7 Methods to Improve Your Running Stamina and Speed

It’s very common for runners to reach a plateau, where their body is adapted to run a maximum distance – but is uncomfortable going any further. 

This can be extremely frustrating for distance runners, rookies or otherwise – leaving them to wonder how to run longer.

When you feel tired, bored, fatigued, discouraged, or even in pain, there are tools you can use to combat the issues – and training techniques to mitigate them, allowing you to run longer and farther,

In this article, we’re going to go through changes you can make to improve your running endurance and help you run further.

7 Methods to Improve Your Running Stamina and Speed

Getting your muscles to the point of exhaustion is not the most effective way to improve running endurance. Mainly due to the extensive recovery time that is needed afterwards.

Instead, the majority of training (80% and more) should be easy and only until mild fatigue. You should finish feeling you could have done more and be able to train the next day. Listen to your body and give it enough time to recover to see consistent gains. Ideally, every one-two week.

1. Classic endurance-building work out – the long run

When we train for an extended period we progressively engage more muscle fibres as the body fatigues. In response to that, our body adapts by growing more mitochondria, building capillary networks, improving fat oxidation and developing strength. 

All of this ultimately postpones muscle exhaustion and results in a more ‘comfortable’ run. Or faster pace.

How to: 

Include one long easy run every week and focus on maximizing the time you spend in Zone 2. Start by going for a 40-minute run and gradually increase the time until you can comfortably run from 1:30 to 2:00 hours.

2. Boost stamina for running with short sprints

While long runs are effective at building running endurance, they don’t provide much additional training stimulus for experienced athletes. There are other exercises to increase running speed and stamina, though. Sprinting is a good example.

Russian exercise physiologist Viktor Seluyanov’s training methodology is very effective.  It includes performing short but very high-intensity work followed by a long rest period to ensure no fatigue (H+) is accumulated.

In this approach, sprinting activates nearly 100% of muscle fibres. The long recovery interval creates good conditions for mitochondria growth and results in substantial improvements in muscle economy in quite a short period.

How to:  

Include a series of very short (8-12 seconds or up to 30 steps) but hard sprints (close to maximum speed) throughout an easy session. 

Aim to complete 10-20 sprints during a session and ensure plenty of recovery in between. 

3. Improve fat oxidation with short & easy fasted workouts

Fasting is the process of full or partial abstinence from food (and sometimes even water) for some time. Usually, 10 hours and more. 

When in a fasted state, the body switches its fuel source from glucose and stored glycogen to fatty acids and research suggests that it improves mitochondrial function.

The better level of fat oxidation an athlete has,  the faster (and longer) he or she can run without accumulating lactate.

How to: 

If you’re new to fasting or glycogen-restricted training, start with one or two easy 20-30 min run sessions first thing in the morning (the perfect time to execute this kind of training). 

Drink a glass of water beforehand and keep the intensity entirely in Zones 1/2. 

Once you feel comfortable with the process, increase the duration gradually week-over-week until you reach 1 hour.

4. Build running stamina with tempo training

Tempo is a ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ effort. You feel like you’re exercising, but you can still carry on for quite some time and even kind of maintain a conversation. 

Tempo sessions engage more muscle fibres, thereby growing mitochondria in them and also having a positive impact on aerobic capacity.

How to: 

Include a continuous run in low- to mid-Zone 3 (30 to 60 minutes) once a week. This will be a form of speedwork, so consider it a key session. Don’t get too concerned about the pace during this endurance-building workout. The purpose is to challenge the aerobic energy system a little more than a typical easy run would. 

5. Improve aerobic capacity with aerobic fartleks

In a fartlek, fast surges are immediately followed by a certain number of minutes at an easy pace. This cycle repeats itself and by the end of the session, you will have gathered a considerable amount of time at the quality effort.

If running is too hard for you (or if your easy pace is rather slow), try a run-walk approach instead. Walking does help to build running endurance and this is a great workout to incorporate it.

How to: 

During this session perform faster (mid-Zone 4) surges, that are immediately followed by easy or tempo effort. For example, sets of 30 sec hard / 90 sec easy or 1 min hard / 1 min easy. 

Don’t get too concerned about the pace during this workout – the purpose is to tune in with your body and learn how different efforts feel.

6. Don’t forget about explosive strength training for runners

The keyword is explosiveness – movements should be powerful, quick and with perfect technique. Just like sprinting, this type of training engages more muscle fibres, thereby stimulating the growth of mitochondria in them.

How to: 

The focus of this session should be on prime movers (large muscle groups). Select 2-3 main exercises that engage the most muscle groups throughout the body and perform them explosively. 

The protocol is 2-3 sets of 5-6 repetitions with a 30%-50% load (of your estimated 1-repetition maximum) for each exercise. In between sets take 3-5 minutes of rest. 

If you can no longer perform the exercise explosively,  stop (even if the set is not completed).

7. Include plyometric exercises for runners

Plyometrics are quick, powerful movements repeated in quick succession. It’s another non-running session that can help build running endurance.

Studies show that plyometric training can significantly contribute to running performance. 

How to: 

If you’re new to plyometrics, start with 2 simple jumps – single-leg hops and deep stair hops – and do each of them explosively for ~20 seconds. You can repeat each jump after a 1-3min rest or if you’re an advanced athlete organize a session in the form of Tabata (i.e. 20 sec of intense jumping followed by 10-sec rest). 

Keep in mind that the movements should be explosive and, therefore, very taxing. So, keep the number of jumps and repetitions low.

Tips on How To Run Longer 

Strengthening Your Mental Health

Start Slow

Running too fast at the beginning is a surefire way to deplete your energy before the end. Even though you’re pepped up and ready to run, keep the pace steady so you have enough stamina to finish your goal. 

Use optimal pacing during your run. 

Optimal pacing helps you track your speed through the run instead of going faster and slower on a whim. Do it by downloading an app to track. You can also glance at your watch from time to time.  If you track yourself and stay within your set time, you’ll find your energy lasts much longer. 

Stop stretching or Walk 

Stopping for a quick stretch or a minute of walking can do wonders to help you revitalize. 

In the Jeff Galloway run-walk method, he recommends that runners approach their entire marathon by running and walking, to conserve energy and allow time to replenish their stores during the run. 

Many people have even finished at their best times because they’re replenishing their energy.  After that quick break, you’ll find yourself with a new burst of energy, similar to what you had at the start line. 

Drink and Eat

Drink water frequently during your run. Dehydration is a huge energy killer and needs to be taken seriously. 

People who don’t drink enough end up having breakdowns during a race. Not having enough water could mean you don’t finish your race, so be sure to take those opportunities to drink.

Run with Other People

The company of others can motivate you twice as much as running alone. 

If your friend is much faster, you might feel pressured to keep up and use up your energy too fast. Someone who runs slower than you can hold you back and keep you from reaching your goal speed. 

During a race, find someone to keep pace with, even if you’re running alone. Stick with them through the race, staying at a relatively similar pace throughout. 

Use their companionship to help you stay at optimum pacing. 


Make sure you have the muscle power needed to run longer.

Simple bodyweight workouts, hill runs, or sprints can boost your explosive power, which will increase your stamina during long runs. 

Vary Your Route

Most people don’t have the nerve to run around the same track over and over again. There’s a reason for that. 

Your brain needs new and interesting routes to stimulate and keep the excitement alive. Use your runs as an opportunity to explore your city (and even nearby cities). Choose routes with great nature, waterfront paths, and beautiful neighbourhoods. 

Strengthening Your Mental Health

Running is never purely physical. The mental strain during a run can take its toll, leaving you with discouragement and self-doubt. Use these strategies to strengthen your willpower and push you along in the tough spots. 

Get Enough Sleep

You may have previously thought sleep was only important for your physical energy, but it has a huge effect on your mental strength too.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions. It does the lion’s share of that job during sleep. So sleep deprivation results in emotional instability. 

Without that emotional soundness during your run, you’ll lack the ability to pep yourself back up when you start feeling tired or doubtful. So get plenty of sleep – not just the night before you run, but every night during your training. 

Build Confidence, One Step at a Time

It’s easy to move quickly from one goal to the next when you’re training for a race. But it’s important to take time to appreciate your achievements regularly. 

Some ways to soak in the accomplishment of your goals are:

  • Treat yourself to a nice meal (*or a beer) after a long run
  • Post your runs on social media: you can link accounts like Strava to automatically publish
  • Buy some new gear for your runs
  • Run in a special place (find a new trail with some gorgeous scenery you’ve never seen before)

Listen to Music

Sometimes we turn on music, only to tune it out as background music. Music holds the power to change moods, so it plays a powerful part in your attitude while running. 

If you’re feeling like you can’t run any further, taking a moment to change your music might be just the boost you need. Change the genre or pace of your music. 

If you’re listening to repetitive pop, switching to hip-hop or electronic music can help your brain quickly switch from one mentality to a fresh, new one. 

Pay Attention to Details Around You

Don’t get so wrapped up in your running form and pacing that you forget to have fun.

Be sure to consciously look around and enjoy watching nature, local neighbourhoods, and other people. Pay attention to little details and enjoy the runner’s high. 

When you go out of your way to appreciate these aspects of the run, your focus will shift from, “This is so hard; I can’t do this,” to a meditative attitude. That switch might just get you through the rest of a challenging run. 

Focus on Breathing

Hitting the wall often happens when your mind latches onto the thought that you’re tired or bored and can’t shift to anything else.  It soon becomes an obsession and your body will follow what your mind tells it. 

If you want to break this mental block, here’s a simple trick that works: count the seconds as you inhale and exhale. Concentrate on making those seconds even.

Breathe in for 3 seconds, then breathe out for 3 seconds. It’s a small action but will do wonders in keeping your body strong and confident. 

Final Thoughts

Long-distance running comes with adaptation – gradually increase your maximum distance with long, slow runs. As you push yourself to run farther, remember that consistency will make a world of difference in your training.

Reaching your goal distance every week will make a huge impact and ensure that your race difficulties stay at a minimum. 


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button