So, how can you improve your endurance and economy when starting out? Here are 10 factors to take into account so you’ll become a better athlete.
1. Running Consistency
To increase your aerobic capacity and run further than you already can, you must train consistently most days of the week. Consistent training will build your aerobic base, increase your aerobic capacity and strengthen the required muscles. When you start to run, adding extra runs to your week should be an easy pace you can maintain. You should aim for 3 to 4 running sessions per week for about 20-30 minutes.
Try to make one of these workouts your long run say on a Wednesday or Sunday. Plan to go longer in minutes not kilometers/miles. Naturally you will cover more distance with time, so set yourself a goal of 50-60 minutes.
2. Long Runs Build Stamina
To run further, you’re going to have to put in the extra mileage whether you like it or not. It’s best to increase your long run by 10 – 16 minutes or add 1 – 2 miles each week. Usually an increase of 10% per week in distance seems to be the general rule. If training for a half marathon or marathon, your long run should be 30 – 40% of your total distance for the week. Long run should be at a sustainable pace. You should aim to finish strong in the last 3 kilometers of your long runs at goal marathon pace if you can. Building speed will come with time and cannot be rushed, it’s all about conditioning the leg muscles to run longer.
3. Tempo / Steady State Run Efforts
The tempo/steady state runs are normally run over a shorter distance and time, but at a higher intensity than what you would normally train. Running at the tempo pace will train your body to clear lactic acid from the bloodstream quicker, which means you can run longer before fatigue and lactic acid increases. These workouts will make your long runs feel an easy effort! Tempo runs are required if you want to build your speed for the long-term running.
The effort required for a tempo workout should be at a comfortably hard pace that lasts from 20 – 30 minutes. Some runners can go up to 60 minutes if training for a marathon. You should not be breathless after the first kilometer doing this workout, but at a challenging pace that you feel you can maintain over the time spent running.
4. Recover like a Running Boss
You need to be sensible about letting your body recover well if you’re increasing your weekly runs. Good runners get the benefit of a balanced diet, correct stretching and sufficient sleep. Aim to eat a quality meal of protein and carbs within 40 minutes after finishing your run. A good quality protein shake or protein bar is great because your body can absorb the nutrients it needs to refuel. Focusing on being well hydrated the day before your next run will also enable you to feel stronger and get your run completed.
5. Carb Up like a Professional Runner
As a runner, you should focus most of your diet on complex carbohydrates. Some people recommend making 55% – 65% of your calorie intake from carbs. Before your weekly long run, your meal should be a carb-based meal to ensure you have enough energy to cover the distance. If you have low energy in a training run, then increase your carbohydrate intake is higher. Also, natural fats from avocados or coconut oil is good for carb loading. Eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, brown rice instead of refined carbs (like corn flakes) will be better for your blood sugar levels.
6. Running Technique Matters
Developing a running technique that will make you more efficient, is key to good form. If you want to be able to run further without putting excess strain on your ligaments, then correct ground contact is required. When running, it’s best to run tall (you still need to lean in slightly), and ensure your foot lands under your hips (which is center of gravity). Landing close to the ball of your feet is the ideal placement and not the heels!
A running cadence of around 160 – 170 steps per minute is best throughout your training. A cadence of about 180+ is ideal if your racing! If body weight is an issue, then gradually losing the excess weight will help your efficiency, as you’ll be lighter.
7. Training the Mind is Important
Mental preparation is fundamental to a good training routine. Running up hills can seem like daunting workout to do, but it’s worth practicing. Putting into play the right training plan will help mental discipline, so when it comes to racing, the race isn’t too bad at all. To take away the mental strain a long run might seem, is to workout which pace is best for you. Say if your race pace was 5.00 min/km then adding an extra minute (6.00 min/km to that time would be a comfortable pace). This way you can a few extra kilometers or miles to your longest run and reap the benefits that run will give you.
8 . Speed Workouts Improve Running Form
Usually by adding more speed to your running workouts, there is less time to think. You have to develop being light on your feet and strong in the hips!
Here are some speed workouts you can start applying now!
- Yasso 800’s – 4 x 800m at goal marathon pace, with a 400m recovery jog in between. Most athletes prefer to do this workout on a running track, but a road or grass field is fine. As long as you have the correct distance sorted out.
- 6 x 600m (with a 2min recovery jog) slightly faster than your 800’s – at 5km goal race pace.
- 10 x 400m (with 1min recovery jog)
- 1 x 5min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min, 30sec (with 1min recovery jog between each set) This is a great workout for tapering the week before a big race. Similar to the Telford Fartlek.
9. Core Exercises Helps Endurance
If you want to be a strong runner then exercising your core muscles is essential. This means stretching your lower back, hips and glues so they become stronger before you run. The below video is very helpful in strengthening your core.
Strength training will help boost endurance levels and will stabilize your pelvis, reduce side-to-side motion and opening up the stride length when you push-off the ground. By incorporating the right core exercises into your training schedule, can reduce your injury risk, making you stronger and fitter.
10. Gradual Mileage Increase
The best way to increase endurance is to run more miles during the week. This means you might want to add a second session to your daily workout plan. Be aware that if you also want to increase your miles you may need to run quicker during those sessions. Having a weekly goal of how many miles or kilometers you want to complete is good! This will have you on the right track to archiving your best when it comes to race day. Jason Fitzgerald also posted a good article online on “How to increase Mileage Safely“, which challenges the 10% increase theory.
You don’t have to have the same running form as Mo Farah, but he sets a good example in the below picture of great efficiency and running form.
I hope this has helped you gain some understanding of what it takes to increase your running endurance and economy. Let me know what running topics you would like me cover in future posts by leaving a comment below. Cheers, Julian