Whether you've been running years or you're just getting started jogging every morning, most people are always looking for ways to run farther and feel better. Even if you're not a serious runner, there are a number of genius tricks you can use to improve your running stamina. It can be frustrating in the middle of the run to feel like you're body can no longer continue, but you don't have to be a marathoner to be able to improve your endurance — some little habits can go a long way, especially if you're just getting started.
"Building running stamina can be exhausting both physically and mentally," says fitness expert Dempsey Marks over email. "It’s easy to get discouraged when you go out for a run and your legs are burning and you can’t catch your breath after a mile. Throw in a pesky side stitch to the mix with the mental tediousness of running, and you’ve got a recipe for a running meltdown. But if you follow some simple tips, you’ll be crushing that 10k in no time."
Here are 11 genius tricks to help you improve your running endurance and stamina, even if you feel like you're not the best runner.
Fuel Up Before
If you don't eat enough nutrients before running, you'll more quickly run out of energy earlier, leading to poor workouts. But you also don't want to eat too much before working out, as this can cause gastrointestinal distress. "Plan the timing of eating and running to avoid this," says Moore. "Generally, try to eat no more than 500 calories two hours before running consisting of easily digestible carbs."
Run With Friends
Research suggests that being in the presence of others allows us to tolerate higher levels of discomfort and motivates us to try harder, according to multiple studies. "If you are going to perform a difficult workout, do it around people," says running coach Kyle Kranz over email. "Go to the track or even invite a friend or two to join you for a tough workout."
Get The Right Gear
You don't need to be decked out in all the latest trendy workout outfits, but make sure you have the right staples, including shoes and other clothing that will keep you safe and comfortable. "Choosing the right shoes to run is critical to success," says personal trainer Kate Vidulich, BSc, ACSM, HFS, Master CTT over email. "There are so many different types and brands to choose, so go to a running store and ask a shoe sales professional. That way you can get advice and a running shoe that will overcome any natural defects in your foot alignment."
Focus On Your Breathing
Focusing on your breathing is not just for yoga — it can help with running too. "Changing the way you breathe during running can reduce stress, boost your energy and increase your endurance," says Vidulich. "When running get hard, most people forget to breathe or increase their breathing speed. If you’re running faster, you need to breathe faster. Holding your breath will force the energy in your cells plunges, and you feel fatigued during your workout sooner than you should."
Make Sure To Cross Train
Many runners tend to just run, but cross training will help improve your fitness all around. "Swim, cycle, or get on a stepper," says fitness expert Fitz Koehler, M.S.E.S.S over email. "Do other things that make you huff and puff and take you out of your comfort zone, while giving your bones and joints a break from the impact of running. Not only will it enhance your cardio-respiratory capacity, it will help prevent overuse injuries."
Instead of exclusively running at the same pace consistently, you want to mix distances and paces. This involves having different types of workouts in a weekly routine, including sprints, short-distance pace runs, "easy" runs, distance runs, etc. "This will stress different energy systems in the body, making you more energy efferent and ultimately able to sustain activity longer," says Moore.
"Incorporating interval training into your running routine is a wonderful way to burn fat, increase aerobic capacity, improve running form, and strengthen your muscles," says Marks. "Begin adding short bursts of speed (10-30 seconds in duration) followed by a longer recovery period (where you either slowly jog or walk)."
Increase Distance Gradually
You want to increase the distance your run slowly over time, but it's important to be careful not to overdo it. "You’re not going to be able to go from running one to two miles to immediately going for 6-mile run," says Marks. "A good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week. It’s a good way to prevent injury and build long-term endurance."
Build Leg & Core Strength
"The action of running is similar to do single leg jumps," says Vidulich. "That’s why increasing muscle in your legs and glutes is a key factor to boosting your running endurance. More muscle means your body is more efficient at energy production." Try doing bodyweight exercises like lunges, step-ups, and single-leg squats. To strengthen your core, try planks and side planks for stabilization.
Hit The Hills
"Running hills will do wonders for your endurance," says Marks. "It strengthens your legs and core in addition to building aerobic capacity. Start by incorporating 10x30 second hill sprints followed by a 60-90 seconds recovery. As you get stronger you can increase the sprints to 60 seconds."