Whether you are new to running or someone who has been at it for years, sometimes it seems effortless while others running feels like a chore. There are certainly some things that can be done to improve running stamina.
If you are new to running the most important thing is to be consistent in your running. This is the number one thing to see gains.
How Can a Beginner Runner Build Stamina?
Consistency is huge for both new and veteran runners. If you are consistently getting out there, you will likely improve. If, however, you only set out to run once every couple of weeks, it should not come as a surprise that you don’t improve as you would hope.
New runners need to be patient, however. When you are just getting into it, you need to establish a base for yourself. When discussing a base this means both cardiovascular and just getting used to the time on your feet. It is strongly advised for new runners to be able to achieve something fairly regularly prior to amping it up.
What does that mean? It means if you are new to the world of running don’t worry about increasing stamina right away, that will naturally happen. You should be running consistently 3-4 days each week before you even start to think about speed, increasing distance, or when it will start to feel easy.
Once you start to feel like you can do the short (two to three milers) runs a few days each week without too much difficulty, then it may be time to amp things up.
Adding Strength Training
Although many runners avoid strength training because it isn’t their preference, adding in some weight training can really help with stamina. The stronger your muscles are the better they will be able to perform.
Many runners, women in particular, worry about bulking up or think if they lift hard it will render them unable to run. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are lifting weights to improve your running think low weight high rep movement. If your only vision of the weight room is bulked up men deadlifting, you really don’t understand how things have evolved.
Circuit and cardio strength training is a very real thing and can certainly help increase your running stamina!
What Is The Best Exercise to Increase Stamina for Running?
If you are looking for one single thing you can incorporate into your workout regime to increase stamina it is the exercise everyone loves to hate: burpees. The burpee is a movement you can do without any equipment at all, and it works all of the major muscles. In addition to that, you are in perpetual motion when doing a burpee.
However, if you are speaking generally on how you to increase stamina for running, the answer is more complicated than that.
✓ Stair climbing or a stair stepper is a great way to improve stamina. Every time you move up stairs your heart speeds up and you take in more oxygen. Whether you are running up and down the steps to a museum Rocky style or grinding it out on a stair stepper at your local gym, these are a great movement!
✓ High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is another useful tool. There are many awesome local gyms that offer HIIT training, everything from treadmill intervals, cycling workouts or cardiovascular weight lifting classes. However, you don’t need a fancy class to use HIIT training! You can create your own HIIT workouts without any equipment. Think body weight moves like squats, lunges, pushups and burpees. Move quickly from one movement to the next so your cardiovascular system is taxed the whole time.
✓ Cross Training Cardio is also a great way to increase running stamina. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to be pounding the pavement in order to be benefiting you’re running. You can cycle, swim or even use an elliptical machine. Your heart just knows it’s being challenged – it cannot recognize if you are running or swimming. Added benefits of cycling or swimming are that there is zero impact, so you are sparing your joints by cross training, especially the day after a longer run.
Another way to increase running stamina is to mix up your running. Moving along at a steady pace doesn’t do as much for your improvement as changing things up will. Look at any online training program, whether you are preparing for a 5K, 10K or longer distance. Once you get beyond a novice program, they have you doing tempo runs, hills and spadework.
Why? Because mixing it up helps make you stronger! And that is what it is all about!
- Tempo – Tempo runs are where you do a portion of the run at threshold, or race pace. You spend some time warming up then hit your tempo for a prescribed distance, followed by a cool down.
- Speed Work – This is typically considered pure speed. In an interval you are typically still moving during the easy portion. In speed, you usually get absolute rest. Speed work is often a set distance, such as 400 meters, whereas intervals are often a set amount of time.
- Intervals – An interval is a short burst of speed followed by an effort of equal or a bit longer time walking or jogging.
- Fartleks – These runs are typically unstructured in so far as they don’t follow a set plan. Fartleks are often led by a coach who will let you know when to run hard and when to pull back by blowing a whistle. A person running alone can set Fartleks by deciding to run to a mailbox or other landmark
What Should I Eat To Increase Stamina for Running?
One thing runners seem to agree on is that food is awesome. While some runners seem to use their exercise to fuel the body with empty carbohydrates, if you treat your body like a high powered performance engine it will respond appropriately.
Some foods to increase your stamina for running include:
- Bananas – A high carb energy booster, they also have rich nutrients that can stave off cramps.
- Oats – Although high carb, the good kind of oats (not the processed stuff loaded with sugar) have a low glycemic index. They are a wonderful prerun fuel.
- Peanut Butter – High in healthy fats, if you’re eating the real stuff it is not loaded with sugar.
- Whole Grain Pasta – Given a bad rap by some people, a runner needs some carb loading prior to big races. Whole grain pasta paired with lean meat and a red sauce provides your body good, healthy fuel.
- Potatoes – Another real food carb, potatoes make excellent fuel for a runner.
There’s No Magic, Just Hard Work
Most people hope to find improvements that come easy and that just isn’t realistic. Whether you are talking about the work you put in while running, the cross training, or the strength work, improvement is work. With diligence and consistency, both while running, in the gym and in the kitchen, you can improve your stamina and speed.
You just need to dedicate yourself to some simple things for a set period of time and the results will come!
Remember: nothing worth achieving comes easy.