What is an endurance run?
Endurance running is a popular way of increasing your fitness and usually refers to running long distances, with some beginners focusing on running continuously for two miles while more advanced athletes tend to concentrate on greater distances, training for marathons and half-marathons.
There are some very noticeable health benefits that come with being able to increase your endurance - it can help to increase your metabolism and strengthen your muscles and cardiovascular system.
Endurance running is also thought to be good for your state of mind and self-image – the challenge of training for your goal and then achieving it can be incredibly rewarding, not to mention it can boost your cognitive function and promote healthier sleep patterns.
However, how you go about increasing your endurance can be tricky, especially if you push yourself too hard or don’t focus enough on preparing your body to meet this new challenge.
How can I increase my endurance?
There are a number of ways that you can go about increasing your endurance but personally I prefer to take things slow and easy, gradually increasing my endurance rather than overstressing my body and forcing myself to run at a pace that I am not yet ready for. Below are my top 7 tips for increasing your running endurance, which you can adjust to suit your own needs and ability.
1 – Slow down
This may sound counterproductive and go against your immediate instincts – after all, if you are training for a marathon, time is precious, especially if you have a target to reach.
However, many athletes injure themselves by pushing their bodies too hard too soon. You can’t expect to go from your usual 5K run to a 15K run within a week so in the first stage of training, it’s important not to overstress your body.
Your first priority should be being able to run the distance – speed can enter the equation later once you have increased your endurance. Keep things consistent and slow down your usual pace until you feel comfortable with your new distance. Then you can gradually increase your speed once your body has adjusted.
2 – Gradually increase the distance
Increasing your running distance may seem like an obvious step when it comes to increasing your endurance but just like in my first point, gradually is the key word. Immediately increasing your distance from 5K to 15K is far too much for your body to cope with so instead try to increase your normal run by about 1km. Once your body has become used to this new routine, you can keep gradually adjusting the distance over a suitable period of time.
3 – Interval training
Interval training can be good for increasing your speed but it can also be quite challenging to begin with. If you’re new to running then the term probably sounds quite familiar – most of you started your running careers by running and walking for certain intervals, gradually decreasing your walking breaks until you were able to run continuously.
Well interval training for running endurance is essentially the same principle. You increase your running speed for a certain interval of time before reverting back to your usual pace to recover. The important thing once again, is that you increase your intervals gradually, over a suitable period of time and not all at once.
4 – Focus on your core
As important as it is to be prepared for endurance running by well….running, it’s also crucial that you train your body in other ways. Your ‘core’ refers to your core muscles – your hamstrings, your glutes, and oblique muscles. Core training is vital for any form of exercise that you partake in, whether it’s running or kickboxing.
It can help to strengthen your muscles and prevent injuries. When it comes to running, exercising your core can help to increase your efficiency and endurance and there are a number of exercises that you can focus on. I’d personally recommend trying the plank. This is a popular core exercise with endurance runners and it helps to build up your abdominal strength.
5 – Try plyometrics
It may sound like a mathematics equation but plyometrics is a popular form of exercise that is increasing in popularity. Also known as ‘jump training’ the exercise incorporates a number of bounding movements, from tuck jumps to hurdling, encouraging different muscle groups to work together quickly and effectively.
It has been known to enhance your sense of balance and body control, with some plyometric exercises helping to boost your running performance. However, if you are interested in plyometric exercises it’s important that you seek advice first so that you can create a regime that works well for you without overstressing the rest of your body.
6 - Go for a tempo run
Tempo running is great for combatting fatigue and can help your body to adjust if you are trying to increase your run speed. However they can also be quite challenging so make sure you’ve been training for a suitable amount of time before attempting one.
Simply put a tempo run requires you to run at a higher pace than usual over a shorter distance. Please note that a ‘faster pace’ should not leave you struggling for air or crawling along the ground by the end of the run. Instead your pace should be faster but also manageable so you can maintain it for a suitable duration of time – around 15-20 minutes if you are a beginner but as you improve aim for 40-45 minutes.
7 – Eat for endurance
Focusing on how to physically train your body is important but it’s also vital that you do not ignore your diet during this time either. What you eat can have a profound effect upon your body, so knowing what to eat can make a real difference.
If you are trying to increase your endurance, I’d recommend focusing on foods that provide a slow release of energy – think oats or bananas. Porridge should definitely be back on your menu alongside antioxidant-rich green leafy vegetables and dark fruits such as cherries, which are high in vitamin C and great for muscle pain.
Surprisingly enough a lot of research is praising beetroot juice and its positive effects upon endurance. It’s believed the root can help to increase your oxygen availability, improving your overall sporting performs. I’d personally really recommend giving beetroot juice a go if you’re serious about endurance running and Biotta is a great brand to start with. Their beetroot juice is 100% organic and lacto-fermented. It also provides a great source of iron and potassium that’s easy to digest with no added sugars!
Remember to recover
As important as it is to train properly for endurance running, you should also be paying attention to your recovery too. You will undoubtedly be testing your body and pushing it a lot harder so you should be focusing on recuperating after exercising to avoid any injuries and diminish muscle pain.
Keeping hydrated is vital so remember to drink plenty of water– as you exercise, you will be sweating and losing fluid plus essential electrolytes. Try to supplement this by trying our Balance Drink – it’s great for fatigue and rich in electrolytes to help keep you hydrated and aid your recovery.
Get plenty of rest - give yourself time to recharge and focus on helping your muscles. Having a hot bath is a great way to relax but the heat can also be very beneficial for stimulating your circulation, enhancing the blood flow to your muscles. In your down time, if you really want to maintain momentum, focus on gentle exercises such as yoga or tai chi and avoid an intense workout if you’re still recovering from your last session.
Finally, if your muscles do need a little TLC, try using Atrogel to soothe any aches or pains. This non-greasy formula is lovingly prepared using fresh extracts of arnica flowers and is great for comforting sore muscles. All you have to do is apply a little of the gel to the affected area – you can use it up to four times a day for as long as you need to!