In running terminology, stamina refers to the ability to sustain a certain pace over an extended period. Think of it as your gas tank for running – the more stamina you have, the longer you can sustain your energy output without hitting empty. While some people are born with higher levels of natural stamina, that doesn’t mean the rest of us are doomed to never being able to run long distances. Just like anything else related to fitness, your stamina can be trained and improved. Improving your stamina will not only help you in your running pursuits but can also translate to benefits in other areas of your life. Having good stamina requires self-discipline, delayed gratification, and a willingness to push through discomfort – all qualities that are beneficial in other aspects of life. To help you on your quest to better stamina, we’ve scoured the internet for the best tips from experts. Here are 10 of the most helpful tips we found on how to increase stamina for running, and answers to some common questions about the topic.
Why Is My Running Stamina So Low?
Before we get into how to increase your stamina, let’s talk about some of the reasons why it might be low in the first place.
You Lack Aerobic Base Training
One common reason is a lack of aerobic base training. To run long distances, you need to have a solid foundation of aerobic fitness (meaning your body is efficient at using oxygen to produce energy).
This type of training takes time and patience and is best built gradually over several months.
If you try to run long distances without this base level of aerobic fitness, your body will quickly run out of steam and you’ll be forced to slow down or stop altogether.
Dehydration is another common culprit behind low running stamina. When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes (minerals like sodium and potassium that are essential for proper bodily function) (17).
If you don’t replace these fluids, your body will become dehydrated and will not be able to perform at its best. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, cramping, and a decrease in blood volume – all of which can sap your energy and stamina.
You’re Not Fueling Properly
Another reason your running stamina might be low is that you’re not eating enough. Just like a car needs the right type and amount of fuel to run properly, your body needs the right nutrients to sustain long-distance running.
If you’re not consuming enough calories, or if the quality of your diet is poor, your body will not have the energy it needs to perform at a high level. This situation can lead to fatigue, low stamina, and decreased performance.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Finally, one of the most common reasons for low running stamina is a lack of sleep. When you sleep, your body repairs and regenerates cells, replenishes energy stores, and clears out waste products (15).
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body will not be able to properly recover from your runs. This can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, and a general feeling of being run-down – all of which will take a toll on your running stamina.
You Suffer From Exercise-Induced Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition in which strenuous exercise triggers symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath (7). You may also cause airway constriction, inflammation, or excess mucus production.
The cause of EIA is not fully understood, but it’s thought to be related to your airway’s reaction to cold air, warm air, pollutants, or other irritants.
The good news is that EIA is a treatable condition (6). If you think you may suffer from EIA, talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis and finding the right treatment plan for you. With proper management, EIA should not limit your running stamina or performance.
You Have Poor Running Form
Finally, poor running form can also lead to low stamina. If you’re not using the proper technique, your body will have to work harder to move forward, which can lead to fatigue and a decrease in performance.
Some common errors include:
- Overstriding – This is when your feet land too far in front of your body, causing your muscles to work overtime to slow you down. Many runners will attempt to increase stride length to run faster, but this can lead to reduced speed and decreased stamina.
- Heel striking – This is when your heel strikes the ground first instead of your midfoot or forefoot. Heel striking can lead to a braking force that can sap your forward momentum and cause you to tire more quickly.
- Lack of arm swing – Many runners make the mistake of keeping their arms glued to their sides while they run.
This may help you avoid swinging side-to-side, but it also prevents you from using your arms to generate power. Instead, allow your arms to swing naturally in a front-to-back motion.
If you think your running form might be the issue, consider working with a coach or taking a running mechanics class. Proper technique can help you run more efficiently and increase your stamina.
You Lack Mobility
If you have poor mobility, your body will not be able to move through a full range of motion. This can lead to compensation patterns and inefficient movement, both of which can sap your energy and lead to fatigue.
How Quickly Can You Build Running Stamina?
If you’re wondering, “how can I improve my running stamina in 2 weeks?” the answer is that it largely depends on your current level of fitness.
If you’re already a relatively fit runner, you may be able to see significant improvements in 2 weeks. However, if you’re starting from scratch, it will likely take longer to see results.
That being said, there are a few things you can do to help improve your running stamina in a shorter period:
1. Incorporate Interval Training In Your Workouts
Interval training is a type of workout that alternates between periods of high intensity and low intensity. For runners, this could mean sprinting for 30 seconds followed by 1 minute of easy running.
Interval training helps improve your anaerobic capacity, which can lead to better running stamina (13).
Fartlek training, a type of workout that combines intervals of fast and slow running, can be helpful. It’s a great way to work on your speed and endurance simultaneously (18).
For example, you could run at a moderate pace for 2 minutes, then sprint for 1 minute. Repeat this cycle for the duration of your workout.
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2. Incorporate Cross-Training Into Your Routine
Cross-training refers to any type of exercise that is done outside of running. This could include swimming, biking, or even strength training. Cross-training helps to improve your overall fitness level, which can lead to better running performance (5).
3. Strength Train 2-3 Days A Week
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends strength training as a way to improve your running economy (14).
Running economy is a measure of how much oxygen you use while running at a certain pace (11). The more efficient you are, the less oxygen you’ll need, and the longer you’ll be able to run.
Here’s how strength training can help improve your running economy:
- It helps you develop more powerful muscles which can generate more force with each stride.
- It improves the way your body recruits and uses muscle fibers; this can make running feel easier.
- It helps you better control your body and avoid injuries.
- To see the best results, strength train 2-3 days per week and focus on exercises that target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core muscles.
4. Improve Your Running Form
As we mentioned earlier, poor running form can lead to reduced stamina. If you want to improve your endurance, it’s important to make sure you’re using the proper technique (12). Work on the following:
- Stabilizing your midsection: A strong core will help you maintain good form and avoid injuries.
- Keeping your head up: You should be looking ahead, not down at the ground.
- Landing softly: Try to land with your midfoot or forefoot instead of your heel.
- Leaning forward: This will help you generate more power and keep your center of gravity over your feet.
If you’re not sure if you’re using proper form, consider working with a coach or taking a running mechanics class. Improving your technique can make running feel easier and help you avoid injuries.
5. Increase Your Mileage Gradually
One of the best ways to improve your running stamina is to simply run more. But, it’s important to increase your mileage gradually to avoid injuries.
Start by adding 1-2 miles to your weekly running mileage. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can start increasing your mileage by 10-20%.
6. Work On Your Breathing
Breathing is important for runners because it helps deliver oxygen to your muscles. Usually, people hold their breath when they run, which can lead to fatigue. Instead, focus on breathing deeply and evenly through your nose and mouth. This will help improve your overall endurance.
7. Take Recovery Days Seriously
Recovery days are just as important as training days when you’re trying to improve your running stamina.
On recovery days, take it easy and focus on active recovery activities like walking, yoga, or light stretching. This will help your body repair and rebuild muscle tissue so you can come back stronger for your next workout (2).
Sleep is an important part of recovery, so make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye each night (10). Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
8. Make Sure You’re Properly Fueled
If you’re not eating enough or you’re not eating the right foods, your body will not have the energy it needs to sustain long runs. Make sure you’re consuming enough calories and:
- Complex carbohydrates: A great source of energy and can help you maintain your blood sugar levels during a run (8).
Good complex carbohydrate sources include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. Increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption is helpful.
- Protein: Essential for repairing and maintaining muscle mass. A high-protein diet can help you recover more quickly and reduce post-run soreness (9). Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, and dairy products.
- Water: Staying hydrated is crucial for runners. Make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day and bring a water bottle with you on your runs.
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9. Stretch, Warm Up, And Cool Down
Preparing and caring for your muscles and joints before and after runs is essential for maintaining good form, preventing injuries, and improving recovery.
Lack of mobility can lead to poor form and injuries. So, it’s important to make time for stretching before and after each run (3).
Active Isolated Stretching is a type of stretching that can be very helpful for runners. It involves holding a stretch for 2-3 seconds and then contracting the muscle for 2-3 seconds before releasing the stretch.
This type of stretching can help improve your range of motion and prevent injuries (1).
Before each run, do a dynamic warm-up to help loosen your muscles and prepare your body for exercise (16). A good dynamic warm-up will include movements like lunges, leg swings, and high knees.
After each run, it’s important to cool down with some light activity and static stretches. This will help your muscles recover and prevent soreness (4).
10. Get The Right Gear
Comfort is key when you’re running, so make sure you have the right gear. Invest in a good pair of running shoes that are comfortable and fit well.
You may also want to invest in some other gear like moisture-wicking clothing, a hat or visor, sunglasses, and sunblock. This will help you stay comfortable and protected from the elements when you’re out on a run.
The Bottom Line
Increasing your running stamina takes time and patience. Be patient with yourself and focus on consistent training. By following the tips above you can be well on your way to reaching your running goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Acute effect of active isolated stretching technique on range of motion and peak isometric force (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis (2018, frontiersin.org)
- CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Do We Need a Cool-Down After Exercise? A Narrative Review of the Psychophysiological Effects and the Effects on Performance, Injuries and the Long-Term Adaptive Response (2018, link.springer.com)
- Effects of specific versus cross-training on running performance (1995, hpubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise-Induced Asthma: Fresh Insights and an Overview (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise Induced Asthma (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance (2018, journals.lww.com)
- International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise (2017, biomedcentral.com)
- Recovery after exercise: what is the current state of play? (2019, sciencedirect.com)
- Running economy: measurement, norms, and determining factors (2015, springeropen.com)
- Running Technique is an Important Component of Running Economy and Performance (2017, journals.lww.com)
- Sprint interval training effects on aerobic capacity: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners (2017, nsca.com)
- The Neuroprotective Aspects of Sleep (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries (1985, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Water, hydration, and health (2010, academic.oup.com)
- What is a fartlek run and how can it help you get faster? (2021, runnersworld.com)