How To Build Running Stamina And Why It’s Important To Do So.
One of the most crucial aspects to my ultra-marathon training at the moment is improving my stamina.
I’m slowly working my way up to a series of 50km long runs through early Spring and I’m having to start now on 20+ mile runs to be sure my body & mind are ready for the challenge.
It doesn’t just apply to ultra distances either. Having a vest reserve of stamina can make running and racing more enjoyable as you can focus all of your attention onto how good it feels to be in motion..
Why is stamina important?
It’s arguably the cornerstone of long distance training. If you’ve no endurance then all of the speed in the world won’t see you through a marathon race.
Here are a few points outlining what stamina can do for you as a runner.
- Once you have a base amount of stamina you can concentrate fully on developing your pace – For example if you’re new to half marathons then training to run that distance regularly will allow you to experiment with your pace as you know you can cover the distance
- Greater stamina allows you to run further – This sounds obvious but the key point is that once you can run for longer you can start to train for even greater distances. As of 2014 I can run 10 miles with the same amount of physical and mental effort as it took to run 3 miles in 2011. I’ve said this many times before but increasing your distance incrementally over a longer period of time will make you stronger and the risk of injury will be minimal.
- Your body recovers much more quickly from long runs as your endurance levels increase – If you’ve just started with long slow runs then the chances are that you won’t be in a state to run again for at least a few days after it. The longer you practice these long runs the more quickly your body will rebound from the effort. These days I can run the next day after an 18-20 miler and not be in any pain at all during the run. This would have been impossible even a year ago for me! My ultimate aim is to be able to run 20 milers back to back before May!
- When you stamina increases you suddenly realise that your body is capable of more than you previously thought possible – And that gives you so much more confidence to try out new race distances and more intensive training schedules. You begin to push yourself to your limits. You start to realise that mental stamina is arguably even more important than anything physical. Trying to push your mind through the monotony of a long run is a huge task.
- Stamina allows you to finish strong in the last half of a race – There’s nothing like finishing with a sprint to boost your race time and your self belief. Having to drop into a death crawl to cross the finishing line is never a pleasant experience. That’s why it’s better to truly test and increase your stamina in your training runs. Save your spent sex-face for the lonely trails and not for the race-day photographer!
- You will rarely feel unprepared for a race – Ever had that sinking feeling a race where you know you haven’t trained enough for it and are ready to crash? It doesn’t have to be that way if you work consistently on improving your stamina. With enough effort you know that you’ll at the very least have the strength to finish the race.
- You can enter and complete more races too – If like me you sometimes want to enter all of the races but are worried that your body won’t be able to cope with the load, increasing your stamina will mean that you’ve more opportunities to run.
How you can increase your running stamina
- Be more active generally – Walk more often, participate on a sport or do some cross training. All of these activities will add to your base fitness levels. Walking 10,000 steps a day throughout the Summer and Autumn of 2010 was something that made running that much easier when I first started out. Everything you do counts!
- Don’t stop running after you’ve finished a training schedule – The temptation can be to quit training altogether once you’ve completed a race. Don’t lose all the fitness gains you’ve made by giving up on running entirely. Stay focused and try to stick to a minimum base weekly mileage so that you can easily drop back into full training mode. Try to keep the long runs going too.
- Drop your pace way down now and again – On the long run I typically run 30 seconds a mile slower than my regular runs during the week. Sometimes it pays to just forget about your pace altogether and concentrate on moving for as long as possible. The looming 100k in May has forced me into trying to run at a 12 minute mile, just to see how long I can keep going at that pace.
- Be patient – It will take some time to build up your stamina but you can make the process happen a lot more quickly by running as often as you can throughout the week and sticking to a healthy diet.
- Push yourself but listen to your body – There’s a very fine line between pushing hard and overworking yourself. Listen to any pain/distress signals that your body is producing and never run if you’re in doubt about a possible injury or niggle.
- Do some speed work – Performing speed work increases your pace and allows you to run at the same speed with less effort. For example I’ve been running most of my long runs at 10:30 min/mile recently. I’ve been doing tempo runs at about 9:15 minute/mile for the past fortnight. Now I can manage 10:30 min/mile easily on the long runs. It means I can go further.