Stamina and endurance play a huge part in your success as a runner. It’s not just for ultra marathons or long-distance events, either. If you’re running anything longer than a sprint, your endurance and stamina are important.
This is where beginners often struggle. Even intermediates may not be where they want to be with their endurance and stamina if they’re constantly running shorter distances.
Let’s have a look at some tried and true tips on how to increase your running stamina and endurance so you can run farther for longer!
What is Stamina?
Stamina and endurance are often seen as the same thing.
But stamina incorporates the mental aspect. In other words, stamina is the mental ability to sustain a particular activity for an extended period of time.
It’s about mental strength, willpower, and the ability to push yourself when things get hard. Often, people refer to stamina as how upbeat or energetic you are while you go through an activity!
What is Endurance?
Endurance, on the other hand, refers specifically to physical capabilities.
It’s how well the body can sustain an activity for a long period of time. There are two elements to endurance: muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance.
Each one is just as it sounds. Muscular endurance is how far the muscles can push before they give in. Cardiovascular endurance is how far you can go before your cardiovascular system can’t continue.
There’s nothing mental involved in either of these types of endurance. It’s purely a physical thing.
Tips to Build Your Stamina and Endurance
The good news is that if your stamina and endurance aren’t great, there are ways to improve them both. If you put in the effort and stay consistent, you can significantly improve both.
Here are our best tips and tricks to increase your running stamina and endurance.
Consistency is extremely important. You can do aerobic exercise at high-intensity just here and there, but it’s not going to be effective at building a better cardiovascular system if you don’t do it regularly.
You should be doing intense activity that gets your heart pumping at your max and challenges your lungs at least twice a week, every week, for 30 minutes at a time.
It doesn’t have to be exact. If you usually work out on a Tuesday and Friday but your Friday is a bit busier than usual, shift your workout to Saturday.
As long as you commit to doing a decent workout twice a week, you can be a little flexible with your schedule.
For Beginners: Run-Walk
If you’re new to working on your stamina and endurance, start slow. If you leap in too quickly, you’ll burn out fast.
Begin with a 10-minute walk at a brisk pace. Once you hit 10 minutes, alternate between 30 seconds of light jogging and 30 seconds to one minute of walking.
As you get better, stretch the jogging sections to a minute or more, and lessen the periods of walking in between. Eventually (and with consistency), you’ll be able to run for 25 to 30 minutes without needing to stop and walk.
Once you’re at an intermediate level, you can increase the intensity of your workouts.
Interval-style training is supremely effective for developing endurance and stamina, so that’s the style you should stick to.
Here’s a quick idea of what kind of interval workout you should do as an intermediate athlete:
- 10-minute warm-up
- 8 to 10x 200-meter sprints (aim for 85% of your max speed)
- Walk or jog for around 30 seconds between each
- Cool down for 10 minutes
This kind of training is highly effective on its own, but even more potent when done along with other types of running like tempo runs and long distance runs.
Despite what it sounds like, this doesn’t mean working yourself to death every time you do it! The overload principle simply refers to gradually increasing either your intensity or your volume regularly.
You can aim to increase slightly every single workout or increase weekly. This could be either increasing your mileage or your time while remaining at the same intensity, or increasing your intensity.
A 1-mile or 5% increase per week is ideal. It will take some time, but don’t rush it! Rushing through and increasing your mileage or intensity too quickly can lead to overuse injuries or exhaustion.
Be patient and push through! Doing it this way will help you build these two qualities properly and effectively.
Make Sure to Cross-Train
Cross-training can be extremely effective for improving your endurance and stamina. If you’re taking two days a week to do sprints or interval training, take another two to do cross-training.
This will help you improve your general fitness, which can do wonders for boosting your stamina and endurance.
The ideas for cross-training are endless! While weight-training is an excellent form of cross-training to incorporate to build muscle, strength, and develop muscular endurance, you want to add a cardio form of cross-training to build cardiovascular endurance.
Choose something that appeals to you! You want to actually enjoy your cardio. Here are a few options:
- Stationary bike (indoors), bicycle (outdoor, road or MTB)
- Swimming (excellent for muscles that are already fatigued)
- Elliptical (upper and lower body workout)
- Rowing (full-body workout and easy to scale)
- Tabata-style workouts
Add in Strength Training
As we mentioned above, strength training is the perfect way to build muscle and develop muscular endurance.
Running develops certain muscles, but it also misses some. This is where strength training comes in handy, as you can build all those muscles that get neglected during running.
If you’re a beginner, take it slow! Find a structured strength training program you can do 2 to 3 days a week. Start light, too! The generally accepted rule is to use a weight at which you can do 8 to 10 reps with great form before you fatigue or start to lose form.
Once you’ve reached 10 reps, you can increase the weight slightly. Then, work your way back up to 10 reps at your new weight before increasing it again.
When it comes to increasing your exercises every week, you can do it by volume or by intensity. If you’re unsure of how to measure intensity or you prefer to use something more tangible, increasing your mileage every week is a great idea.
If you go by time, you can add 5 to 10 minutes to your run every week. If you’re measuring miles, add half a mile to a full mile to your run every week.
This is an easy way to structure your increases. Also, don’t feel pressured to increase every single week. If you want to stick at a particular length of time for two or three weeks, that’s perfectly okay too.
Listen to your own body. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but don’t overdo it.
Going overboard could result in overexertion, which may put you out of the game for a few weeks while you recover!
Tempo runs are usually a shorter distance but a higher intensity than your normal training run. This slight change helps the body to clear lactic acid faster so you can run for longer before you fatigue.
It’s quite simple to incorporate tempo runs into your weekly routine. Start with a quick warm-up like you would do before any run. Then run for 10 to 20 minutes at a pace about 20% higher than your regular easy pace.
You should be running comfortably hard, but not pushing yourself too hard. Don’t get as fast as race pace – you want to be somewhere in between easy and racing.
Plyometrics are an excellent way to get your heart pumping. They’re explosive bodyweight movements, often jumps.
Be careful with this, though. The type of exercise may not be suitable for complete beginners, those with nagging injuries, or those with a lack of lower body strength.
The benefit of plyometrics is that you can do it tabata-style, which means it gets your heart rate going nicely and you’ll most likely build muscle along the way too. If you’re new to plyometric training, try some of these exercises to start you off!
Perform Yasso 800s
Named after Bart Yasso, a biathlon champion, Ironman athlete, and ultra runner, Yasso 800s are an interesting tool to improve our performance.
At its core, a Yasso 800 run is simply a hard run for 800-meters, followed by a rest of a minute or more. You should be aiming for tempo pace. Beginners can do four sets, and intermediates can do between 8 and 12.
The original premise for the Yasso 800s, though, was for marathons. If you’re an experienced runner who’s looking at running a marathon, Yasso runs would be an ideal way to work towards that.
Let’s imagine that your marathon goal time is 5 hours. You should aim to do an 800 meter Yasso run in 5 minutes. If you’re aiming for 3 hours 45 minutes, your Yasso goal should be 3 minutes 45 seconds. Make sense?
If you can keep up this pace for the duration of your 8 to reps, you’re on track for hitting your marathon time.
But if you aren’t aiming for a marathon just yet, these are a kind of long interval tempo run hybrid that will definitely help to improve your stamina and endurance.
Eat for Endurance
Do you eat a decent meal before your training runs or races? Carbo loading can be highly beneficial for improving endurance in races.
But when you’re training, you can boost your stamina and endurance a little by simply eating a high-carb meal before you set off for your run.
This should give your body enough easy-access energy to see you through a full run with a decent amount of energy. Make sure you’re eating good carbs, though. Rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruits are good options.
Avoid processed stuff! It will give you a nice boost, but a horrible crash halfway through your run.
Drink Enough Water
Hydration is highly important and being dehydrated can take a toll on the body very quickly. To maximize your performance, you want to be properly hydrated at all times.
This shouldn’t just be a running thing, though. You should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated. Not only does this keep you healthy, but it can actually reduce cravings and regulate your appetite too!
Don’t forget to take water with you on your run either. If you dislike carrying a water bottle or you tend to run out of water quickly, we recommend investing in a hydration belt or hydration pack.
Work on Your Running Economy
In simple terms, your running economy is how well your body converts oxygen into activity. Improving yours will make you a more efficient runner. In other words, you’ll get more activity out of the oxygen you breathe in!
The higher your running economy, the less energy you have to expend in order to do the same amount of work.
If you’re a beginner, running economy (RE) can be complicated. We recommend working on the other tips and tricks here before delving into this one!
Intermediates and advanced athletes should definitely be using their RE as a metric to improve performance.
If you aren’t yet, we suggest reading through this article to get an idea of how you can really make it work for you!
Get a Running Buddy
Running with someone whose pace is slightly faster than yours can be excellent motivation to increase your running stamina and endurance.
You’ll up your pace naturally to keep up with them, without feeling the pressure of measuring your intensity on your own.
It’s also just more fun to run with a buddy sometimes! You can motivate each other and be accountable to each other, which is helpful on those days when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed to run.
A running buddy is a great idea for discipline as well as running stamina and endurance!