The key to running longer is cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. Cardiovascular fitness is also known as aerobic fitness. This is the energy system which supplies us with large amounts of energy that allow us to sustain large amounts of activity for long periods of time. Running is no different, it requires a lot of aerobic endurance and mitochondria (the cell organelles) which use the oxygen we breathe in to produce energy via respiration. To encourage the production of these mitochondria there are several things we can do.
Try adding a long run into your running program or weekly routine if you haven’t already. Make it around 20% – 30% of your weekly mileage. By challenging your heart and muscles to work for a longer period of time than normal. Keep the run at a steady, comfortable pace which you can talk to a friend at without gasping for breath. If using a heart rate monitor try to keep your heart rate between 65% – 80% of your max heart rate. Over a period of over six weeks, you should see improvement in your aerobic capacity.
These are runs which are generally defined as running at 90% max effort. The pace should feel challenging to maintain, but you should feel that you can continue running at this pace. At this sort of pace, you begin to produce lactic acid which will slow you down. but by running at a pace which is not flat out your body will learn to clear the lactic acid from your bloodstream so that you can run faster for longer. These runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes long for a beginner to over 60 minutes for more advanced runners.
Increase Weekly Mileage
By increasing your weekly mileage your are increasing the stress factor or stimulus of running on your body which will encourage further adaptations. Typically, you don’t want to increase your mileage more than 10% each week and the main reason for this is to avoid the risk of injury from overtraining. Furthermore, by increasing your weekly mileage you will find your legs will get stronger allowing you to run faster for longer.
Consistent Easy Runs
Start to add easy runs, morning runs or recovery runs into your routine. They should be comfortable and relaxed and range from 20 minutes to 30 minutes and over. Even going for an easy run gets your aerobic system working which will help to improve your endurance. Make sure you have a solid block of easy, steady runs when starting at first as this will help you to build your aerobic base and endurance – after that, you can focus on speed. Try and go for 3 – 4 steady runs each week.
Focus on Running Technique
This one may not sound quite like the other examples mentioned above, but when most people run they are not being efficient. Points that you can spot will be:
- Arms swinging sideways
- Heel striking
- Leaning too far forwards
- Heading looking down at the ground
Those are just a few examples, but they all lead to poor technique and make your running form less efficient. By improving your running technique you are wasting less energy and can, therefore, use more energy in going faster – for longer!
Break the Mental Barrier
Sometimes you may feel that you can’t run longer when you actually can. Sometimes the problem can be more mental.
So, when that problem arises you need to challenge yourself and find out whether you can run longer or run faster over the distance you are running. Challenge yourself to go further than you’ve gone before, or faster over the same distance. If you manage, then you know you can do it again without the thought that you can’t do it.
This one sounds counterintuitive, but during interval training, your body works both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The anaerobic system is worked during the intense burst of exercise, whilst the aerobic system is worked during the recovery when you’re breathing heavily, resupplying your muscles with oxygen. Your heart and lungs are working hard at this point to pay back the oxygen deficiency and break down the lactic acid accumulated.
An example of this would be:
- 30 seconds hard running
- 30 seconds rest
- Repeat 8 times
Pick Up the PACE
Sometimes – okay, usually in the last part of the race is when we feel like we’re struggling. We’re wheezing hard, our legs are crying out in pain and we’re putting on brave looks on our faces as we continue pounding the ground.
You can try to simulate this pain and get more used to it by picking up the pace to an intensity at or near max effort where you really begin to struggle. This is best done at the end of a tempo or long run when you’ve already been running for a long time and your legs are fatigued. However, due to the amount of stress this puts on your body depending on how often you do it, it is not something that should be done too often. This does depend entirely on how you recover though.
What do you do to improve your endurance? Did I miss any points? Let me know down below!