What is endurance? Let’s look at the dictionary…
The Oxford dictionary defines endurance as ‘the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.”
If you’re a runner, the definition will be familiar. Hanging on in a marathon’s 22nd mile, pacing a 5K with gritted teeth, pushing your legs up a mountainous road, are all examples of when you need endurance.
My endurance isn’t where I want it to be
Maybe you always start out strong, with decent pace and a confident smile, but quickly find you can’t maintain the speed and form for long. Stopping for breath, slowing to a walk, and pain, are all occurrences during your runs.
Simply put, your endurance is not great, and you know it. That’s fine, now we can work on changing the fact.
You can, and will, improve your endurance IF you follow these simple and easy to implement steps.
Never stop running. Only slow down the pace
One of the worst mistakes which kill any chance of building endurance is coming to a complete stop. Like a broken-down car. you come to a complete standstill and take some time regaining your breath and composure.
Like a broken car, stopping means you ‘re not going anywhere. If you’re going nowhere, you’re not building endurance like you want to. Then, and only then, do you set off again into the run. Not effective at all.
Building up a stable and consistent rhythm is important for building endurance because the body gets experience dealing with sustained physical activity for long periods of time.
Stopping means you bring your rhythm to a dead-stop, and your body does not train itself in dealing with the extended periods of activity. Your lung capacity will not increase much, and your muscles won’t strengthen to increase endurance as desired.
If you can’t cope for any reason, slow down your pace. If you’re sprinting, try a decent running pace. If you’re at normal running pace, slow to a jog. If you’re jogging, slow to a very light jog. Don’t stop, whatever happens. Your body needs to get used to coping with longer training sessions.
Go for longer training runs
If you want to run further distances, naturally you’ll need to run further during training. Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s important! Start to add a mile or half to each run you do. Once you get comfortable with the extra distance, do the same thing.
Eventually, your ‘standard’ distance for training should be double what you consider ‘standard’ now.
Don’t focus too much on speed. The most important thing for endurance building is getting the miles covered! Naturally, you’ll be able to speed up your speed as endurance is built up.
Remember, exceptional endurance comes from being ‘calm and in control of oneself.’ A perfect way to remain calm on long-distance challenging runs is to breathe properly.
Having great endurance will require proper breathing technique. Try inhaling for more time than you breathe out so your lungs and body fill with oxygen. Inhale for three or four steps, then exhale for two steps.
Having consistent breathing is important for building endurance. As you read this post, your breathing has probably been stable and not erratic. I bet you haven’t fluctuated between long deep breaths and sharp, short breaths. Make your breathing rhythmic and in time with your running so consistency is established.
Adding tempo runs to your training is exceptionally powerful for building endurance.
A tempo run means running at a faster speed for a certain amount of time, say 45 seconds, before returning to normal temp. It feels uncomfortable and unpleasant, but remember “no pain, no gain.”
Maintaining a faster pace for prolonged periods of time means your body will recover fitter and stronger for the next time.
Eventually, you’ll be able to run quicker for longer periods of time and build your endurance nicely.
Nutrition for endurance
If you want to run long distances, it’s only natural you need to eat for long distances. Carbohydrates are especially important before long endurance building runs. Carbohydrates supply the body with glucose which can be made into energy for physical activity and essential bodily functions, like respiration and digestion.
Before the run
Your car won’t go anywhere unless you give it breakfast! You’re no different, you need fuel to function properly.
Make sure you eat plenty of carbohydrates to fuel longer distances. Wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are all good choices for pre-run races. If possible try eating non-processed carbohydrates, containing natural ingredients.
A carbohydrate-based light meal or snack 45 minutes to an hour before your long run will help give your body the fuel it needs.
After the run
Post-run nutrition is all about recovery. If your body doesn’t recover fully from a demanding endurance building workout, your endurance will never improve.
Healthy fats (like omega-3 and monounsaturated) and quality protein are what you should be going for.
Chicken, salmon, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, whey protein, nuts, are all good choices.