“Without patience, you will never conquer endurance.”
~ Yiannis Kouros
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t run another inch?
Like no matter how badly you wanted to keep going, there was nothing left in you?
Maybe you thought to yourself, “How can I possibly finish a race if I can’t even cover part of the mileage in training?”
If you’ve been through this, trust me, you’re not alone!
Most runners can tell you how it feels to be exhausted. One minute you’re full of energy, and the next…empty. But does running have to be such a full-to-empty endeavor? Is there a way to continue pushing forward while developing the stamina required to conquer long distances?
As a beginner, when we think of stamina, or endurance, we tend to focus on one single approach. The approach is to run as hard as you can for as long as you can, rest, and then do it over again. We see little results, wear ourselves out, and quit our training program halfway through. But could there be a better way?
You bet there is!
So what’s the secret to improving our stamina? It all comes down to two aspects: physical stamina & mental stamina. To achieve our goals in the endurance world, a runner requires both.
First, what is physical stamina? Simply put, it’s endurance. It’s the ability of the body to function through an immense amount of fatigue, pain, and stress. It’s how we relentlessly move forward despite how broken down and tired we feel. We also refer to it as cardiovascular endurance. This is because, during prolonged physical activity, our heart and lungs need to meet new demands to function. Ultimately, as we increase our physical stamina we can run farther.
With just physical stamina alone, we can get pretty far as runners. But what separates the elite runners from the rest of us? Yes, you guessed it, mental stamina. These runners know how to use their minds to achieve the unimaginable.
Once we know something is POSSIBLE in our minds, suddenly, the once IMPOSSIBLE starts to become POSSIBLE. What was once a dream begins to develop into a reality. All of a sudden, getting off the couch to run that 5k seems possible, that half marathon seems doable, and that marathon attempt becomes a realistic goal.
Just take a look at the history of the 4-minute mile. There were several attempts to run one mile in under four minutes in the past. Attempt after attempt, by thousands and thousands of runners, all trying to run 1 mile under 4 minutes. According to the experts at the time, the 4-minute mile was not just dangerous but it was considered IMPOSSIBLE. Experts said your heart would explode!
For over a thousand years, it was attempted, but no one succeeded. Then something happened…the IMPOSSIBLE suddenly became a POSSIBILITY. In the 1940’s, a new record was set, 4:01 and for 9 years this record stood.
Sure, they didn’t break 4 minutes but this was by far the closest any runner had ever come. Also, although they didn’t run under 4 minutes a funny thing happened. Suddenly, runners who were attempting to break the record were getting even closer than before. Suddenly, runners began bridging the gap.
POSSIBILTY is what bridges the gap between the IMPOSSIBLE and the POSSIBLE.
And then one day it happened! In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile record, crossing the line in 3:59.4! The IMPOSSIBLE suddenly became a REALITY.
How did Bannister break such a record? Was he a superhuman athlete of his time? Maybe, but he credited the extra boost to obsessively visualizing his achievement over and over again. He built up his mental stamina in congruence with his physical stamina, a strategy that provided him with just enough push to put him under that 4-minute mark.
Here’s the point; right after Bannister’s IMPOSSIBLE record was broken it became POSSIBLE; it became our reality. Because of this, not even a year later someone else ran a mile in under 4 minutes, then another, and another, and so on. Today, it’s almost routine for elite runners and even high school students to run under 4 minutes.
Just wait until that 2-hour marathon is broken; I guarantee overtime we will see the same effect.
Here’s the take-home: it takes both physical and mental stamina to improve our running. Just ask any elite runner. So that’s what I did. I asked THE BEST.
When I went to these super endurance athletes I asked them the following question:
What is your #1 tip to increase running stamina?
Note: this is definitely one of the best collections of expert running tips out there. When you see the contributors on this post, you will understand why.
~Professional ultra runner for North Face and best-selling author. Best known for running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, running 350 miles with no sleep, and finishing first place at the world’s toughest foot race: Badwater 135.
“The best thing for increasing running stamina is to cross-train. Condition your entire body, don’t just run. I do a good amount of HIIT training and find it to be very beneficial.”
“As for mental stamina, discipline and patience are two essential skills to master, which neither come easy during long, grueling endeavors.”
Connect with Dean:
~Professional ultra runner for Altra and Head Coach at Sharman Ultra. Best known for completing over 200 ultras and marathons, 3x Leadville Trail 100 Champion, Grand Slam of Ultrarunning record holder, and 8x top 10 at Western States 100 finisher.
“My number 1 tip for increasing running stamina is consistency in training over a long period. There are no short-cuts.”
“The two main ways to maintain long-term regular and effective mileage are to minimize the chance of injury and to find ways to make training a routine that you don’t miss.”
“For the first of these, getting your stride analyzed for imbalances is a good start, plus a set of exercises that are specific to your strengths and weaknesses (based on that analysis) combined with regular foam rolling and massage.”
“For the ability to maintain a regular routine, carving out part of the day is best and for many people that means first thing in the morning before the stresses of the day pile up and make it difficult to fit in a run.”
Connect with Ian :
~Professional ultra runner for Altra and coach at Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching. Best known for breaking the 100-mile American record and 12-hour world record for running. Competed at three World 100k Championship Races and has won three National Championships.
“The starting point is developing a strong aerobic base. It is what you will build onto any future speedwork and/or race specific training. I think sometimes people neglect fully developing their aerobic base before jumping into speed work. This is like building a house onto a shaky foundation. From my experience, when the aerobic base is fully developed your body needs much less speed work to get the same result, which makes training more sustainable.”
“I tend to focus on two variables when developing an aerobic base; pace per heart rate and pace per rate of perceived exertion. These are two tools you can use to gauge if you are still developing and improving your aerobic base. When you get to a point where these variables stabilize then it is time to introduce the speed work.”
“It’s a tough question, because I strongly believe in things happening for a reason if you are willing to learn from them, so although I have made plenty of mistakes I like to use them as reminders that continual improvement requires careful scrutiny of your process and learning from mistakes. With that said, I think a better understanding in my youth of how big of a variable nutrition is in regards to well being and performance would have been nice!”
Connect with Zach :
~Founder of Run Steep Get High and CEO of Aravaipa Running. Best known for completing the “Slam Of The Damned” consisting of the Hard Rock 100, the HURT 100-mile Endurance Run, Ultra Trail Du Mont-Blanc, and The Barkley Marathons.
“I’d say the best way to increase running stamina is to slowly increase your running volume whether measured in distance or time over a period of time. Don’t worry too much at your pace and don’t be afraid of slowing down temporarily as you make an increase. Over time your body will adapt to the increased stress load and you will be able to go longer without tiring. Be patient and enjoy the process!”
“I like to let the terrain I train on dictate my pace and I am never afraid to mix in walking or hiking to keep things easy and flowing well. Just remember that the goal should be to have fun along the way and having a positive attitude can go a long way in making the experience enjoyable and long lasting. I’ve had some of my best training runs and races by approaching it with a positive attitude and just being happy.”
Connect with Jamil :
~Best known for completing 50 iron-man length triathlons, in 50 consecutive days, and in 50 US states.
“The best way to increase stamina for running is running. What kind of running and how much running is the question. We use the SOAR philosophy. Stress, Optimize, Adapt and Recover. Every athlete is going to be a little different and respond differently to amounts of stress.”
“Muscular endurance is the key to building successful stamina… tip: do more squats.”
“Mental stamina is a 10 hour conversation!”
Connect with James :
~Our top new & upcoming pick! Professional ultra runner at Salomon and coach. Best known for his first place 50k debut, completing Ultra Trail Du Mont-Blanc, and staring in the Salomon short film: It’s Just Running.
“To increase running stamina, you need to have a progressive training plan with incremental load increases and adequate recovery periods. Practicing this process consistently should cause a safe training stimulus which will force an adaptation response during recovery to help better prepare you for the next session/ race, i.e. increase running stamina.”
“It’s important to start where YOU currently sit in regards to your fitness. Do not force yourself into certain mileage or fast paces due to other peoples figures you may see on platforms such as Strava or Movescount. Assess where you are and base your increases in training load on a percentage of your current situation.”
“Above all, consistency is key. Prioritizing consistency in your training and recovery over one high milage, one fast pace workout, or multiple races, will allow your body to adapt with better stamina.”
Connect With Majell :
So there you have it: tips from the experts, tips from some of the BEST endurance athletes and industry leaders.
The pros covered how to increase running stamina so let me cover how to take action. Remember this: if you want to change your running for the better then you must change yourself for better. That’s the only way is happens.
How do we do this? Simple—learn from those who are better. If you want to be a better runner then you must learn from those who are better at running. And right here in front of us lies a set of expert tips from those who are better.
Not only can you take these tips and apply them to your own running, but there are plenty of ways to reach out to them and learn more. Click their links, sign up for their coaching sessions, and read their books. Visit their speaking engagements, watch their videos, and follow them on social media. It’s all here on this page: one universal source to their knowledge and skills.
Most goals we want to accomplish in running have already been accomplished, so there will always be someone to learn from. This will save you time and money in the long run (no pun intended). If we learn their strategies and follow their direction then we can achieve similar results. But it takes patience, it takes consistency, and it takes commitment to conquer long distances. We will feel tired at times, we will feel weak at times and sometimes we will make mistakes. But overcoming those adversities is the exact thing that makes us strong.
It’s those times when you’re not running for a medal or a trophy, those runs when you feel winded or tired, when you sacrifice sleep to put in the extra work. That’s when we are developing endurance. It’s when we fall down, pick ourselves up and say, “I STILL GOT THIS” and finish strong. And most importantly, it’s when we never, ever give up! So when it’s race day, and you reach that starting line, guess what? The hard work is done. All you need to do is stay focused…remember your training…and do what you do best…RUN!
“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must: just never give up.”
~ Dean Karnazes
REMEMBER…running stamina is both physical and mental! Learn from the best and you will become the best!
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