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How To Increase Stamina And Endurance For Running

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Stamina vs Endurance | Why Are They Important | How To Improve

Stamina and endurance are the dynamic duo that can take your running game from average to exceptional. You might have heard these terms mentioned, but what do they really mean for runners? 

Here, Ian Scarrott, Personal Trainer and Your Run Coach founder, explains why they matter, as well as how to improve your running stamina so you can go that extra mile (literally). So, whether you're a seasoned racer or just starting out, get ready to up your running game!

Is There A Difference Between Stamina And Endurance When Running?

Stamina and endurance are closely related concepts, but they're not quite the same thing when it comes to running. Here's the difference between the two:

  • Stamina: Stamina generally refers to the ability to sustain a prolonged effort at a consistent level of intensity. In the context of running, this means your ability to keep up a decent pace or effort level over a moderate-to-long duration without getting too tired. For example, if you can maintain a steady pace in a 10K race without slowing down or feeling exhausted, you have good stamina for that distance.

  • Endurance: Endurance, on the other hand, is a broader term. In relation to running, endurance includes both stamina and the ability to handle longer distances or more demanding terrain. It's about your overall staying power in the face of different challenges, such as running a marathon or tackling hilly trails. Endurance is about pushing your mind's limits as well as your body's and staying mentally and physically strong over extended periods.

Why Are Stamina And Endurance Important For Runners?

Stamina and endurance are crucial components of running performance - here are some examples of what high levels of both can help you achieve:

  • Keep going for longer: Running often means sustaining physical efforts for a while, whether it's a short sprint or a marathon. Stamina and endurance can help you to maintain a consistent pace and run long distances without getting too fatigued, too quickly.

  • Use less energy: Being in better shape means your body uses energy more efficiently. By improving your aerobic fitness, you'll be able to breathe better and burn fuel like fat and carbs more effectively, meaning you can run longer and more energetically.

  • Stave off burnout: When running, your muscles can generate waste products like lactic acid, which can make you feel sore and tired. Good endurance levels can help delay the onset of muscle fatigue, so you can run longer without feeling like you're dragging your legs.

  • More mental grit: When it comes to running, resilience isn't all about your physical state, but your mind as well. High endurance can help give you the mental strength to push through discomfort and keep your eye on your goals, especially during tough runs like marathons.

  • Go faster: Endurance forms the foundation for speed. By building up your endurance through long, slow runs, you can lay the foundation for faster runs over shorter distances.

  • Stay injury-free: When you run tired, you increase your risk of making mistakes, which in turn can lead to injuries. Keeping your endurance levels high helps you maintain good form and reduces your chance of the injuries that can be associated with muscle fatigue.

  • Recover more quickly: Long runs can really take it out of you, but better endurance levels mean you can recover more quickly after workouts or races. Your body gets better at sending oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which helps them heal and repair faster.

  • Better health: In the long run, building stamina and endurance is great for your overall health. It's good for your heart and lungs, can help you manage your weight, and lowers the risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

How To Improve Stamina And Endurance For Running

There are two key considerations to bear in mind when you're looking to build your running endurance - how you're fuelling your body with nutrition and how you're improving your body with training.  Both of these will be key when it comes to running further, faster and for longer.

The Best Diet And Foods For Improving Running Endurance

A balanced diet is pivotal in building stamina and endurance when running, as this is how you give your body all the essential fuel and nutrients it needs to repair and improve. Plus, proper nutrition supports overall health, reducing the risk of injuries and illness and helping runners to consistently train and push their limits. 

You can learn about the best nutrition for before, during and after workouts here, as well as on our long-distance running nutrition and what to eat when training for a marathon guides. But in summary, these are the best diet and food tips for running stamina.

  • Fuel with carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy especially during high-intensity activities like running, so fuel up on filling foods like wholewheat pasta, rice, or bread a couple of hours before your run, as well as fruits like bananas.

  • Protein Intake: But don't skimp on the protein - this helps your muscles to recover and grow stronger and it's satisfying, so you're less likely to feel hungry during your run. Boost your protein levels by adding chicken, fish or beans to your diet, or having a protein smoothie before your run.

  • Healthy Fats: Healthy fats found in things like avocados, nuts and seeds provide slow-burning fuel, meaning they can give you a steady supply of energy during your run. Plus, studies have shown that runners who include more healthy fats in their diet are less likely to suffer from injuries, which could be attributed to better energy levels. You can learn more about the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats here.

  • Hydration: Water is your lifeline and dehydration can kill your stamina, so drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run to stay hydrated and prevent fatigue. This needs to be balanced with electrolytes, especially in hotter temperatures, so consider drinking sports drinks on long runs.

  • Mid-run snacks: If you're running for more than an hour, consider mid-run snacks like energy gels, energy bars, or even just a handful of gummy bears. They give you a quick energy boost to keep your engine running and can help keep you from hitting the dreaded 'wall'.

  • Iron-rich foods: Iron helps transport oxygen in your body, and a deficiency can lead to fatigue and poor performance. However, people who regularly take part in strenuous activities like running are more likely to suffer from lower iron levels. So, include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet, like lean meat, beans, leafy greens, nuts and fortified cereals to keep yourself performing at your best.

  • Supplements as needed: While a well-rounded diet should be your primary source of nutrition, sometimes you may need a little support. The best supplements for running stamina include: 

    • Electrolytes to stay hydrated during long runs
    • Protein powders and shakes to boost muscle recovery and strength
    • Running gels to provide quick energy for a sustained performance
    • BCAAs to aid muscle recovery
    • Caffeine to boost alertness
    • Omega-3 to reduce inflammation and support muscle recovery
    • Multivitamins to fill any nutritional gaps and for general wellbeing

How To Train To Increase Stamina And Endurance For Running

While diet will support endurance from a fuel and energy perspective, the right kind of training will help to improve your body's physical skills to help you run longer and in more challenging environments. 

Some top training tips for boosting your running endurance include:

  • Consistent training: Consistency is key in running. It's not about how far or fast you run, but how regularly you do it. Whether you can lace up your running shoes once, twice, or more times a week, the key is to stick to a routine that suits your fitness level and schedule. Regular running builds a strong endurance foundation.

  • Increase mileage gradually: When it comes to increasing your distance, slow and steady wins the race. Going from 0 to 100 too quickly can lead to injuries. Gradually increase your mileage to give your body time to adjust and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

  • Get plenty of sleep: The body repairs and adapts during recovery, so the downtime of a good night's sleep can be where the real magic happens. Plus, better rest means more energy for your next run.

  • Interval training: If you're ready to kick things up a notch, then include high-intensity interval training into your run routine. These short bursts of intense effort during your run not only boost your speed but also enhance your endurance. Make sure to integrate HIIT gradually to get your body used to the increased intensity.  Discover more on our guide to interval running workouts.

  • Cross-training: Incorporating other exercises like cycling, swimming, or rowing into your routine helps to improve your overall fitness with less risk of overtraining. It's like giving your running muscles a break while still staying in shape and building strength for you to utilise when running.

  • Strength training: Strength training isn't just for bodybuilders. It builds muscular endurance and helps your body handle the running load better. You'll find running movements easier and you'll be less likely to suffer injuries. Check out our running and strength training workout plan for more.

Stamina and endurance are more than just buzzwords; they're the keys to unlocking your potential as a runner. By following the tips on nutrition and training provided here, you can lay a solid foundation for a successful running journey, whether you're chasing personal milestones or competing at a higher level.

 If you'd like to complete your training in the gym, then find a PureGym near you and make the most of the high-quality fitness facilities available. If you'd like support in improving your running skills, then book in with one of our expert personal trainers who will be able to help you on your journey.

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