Do you want to run longer distances, yet your results seem to be set in stone? If you can’t seem to get past a certain mileage, the last thing you want is to burn yourself out or get injured. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore how you can increase your running distance and duration and finish that marathon in no time. So, let’s get to it!
1. Start Slow
First things first – before setting off to any distance, always warm up and stretch to supply your muscles with oxygen and prevent side stitches or muscle tightness. If you’re currently comfortable running a few miles, you can’t expect to jump headfirst into a marathon, and especially without any preparation. Instead, you’ll want to increase your distance or time slowly. Tackle a few shorter races before you go full steam ahead with the total marathon distance.
Each time you increase your mileage, slow down your pace a little bit. It gives your body time to adapt and adjust to this new feat.
2. Try a Run-Walk Combo
Don’t overexert yourself. In truth, it’s just not worth it. Instead, try a run-walk method to amp up your distance and not stress your body too much. You can start out running and walk the remaining portion toward the end, e.g., alternating between running for one minute and walking for 20–30 seconds. All in all, intervals are an excellent way to boost your endurance capacity!
3. Conversational Pace Is Optimal Pace
A common beginner runner mistake is darting out of the gate too quickly. In fact, one of the main reasons why beginners quit before finishing the set distance is running too fast. You end up wiping yourself out before you got to that finish line or before you got to that distance you had intended to run.
Remember, at first, you train to improve endurance, not speed. The best way to increase your mileage slowly but steadily is to find your average running pace, which you can do by dividing the distance you ran with your running time. This also means taking it easy pace-wise, at least at the start, not overexerting yourself and running so that you are still able to keep up a conversation. That way, you will make sure your breathing is normal, your heart rate is steady, and your muscles won’t get torn from more exercise than you can handle at first.
4. Go for a One “Long” Run a Week
One of the most effective endurance techniques for running, especially when training for a marathon, is alternating your usual runs with a long run once a week as you gradually improve your aerobic capacity. It could be any set day where you choose to go 20–30% of the weekly mileage. For example, if you usually run 5km each run, try to increase your mileage up to 6–7km for the long run. This way, you’ll strengthen your muscles, increase your speed, your running form will become more efficient, and you’ll also train your mental toughness.
In fact, it has been studied that if you train your mental muscle, it can help navigate long runs more easily. So by choosing to increase your mileage only once a week, you not only work on your physical fitness but also mental preparation.
It’s recommended to go for a long run only once a week in order to not compromise the quality of your training in the long run, though.
5. Run Sprints and Do Strength Training
Short sprints can help amp up your speed and cadence, generate acceleration, boost pain tolerance, and build stamina. But why is strength training important? You ask. Naturally, speed doesn’t come without strength, and that’s why running and strength training go hand in hand, as the key factor for endurance is strengthening muscles and connective tissues, gaining coordination, and more power.
There are a plethora of exercises to choose from, such as cardio exercises or boot camp-style exercises like skipping drills and high-knee sprints, which have also been used to great success by some athletes to improve endurance.
You can also try different running methods for your endurance levels, including fartlek (a combination of fast and slow running), interval (alternating between low-to-moderate and high-intensity running), or progression (starting slow and increasing the pace as you run).
6. Fuel Your Body
It goes without saying that your body requires proper nutrition and hydration to guarantee you reach the most out of your running session. When you exercise, your body cools down by sweating, and your blood glucose is burnt for energy by your muscles, so it’s essential that it is completely hydrated and satiated with nutrients prior to your run to avoid fatigue or even more severe complications.
Energy gels, bars, fresh fruit are good options to consume right before or even during your run. Generally, you’ll want a mix of protein and carbs about 1–3 hours before your run and a similar combo within an hour after completing your run. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water and bring a bottle with you for your run.
7. Build Gradually: Add 5 – 10min a Week
Just like with any exercise, your body needs to have time to adapt and adjust. If you want to increase the running time slowly but steadily, try adding 5–10 minutes every week, so you don’t hinder your performance by overtraining your muscles.
Generally, you want to increase your distance by about 10% each week, if you can. If you’re only running 5km, you should only increase it by 0.5km per week. Alternatively, you can also add 1–2 miles or kilometers every couple of weeks. Making small but consistent steps is a surefire way to boost your endurance along the way.
8. Be Patient and Follow a Plan
The only way you’re going to know if you made progress is if you track it. Write down your current distance, pace, and time. Then, write down goals for the upcoming three months. Make sure you keep them realistic, time-oriented, and specific.
For instance, your goal could be to run 10km after 3 months. From there, you could create smaller targets, such as running 8km by the end of the second month. You’ll also want to include how many times a week you intend on running. Ideally, a beginner should strive to run about 2–3 times a week.
If you don’t want to plan your training alone, grab a friend, or join a runner’s group in your town. These groups will frequently have training programs or group you with individuals who have similar goals.
9. Don’t Forget to Rest
The last but definitely not the most surprising one is that every running session should lead to recovery time. Running every day will often only lead to injuries due to overuse. So, schedule in those rest days! Allow your body time to recover. Let your muscles heal because they are just as important as your running days.