How to Build Running Endurance
The most common running question for those starting out is how do I run more? With the emphasis placed on being able to run further in a single session than you had been able to. Regardless of your skills as a runner, this will apply to you. If you run 40 miles a week, there is still room to increase your weekly mileage at a specific point in your training schedule, and this will tell you why. If you are a beginner runner and want to increase your basic endurance, this will also apply to you.
The obvious answer is to run more/better/stronger/faster/harder, you must run more. ”Practice makes perfect” applies here. The further you run, shorter distances become easier. The faster you run, slower running becomes easier. You can plainly see this in hill training for sprinters: sprinting uphill taxes their systems more than running on a flat track, and prepares them for the anguish of sprinting continually during a race. Running uphill makes running on a flat surface “feel” easier, much as running downhill “feels” easier than running on a flat surface.
For beginner runners looking to build endurance, building your runs is not just as easy as adding another minute to your run time every day. While that may increase your running endurance quickly, not enough rest will also set you up for multiple injuries. Pushing beyond your limits to fit an arbitrary plan can be dangerous, so there are running-related “rules” to help you build your own running plan.
- In running, the difficulty of a run is based on either distance or time. Unless you are racing or trying to “tune up” for a race that is coming up, focus on one or the other. To start your program, focus on the distance first to build endurance.
- Alternate easy and hard days. Taking an easy workout rather than a day off after a hard workout increases blood flow and moves out lactic acid and other byproducts of hard exercise. Many tumblrs will recognize this idea from other aerobic plans.
- When building endurance, a “hard run” is any run longer than your recovery runs. To make it simple, have your recovery runs be 1/2 the time of a long run. If you are a beginner, this may mean that your “hard run” is 3 miles and a recovery run is 1.5 mi.
- Don’t increase your mileage more than every three weeks. For beginners, this means that when you raise your mileage to, say, 16 miles per week, run at that level for three weeks before raising your weekly mileage again.
- If you add a running day to your week, don’t add mileage. You are removing a recovery day, so it is not wise to put yourself further in the hole by moving up your mileage.
- When you start adding a long run, it should not be more than 1/4-1/3 of your total weekly mileage. For beginners, it should be 1.5x longer than a “hard run” (again, anything longer than a recovery run) and 3x longer than a recovery run.
For beginners, a plan using these techniques may look like this:
If you are running 4 days a week and wish to run 16 mpw:
Monday: 0 mi
Tuesday: 4 mi
Wednesday: 2 mi
Thursday: 0 mi
Friday: 4 mi
Saturday: 0 mi
Sunday: 6 mi
Looking at this plan, you can see it follows the rules above as the long run is no more than 1/3rd of the overall weekly mileage. The recovery runs are the 2 milers, and the “hard runs” are the 4 milers. Easy days follow hard days, and rest days are used appropriately.
Using these tools I enjoy building my own plans. I find it more rewarding and allows for more flexibility and tailoring to my personal needs. That being said, if you are beyond a beginning runner, there is always a time to raise your weekly mileage. When done in a safe way, it is called “base building” and will prepare your legs for distance. The miles you “bank” by running during base building, will help you by giving you endurance when you begin to focus on speed for racing, when your overall mileage drops (which isn’t discussed in this post, sorry :)).
Building Base by David Hays
Building Up Your Mileage by Hal Higdon
How to Safely Increase Your Mileage by Pfitzinger
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