How Beginner Runners Can Build Endurance for Long Distance
Building endurance takes time and consistency. However with the right approach you can make steady progress towards your goals.
In this article we will provide some tips and strategies for building endurance for long distance running.
Start with a gradual increase in distance and intensity
One of the most important things to keep in mind when building endurance for long distance running is to start slowly and gradually increase the distance and intensity of your runs over time. This will allow your body to adapt to the demands of running and reduce the risk of injury.
A good way to approach this is to create a training plan that starts with short easy runs and gradually increases the distance and intensity over a period of weeks.
For example: if your goal is to be able to run a half marathon, you might start by running a mile or two a few times a week. Then gradually increase the distance and intensity of your runs until you’re able to comfortably run six or eight miles.
As you progress it is important to listen to your body and adjust your training plan as needed. If you’re feeling particularly tired or sore after a run, consider taking an extra day of rest or reduce the intensity of your next run.
When talking about the intensity of a run, it is worth keeping a mental note of how each run ‘feels’ and compare it to your previous runs. Reflect on how hard you pushed, and how your body felt. If you are interested in taking your understanding of ‘intensity’ further, take a look at how intensity can be measured.
It is always better to take a step back and recover than to push yourself too hard and risk injury. Remember that building endurance takes time, so be patient and focus on consistent, gradual, progress.
Focus on building a strong aerobic base
Another important factor in building endurance for long distance running is developing a strong aerobic system. This allows your body to efficiently use oxygen to produce energy. This can be achieved through consistent, moderate-intensity training.
The aerobic system is the primary source of energy for endurance activities such as long distance running. When you start running your body primarily relies on the anaerobic system, which uses stored glycogen to produce energy without oxygen. However, as you continue to run, your body will switch to using the aerobic system, which allows you to sustain activity for longer periods of time.
To develop a strong aerobic base it’s important to focus on consistent, moderate-intensity training. This can be achieved through a combination of steady-state runs, where you maintain a consistent speed. And interval training, where you alternate between periods of high and low intensity.
Working out your speed over distance (cadence) you will need to count the number of times the right foot strikes the floor in 20-seconds, multiplying this by 6 – this final number is your cadence or steps per minute. To reduce or increase your cadence you will simply need to adjust the number of foot strikes. The combination of distance and time (cadence) will do wonders for building endurance.
Another great way to mix up the intensity is to incorporate hills and inclines into your runs – covered in the ‘Why all runners should do hill training’ article. By running hills, you can build strength in your legs and improve your ability to maintain a consistent pace on challenging terrain. You can incorporate hills into your training by running on hilly trails or by using a treadmill with an incline setting.
Ultimately, when you regularly train your aerobic system you can improve endurance, and increase your ability to sustain long distance running.
Incorporate strength training and cross-training
Incorporating strength training and other forms of cross-training, such as cycling or swimming, can help improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury.
Strength training in particular can help improve muscle endurance, which is essential for long distance running. Exercises that target the major muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, and push-ups are good for this.
Cross-training on the other hand can provide a low-impact way to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Activities like cycling and swimming can help develop the muscles and cardiovascular system in a different way than running. This provides a welcome change of pace and can help prevent burnout.
You can also incorporate body weight exercises and use resistance bands to add variety and challenge to your routine. For convenience body weight exercises, such as push-ups and planks, can be performed anywhere and require no equipment.
Other types of conditioning exercises to consider is a mobility routine. This type of training will focus on your full range of motion, and contribute to you staying injury free. For example tight shoulders will prevent arm drive and reduce the efficiency of breathing; stiff hips will restrict glute activation and in turn hinder the leg extension. For more information on mobility training check out the ‘Top winter training tips for runners’ article.
Cross-training on the other hand can provide a low-impact way to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Cross-training involves varying your workouts to target different muscle groups by incorporating activities such as cycling, swimming, or yoga into your routine.
Cycling can help to build leg strength; swimming can provide a low-impact workout that can help to improve your overall fitness and cardiovascular health; yoga can help to improve flexibility and balance. The latter being a revelation in the last few decades for the running community.
When incorporating strength training and cross-training into your training plan, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and frequency over time. This will allow your body to adapt to the new activities and prevent injury.
It would also be worth reaching out to a trainer or coach to make sure you are using proper form and technique. By including these forms of training in your routine, you can improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury, which can help you build endurance for long distance running.
Don’t forget to rest and recover
One of the key components of building endurance for long distance running is giving your body time to rest and recover between training sessions. Allowing your muscles to repair and rebuild.
Make sure to include regular rest days when creating a training plan, and to listen to your body’s signals. If you’re feeling particularly tired or sore after a run, consider taking an extra day of rest or reducing the intensity of your next run. This will give your body the time it needs to recover and prepare for the next training session.
Also remember to prioritise quality sleep and good nutrition. Adequate sleep helps to repair and rebuild muscles, while proper nutrition provides the fuel your body needs to support training and recovery.
Stay consistent and track your progress
Building endurance for long distance running takes time and consistency. To make progress, it’s important to stay committed to your training plan and to regularly challenge your limits.
Tracking your runs and monitoring your progress over time can help you identify areas where you can improve and adjust your training plan accordingly. For example, if you’re finding it difficult to run a certain distance or at a certain pace, you can focus on that specific area in your training to help improve your endurance.
Another way to stay motivated and on track is to set SMART goals for yourself. This can be something as simple as running a certain distance or time, or completing a race. By setting goals and tracking your progress you can stay focused and motivated and continue to make progress towards your long-term endurance goals.
Consider working with a coach or joining a running group
If you’re new to running or looking to improve your endurance we would recommend working with a coach or joining a running group. These resources can provide valuable support, guidance, and motivation to help you reach your goals.
A running coach can help you create a personalised training plan that is tailored to your individual needs and goals. They can also provide guidance on things like proper form and technique, nutrition, and injury prevention. Working with a coach can help you stay on track and make consistent progress towards your endurance goals.
Running groups are great places to meet other runners, and benefit from a supportive knowledgeable community. Running with others can hold you accountable and keep you motivated. Some running groups may even offer organised training sessions or group runs, which can provide structure and guidance for your training.
Overall, working with a coach or joining a running group can provide valuable support and guidance as you work towards building endurance for long distance running.