When I started running few years ago to keep myself fit I used to comfortably run for 2-3 Km without stopping. But I really wanted to hit that 10K mark as soon as I can. So as a beginner I searched the entire web to find my answer on how to increase my running stamina to hit 10K.
There was a lot of information on various websites but none of them was useful for someone like me who was an absolute beginner when it comes to running.
So I thought to include this post for beginners to really understand and implement an easy way to increase their running stamina.
What you will learn in this article
What is Stamina and how do I increase mine to run longer?
To paraphrase the official definition: stamina is your ability to, both physically and mentally, endure stressful effort or physical activity for a prolonged period of time.
The keyword in this definition is endure or endurance. It’s a term that we’ve all heard somewhere along our running journey.
Phrases like: “Hey bro, you need to improve your endurance” or “It’s because you lack endurance that you’re struggling” comes to mind.
However the truth is, most runners use this term far too casually.
Because endurance in terms of running relates to two separate but interrelated concepts:
Types of Endurance
Mental endurance or resilience is a fairly straightforward concept to understand, as it’s how well an athlete can endure psychological stress and or pressure before, during or after a sporting event.
In simple words Mental endurance is your ability as a runner to self-motivate in order to push yourself to perform better for a longer period or distance, despite wanting to give up.
Now despite mental endurance being the psychological aspect of running, it goes hand in hand with the physical side of things.
And here is where things get a bit technical, so let me simplify the these technical “sport-sciency” things for you.
Physical endurance relates to two components of physiology:
- Cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory endurance/fitness (CVF/CRF)
- Neuromuscular endurance
What is Cardiovascular endurance?
The cardiovascular endurance is essentially an indicator of how fit and healthy you are. It is the level of efficiency at which your heart, lungs and muscles can work together while you are exercising, in your case running, for a prolonged period of time.
So to simplify, the higher your level of cardiovascular endurance the easier it will be for your heart and lungs to pump oxygen rich blood to your muscles.
Meaning you will be able to breathe easier and not feel as winded during your run. i.e – Increasing your stamina during your run.
However, the cardiovascular system works hand in hand with your muscles…
What is Neuromuscular Endurance?
In simple terms, Neuromuscular endurance is the ability of your muscles or specific muscle groups (Leg muscles and our core during running) to perform physical activity without fatiguing.
Now in running terms this simply refers to how long you can run before your muscles cramp up or go into spasm due to exhaustion.
Together cardiovascular and muscular endurance form the basis of a well known concept called VO2max. In a nutshell, your VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise.
Meaning the higher this value is, the more endurance you are likely to have as a runner. So if you improve your VO2max you definitely will have an improved stamina or endurance.
The good thing is that both cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance can be trained and improved, especially if you are a beginner. Let me tell you how…
How to increase running stamina as a beginner
In the exercise world there is a very popular concept called the FITT principle.
FITT stands for:
- Frequency (How often do you train e.g. 3 times per week)
- Intensity (How hard/intense is your training)
- Type (What type of training do you do e.g. Sprints or Interval training)
- Time (How long do you train for per session)
Now as a beginner, this is the perfect template to follow to increase your stamina for running. If you can break it down and tick all of the above categories you will be covering all your bases.
Not making sense to you?
Let me explain, say for example you run 1 km every morning. And then one day you decide to double up on your usual distance and attempt a 2 km run. For the first 1 km you are doing okay but then you start to fade as fatigue sets in and you bomb out at around the 1.5 km mark.
Your lack of fitness and ultimately your lack of stamina is the reason you couldn’t make it to the 2 km mark.
Now if you simply were to apply the F.I.T.T principle as follows:
- Increasing your weekly runs from 1 to 3 (frequency)
- Ensure you maintain an average heart rate of 160 BPM (intensity) during your session
- Run a combination of sprint-jog intervals (type) of 200m on and 200m off for a total training (time) of 45 minutes.
You will increase your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance therefore increasing your overall stamina.
Now yes, this is just an example, but as a beginner we recommend using the F.I.T.T principle as a guideline to plan your running training sessions. Why?
- It’s simple to understand
- Easy to implement
- It’s customizable to your specific training environment and needs
Just remember, the most important thing you need as a beginner is structure and a plan, and with this principle you get both.
Incase you are an intermediate runner which means you regularly have your 5K runs, 3-5 times per week.
And you want to increase your stamina in order to run 10K, I have a practical solution for you.
How to increase stamina for running 10K
If you are an intermediate runner and let’s suppose that the furthest you’ve run is more or less 7.5 km and you would really like to increase your stamina in order to hit that 10k mark.
Well, the F.I.T.T principle still applies here but we will need to add two more factors to the equation.
- Total volume and;
Let’s start with the first point, total volume refers to the total amount of kilometers you run in a training cycle for example, a 7 day week.
So if you did a 2km run on Monday and a 3km on Wednesday and then you finished the week off with a 6km run on Saturday. That brings your total volume for the training cycle to 11km for the week. Make sense?
And now for the second point, distance is basically a colloquial term for long runs.
Once in every training cycle you would need to include a long run. A long run is a training session where you run for 25% of your total weekly volume in one session. It is usually done at 50% of your maximum pace in order to prevent a burn out.
To simplify, if the total distance you run for the week is 50km. So your long run would then be around 12.5km (25%).
The rationale behind these two concepts is based on the old saying that you need to get “kilos under your feet”.
But the more technical term for this is muscle memory.
By running more total kilometers in a week (including individual longer runs) more frequently, you will condition both your cardiovascular and neuromuscular system for the stresses of running longer distances at a higher intensity.
In other words, you will increase your stamina for running 10k!
How to increase stamina in a short time
Okay, so let’s say you’re scrolling social media and you see a post by an awesome blog (like Runaddiction haha) for an upcoming charity fun run for homeless puppies.
Now you love running and you love puppies so of course you’re going to enter, right? But then you see the event date… It’s in TWO WEEKS!
How the heck are you going to prepare for a 10k run in just two weeks?
Well training and getting race-ready in just two weeks is not impossible but it’s going to take some discipline and a few days of hard work.
So here are 5 tips for increasing stamina in a short time
Have a plan and track your runs
By plan we mean you need a program set out for the time frame that you will be training. This program should be very specific and should include a progressive overload as well as tapering lead up to the event.
Now in terms of keeping track, this is of vital importance to see if you’re in fact progressing. The easiest way to do this is with the help of a smartwatch or a fitness tracker.
A good number you need to be aiming for is to train for at least 80% of the time frame you have leading up to the run. So if you have 14 days to prepare for your run, you need to train for 11 days and rest a total of 3 days.
Recovery is your secret weapon
When trying to increase stamina in a short turn around period it’s very easy to overtrain and bomb out on race day. That is why having ample recovery days at strategic time slots during your training cycle is of vital importance. You see rest days might seem counterintuitive but trust us, they are your secret weapon in increasing your stamina in a short time period.
Increase your intensity
Unfortunately there is no way around this, if you want to increase your stamina in a short period of time you are going to have to train harder. It is as simple as that.
However, this doesn’t mean you need to go and run yourself into the ground (refer to #2 and #3 points above). But you will need to exercise at a level that’s above your usual intensity. Again the easiest way to do this is to keep track with a smartwatch to make sure you are training in the correct heart rate zones.
Eat Right Foods
Food is Fuel!
Now this is a topic that is so misleading nowadays. The majority of people are focused on looking aesthetically pleasing and their diets reflect that as they end up being very restrictive.
These rules don’t apply to our kind. I mean we are basically professional athletes (haha).
But jokes aside, as a runner particularly a runner trying to increase their running stamina, food is your fuel source to great performance. Without it, everything else is meaningless!
Which Foods to eat for increasing running stamina
Running nutrition is one of the most studied topics in the world of sport science. We are going to simplify this in a manner that is far easier for you guys to understand and ultimately implement into your daily routines.
Okay so when it comes to increasing stamina food plays an absolute critical role. How you fuel your body, in terms of quality, will directly determine how well you end up performing during your run.
Think about it like this, if you were a car, food would be your fuel. So what do you think will happen if you were to fill up your petrol car with diesel fuel?
It will almost certainly break down. And that’s exactly what happens when you unhealthy meals as a runner.
That being said, when it comes to specific types of foods there are a few lists online highlighting the best foods to eat for running.
The only problem with lists like those is that they are a bit broad and don’t factor in personal dietary restrictions or training goals.
When it comes to eating for stamina, unless you’re on a ketogenic diet or you are a vegan, carbohydrates (including certain sugars) and good quality protein is the way to go.
These foods that will help you to increase your Running Stamina:
- Lean meats (Chicken, turkey, fish)
- Complex carbs (Sweet potatoes, oatmeal, raspberries, black beans, Chickpeas)
- Clean simple sugars (Maltodextrin or Dextrose for Pro Athletes)
- Fibrous and nutrient rich fruits (Bananas, Apple, Cucumber, Spinach, Carrots or broccoli)
- Greek yoghurt
- Dark chocolates
These examples are for before, during and after your run. Carbohydrates are ideal for before and during your runs as you will be running at a higher intensity so you will need the glucose to fuel your muscles.
Banana is a great example of a food you can eat before and during your runs.
Proteins in lean meats prevent muscle breakdown and also help maintain amino acid levels in your system, this will significantly help you recover.
While the few healthy fat sources help maintain a hormonal balance in your body.
This will help keep your body in good shape during your rigorous training sessions.
Now when it comes to the best foods for runners we always preach the concept of keeping it simple. Everyone is different in terms of dietary restrictions, whether that is medical, religious or just personal preferences.
So try and incorporate foods that fit into your budget and your lifestyle.
Remember, by keeping it simple and not straying too far off the beaten path your chances of staying on track with your diet increases significantly.
So to summarize, in order to increase your stamina you will need to improve your endurance by raising your overall fitness level.
You can do this by:
- Applying the F.I.T.T. principle to your training.
- Adding in extra distance and increasing the total volume per week.
- Eating the correct foods at the correct times will greatly improve your performances.
- And don’t forget to rest, it’s your secret weapon.
So how do you increase your stamina for running? Training harder more frequently, eating the right foods regularly and resting well is the blueprint to gain more stamina and crush your next run.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What to eat to increase stamina for running?
You can eat carbohydrates before and during running to help with endurance. Protein after the run to aid in recovery.
How to increase stamina for running fast?
Is it possible to increase running stamina in one day?
No, physiological changes in your body such as cardiovascular endurance will need at least 7 days to increase your stamina.
Does running increase stamina in bed?
Yes, Indirectly. Increased running stamina improves physical fitness, which may translate into other activities such as intercourse and time in bed.
How long do I have to wait after eating to run?
You should wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes after eating before going for a run.
Are there any supplements or stamina tablets for running?
Yes, Supplements such as Protein, Beta-alanine, BCAAs and Creatinine can significantly improve stamina for running longer periods of time.