Whether you love short races, marathons or just run for fun, running is an endurance sport. If you want to get faster and run longer without feeling winded, you need to build your endurance. But it can be one of your biggest challenges.
If you’re new to running, you might see rapid improvements with regular training, but if you’re a more experienced runner, you may need to look at your improvement goals over a longer time.
To start, build a consistent training schedule into your fitness routine. While it may have taken a backseat in recent months due to COVID-19, now is a great time to safely refocus on your fitness goals.
Next, target your endurance by focusing on these three factors: your weekly mileage, long runs and aerobic workouts.
Increasing Your Running Mileage
Trevor Hicks, a physical therapist with AdventHealth, agrees with a modified approach to the 10% rule.
“Runners typically can build endurance by following the 10% rule,” he says. “This can be adapted by novice runners to possibly even less to allow for tissue adaptation.”
If you’re a beginner runner, that may mean ramping up your weekly mileage.
“The same serves true for seasoned runners who may be getting back into season or increasing their miles. They may be able to increase mileage at a faster rate week by week in preparation for a race,” Hicks says.
If you’re a competitive marathoner, you may comfortably run 60 to 70 miles. In general, most runners will average 25 to 40 miles a week. Increasing your mileage by 10 to 20% each week is often a good rule of thumb for newer runners. If you’re getting back into training after time off or after a goal race, this increase may be too conservative. All runners need a week or two of recovery after a long race.
If you have an injury, always err on the side of caution. And to prevent injury, increase volume and workload separately.
Practicing Longer Runs
Running for increasingly longer periods is one of the best ways to boost your endurance. While you should include occasional cutbacks and weeks with reduced mileage, long runs can be effective as a part of your routine.
Long runs have many benefits, including:
- Building physical and mental resiliency
- Building stronger muscles
- Improving your running economy
- Improving your speed
- Increasing the efficiency of physical fuel use
- Increasing the number of mitochondria in your cells
As with weekly mileage, the length of your long runs depends on your experience and the race distance you’re training for. Long runs typically last between one and three hours, though ultramarathoners require even more time on their feet.
Engaging in Aerobic Workouts
Once you have established a base of mileage with weekly long runs, aerobic workouts are a third key element to improving your endurance. Aerobic means “in the presence of oxygen,” and these workouts include tempo runs, fartlek runs and hill training opposed to short, fast intervals on the track.
As for pace, aerobic workouts usually range from slightly slower than marathon pace — sometimes called a steady-state run — to a 10K effort. The pace will determine the length of the intervals. A marathon-pace workout for an experienced runner may be 6 to 8 miles (or longer), while a 10K effort will be held for shorter intervals, typically a mile at the maximum.
Aerobic workouts will help give you the finishing kick to end a race with a strong, positive momentum.
Add in Cross-Training
If you’re an injury-prone athlete, you can build endurance with cross-training — either by swimming, biking or using the elliptical. This will improve cardiovascular and muscular endurance without increasing mileage as quickly. These are great options to improve fitness while avoiding injury from overly increasing miles.
Stay Focused and Centered
Improving endurance is a long-term goal that happens over months and years. As you improve and gain more training experience, the specific types of long runs and workouts that you use may change, but the basics remain the same.
Endurance is always easier to maintain than build, so stay consistent with your training and you’ll continue to improve as a runner for years to come.
Whole-Person Care to Reach Your Peak
If an injury is holding you back or you’re training for a goal race, experts such as Trevor Hicks at AdventHealth Sports Medicine and Rehab can help with a personalized treatment plan that keeps you safe.