1.6 km to your current long-run distance. It might not sound like much but it begins to add up.
When you get into a bigger volume of training for a half marathon or marathon, your long run should be roughly 30-50% of your total distance for the week. Do your long run at a slow and sustainable pace (many people try to run their long run too fast and struggle to finish). Go slowly and just focus on covering the distance. Remember, speed follows endurance.
First, calculate your total planned running distance for the week. Then, enter it here:
[total distance] x .30 = [single long run distance]
Once you can comfortably run this distance, multiply your total miles by .4 and then by .5
3. Do Tempo Runs
A tempo run is a shorter run at a pace that is difficult to sustain. For instance, a 40-minute run at your typical 20-minute pace.
Fartleks, interval training, and tempo running are all exercises to improve running endurance. Tempo runs are a particularly effective way to increase running stamina. These runs are normally run over a shorter distance but at a higher pace than at which you usually train.
Tempo runs should take 20-40 minutes for runners preparing for any distance under a marathon. For those preparing to run marathons and ultras, tempo runs should last as long as 60 minutes. They should not be an all-out effort that has you gasping for breath, but a challenging pace that you feel you can maintain over the duration of the run.
Aim to keep up a pace of 70% of your max effort for the entire tempo run. Do one tempo run per week. Try to increase your speed every time.
4. Eat for Endurance
That means getting enough carbs, fats, and protein. Here are a few helpful guidelines:
Pre-run carbo-loading is most effective before a morning run.(2) If your primary exercise is running, you can get as much as 50-65% of your macronutrient intake from carbohydrates.(3)Fats are an essential part of runners’ diets. They are vital to cells and nerve function. Fats insulate and protect organs. And, when your glycogen stores deplete in an endurance run, the body uses fats as fuel.(4) If you tend to sweat a lot during your runs or feel chilled due to sweating, then fat intake is even more important: having enough fats in the body can help you avoid exercise-associated hypothermia(5)How to increase stamina? Increase protein intake! Eating protein after a run helps repair muscle damage and maintain muscle mass.(6)If you’re running for more than an hour, you should be fueling during your run. In-race fueling can be tricky, as many runners experience digestive issues. Studies show that simple carbohydrate-focused drinks, gels, and bars work.(7, 8)
While all carbohydrates are “good” for runners, some complex carbohydrates are more nutrient-dense and filling. Examples include oatmeal, whole grains, and potatoes.
5. Recover Well
Longer runs necessitate longer recoveries. There are some ways to ensure that you’re recovering efficiently between sessions.
Sleeping well is how to improve stamina for running. Sleep is crucial to recovery. While moderate exercise can help sleep, high training volume can hamper it.(9) Add at least 30 minutes to your regular sleep routine on days you plan to run long.Drink plenty of water after a run. That means getting more fluid than you lost in sweating (like, 150% more!). Drinking something with high sodium content, like a sports drink, can also help the body retain fluids. (P.S.: contrary to popular belief, potassium does NOT help!)(10, 11)Get a massage! While dynamic stretching is not proven to help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), massage is.(12)
6. Work on your running Economy
Working on your running technique will make you a more efficient runner. If you run efficiently, you will be able to run farther without feeling as tired as you will use less energy. See this blog post: Proper Running Form for more tips on proper running form with images.
7. Mind games
Running farther than you ever have before can be daunting. You can do it!
Mentally preparing yourself for your longest run of the week will make it easier. Rather than wondering how to build stamina for running long, think of your run in sections. Focus on one mile at a time, one 5k at a time, or one marathon at a time. As soon as you achieve your initial goal, mentally evaluate your physical and emotional state. Can you run another mile, another 5k, or another marathon? If the answer is yes, keep going! After all, a 10k with a slow 3k added on already sounds less scary than running 13k.