Creating a running habit is one of the more difficult things to do in fitness, and that's speaking as someone who's been a runner for over 10 years (and hated it for the first four). When your body isn't used to the pain, the repetitive impact, and the uneven breathing, running just does not feel good. That's not to say it isn't worth the effort: running is amazing for your body and your mind as a form of stress relief. Getting over that hump, though, and improving your endurance so you can run long enough to actually enjoy the benefits is a hard road.
How Do You Build Endurance For Running?
Number one: start slowly, said Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist, marathoner, and fitness adviser for Bowflex. "Many people either start running too far, too soon, or they increase their mileage too quickly," Tom told POPSUGAR. "Many people do both." It's understandable: you're just starting to run, you're excited, you've got your new shoes and the perfect playlist, you're ready to see results and get faster now. But being overaggressive with your training can backfire fast, putting you at risk of injuries to your knees and IT band, plus the dreaded shin splints.
Even if you don't get injured, going out for runs that are longer or faster than your body's used to is not going to feel good. Some muscle and lung aches are to be expected, but forcing yourself to keep running through that pain, longer than you really need or want to, is a good way to make yourself hate running.
Instead, increase your mileage gradually and start at a slow, comfortable pace, Tom said. "Endurance is not about how fast you go, especially when you're just starting out. Don't compare yourself to others, and remember that the ultimate goal is to cover the distance." He also recommended running on nonconsecutive days as much as possible and incorporating strength training and cross-training into your routine to prevent injury and mental burnout. (If you neglect strength training in favor of running too frequently, it may even lead to weight gain.)
Another tip for increasing your stamina: add in some walking. "Utilizing periodic walk breaks is a phenomenal way to build endurance while decreasing your change of injury," Tom explained. As you get more fit, you can make those walk breaks fewer and shorter until you're running the whole way.
Running Workout Plan to Build Endurance
Building up your endurance means planning out your week of workouts strategically, with enough running to acclimate your body but not too much to put you at risk of injury. Here's Tom's recommended weekly plan, which has you running just three times a week:
- Monday: Run
- Tuesday: Strength training (try this beginner's dumbbell workout)
- Wednesday: Run
- Thursday: Strength training (like this 15-minute bodyweight workout)
- Friday: Run
- Saturday: Cross-training, like swimming, yoga, or cycling
- Sunday: Rest
If you're a true beginner, start with shorter runs that are 10-15 minutes in length. Once you can complete those routes with ease, feeling strong from start to finish, you can start to increase the length by five-minute increments. Remember to keep your pace slow and add in walking breaks when you need to. Ramp things up gradually, be patient with yourself and your body, and the endurance will come.