Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
For newer runners, the first few months are not easy. You may be following a couch to 5k training plan and are working on extending your running time from a few minutes to a few miles. But you see progress almost on a daily basis and so you keep up with it. Before you know it, you are running a 5k!
But a lot of runners have a hard time making improvements after they have become comfortable with 2-3 mile runs. You want to continue to build your endurance and run a little further or longer. Maybe you even want to run a 10 miler or half marathon, but it’s daunting. You know how hard you work for those couple of miles and you can’t imagine running 3-4x that amount.
So how do you build your endurance? Here are a few ways:
- Go just one step further each time. It can be incredibly overwhelming to think about running a half marathon if you are comfortable running 2-3 miles. While it’s good to keep an eye on where you eventually want to end up, your focus should be on just taking one more step, running one more minute or even just making it one street further than you did last time. Have patience with yourself and your body. Give it time to adapt to the small changes you are making. Small, manageable steps will eventually become huge leaps in endurance.
- Slow Down. When you are first starting out, keep most of your runs easy-paced. Slow it down so that the effort is easier. Many of us push too hard on runs where the pace should be “easy” (slow enough where you can carry a light conversation). If you are finding that you are wiped out after every run, slow it down by even 30 seconds per mile and you’ll be amazed at how much further you will be able to run.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of a rest day in the training plan. Take a complete day off – no cross training, yoga, barre, etc. Just let your body have 24 hours to rest, recover and get rejuvenated.
- Run less mileage more often. If you are running 4 miles, 2x/week, try switching to less mileage 3-4x/week. Running, just like any other activity, will improve the more you do it—not necessarily more miles, just more often.
- Improve your form. While you don’t need to have perfect form, it’s much easier to run if you have good form. You can do this by watching other runners, videotaping yourself and/or learning from the experts (Jeff Daniels’ The Running Formula is a great resource).
- Don’t just be “running strong.” Focus on improving your overall conditioning,not just the running aspect. Things like cross training, core work and strength conditioning will only help you feel stronger and run further.
What are some ways you build endurance?