The 6 Best Ways to Build Up Your Endurance For The Ironman Run

The most daunting aspect of running a marathon may be pondering how you could possibly make it the entire way without stopping to walk or take a break. You don’t want to train for a marathon only to not be able to finish the race. Many runners who are taking on the marathon want to run every single step, even though walking is still a worthy way of earning that shiny finisher’s medal. If you devote enough time and energy to training, you will eventually be able to run a marathon.

This article covers six ways to help you improve your running endurance and get ready for a marathon.

The Science Behind Aerobic Endurance Training

What are the best endurance-building exercises? Let’s take a look at the exercise physiology to find out. To improve running stamina and speed, you need to be able to run further and faster. What happens to our bodies when we work out?

There are two types of muscle fibres, slow-twitch (type I) and fast-twitch (type II). Good endurance athletes usually have more slow-twitch muscle fibres, while those who are better at sprint events usually have more fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Although it would be ideal if it were simplified, in reality, different types of fast-twitch fibres are further split into categories.

How do slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibres affect running endurance?

Type I muscle fibres uses oxygen and fat to produce energy. While they are smaller and produce less force, they contain more mitochondria and myoglobin, as well as being surrounded by more capillaries, which makes them more resistant to fatigue. These muscle fibres allow us to do things like go for hikes or stand at concerts for a few hours.

Type II muscle fibres are BIG and STRONG but don’t last for very long before getting tired. These are further divided into:

  • Type IIa fibres are called Fast Oxidative / Glycolytic fibres because they possess characteristics of both Type I and Type IIx fibres. With relevant training, these can be adapted for either short or long-duration events. Physiologically, type IIa fibres can use both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, which makes them fatigue much slower than type IIx.
  • Type IIx fibres produce the most force, but are the least efficient. They operate anaerobically and fatigue quickly. Type IIx fibres are used for activities of very short duration that require significant power and strength, like powerlifting or 100-meter sprints.

This means that to develop endurance for running, it is best to develop strength in your slow-twitch muscle fibres and grow mitochondria in your intermediate muscle fibres.

Endurance Training Benefits and Adaptations

There are three types of fibres found in most human skeletal muscles. The proportion of different muscle fibre types will vary depending on a multitude of factors, including training, age and even genetics.

For example, the percentage of slow-twitch fibres in the quadriceps femoris muscles can vary from under 20% (top-level sprinters) to as high as 95% (elite marathoners).

The strength and thickness of muscle fibres can be increased through training. When we talk about aerobic endurance training, we are looking for two effects: increased cardiovascular capacity and increased oxygen utilization. The goals of the workout are twofold: first, to develop the power that slow-twitch muscle fibres can produce; and second, to convert type IIa fast-twitch muscle fibres to slow-twitch muscle fibres.

Aerobic Base & the Role of Mitochondria in Building Running Stamina

The number of mitochondria in fast-twitch type IIa muscle fibres needs to be increased to build stamina for running (any distance).

Mitochondria are small organelles in cells that take the energy we get from food and convert it into ATP, which is energy that cells can use.

The more mitochondria we have in our muscle tissues, the more resistant those muscles will become to fatigue.

Physical activity increases the mitochondrial content in muscles, which in turn leads to an increase in mitochondria. Anaerobic training has the opposite effect of what is typically desired, as it increases the concentration of positively charged hydrogen ions (H+) in the muscles. This puts an extra load on mitochondria to eliminate them.

Aerobic capacity (VO2max) and its impact on running endurance

To fully answer the question of how to improve running stamina there’s one more factor to consider – aerobic capacity. Or how much oxygen our body can consume.

When we exercise, we breathe in oxygen which enters our lungs and is then transferred to our blood vessels. The blood that has been oxygenated travels to the heart, which then directs it into the cells. Oxygen is used in the body to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and fuel muscle contraction.

In essence, aerobic capacity is the same as VO2 max. The VO2 max is the pinnacle of oxygen consumption by the body during intense activity. The more oxygen the body takes in, the more energy it will have. This will result in less fatigue.

Aerobic capacity improves when we challenge our aerobic energy system to the point where the anaerobic energy system takes over and lactic acid starts to accumulate exponentially. VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete can consume per minute.

If you run quickly, you will have to breathe deeper and more rapidly. With time, this will make your respiratory muscles more effective. So more oxygen is available for the body. Training at a high-intensity level improves the body’s ability to transport and absorb oxygen. This is due, in part, to an increase in the number of capillaries and higher levels of haemoglobin and myoglobin.

However, such intense training should not be the only thing you do. You should have a solid aerobic base. If you do this, your body will be better able to handle more training and improve more.

How long does it take to build endurance?

Physiological changes take time to materialize. It takes time and patience to improve running endurance, it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a journey of slowly getting better. Definitely not a ‘zero to hero’ kind of thing.

It takes a significant amount of consistent exercise, 20-30 hours, to develop an aerobic base. building up your endurance can take a while, but you will start to see results within a few weeks.

The 6 Best Ways to Build Up Your Endurance for a Marathon

1. Train for Shorter Races First

You should gradually increase your endurance if you want to start racing shorter distances.

If you haven’t been running regularly, a 5k is a good place to start. If you have been doing well with training for 5-kilometre and 10-kilometre races, the next logical step would be to train for a half marathon.

If you break your large goals into manageable chunks, you increase your chances of success and make the journey more enjoyable.

If you’re confident with a certain distance, then you can start increasing your endurance for a longer distance.

2. Start Your Marathon Training Early

If you want to be able to run a marathon, you will need to dedicate time to building your endurance.

The best marathon training plans don’t have you training for a marathon in less than 16 weeks. And in my opinion, that is even pushing it. I am currently using a 20-week plan to train for the Boston Marathon. This is a 20-week training plan that will gradually build my running endurance, while also getting speed workouts in, to stay injury-free.

Short training programs for running a marathon are ineffective and can lead to health problems. If you try to increase your mileage too quickly to prepare for a marathon, your body won’t have time to adjust and you’ll be more likely to get injured.

3. Slow Down!

Having shortness of breath when you first start running is nothing to worry about and is perfectly normal. Most runners can’t run further than a certain point because they’re running too fast.

Whether you can’t run a mile yet or you have reached a point where you are no longer improving, slowing down will help.

Many runners believe they can maintain the same pace for a longer distance than they could for a shorter one. But it doesn’t work that way. Building endurance is not about increasing speed, it is about being able to run for extended periods.

It may seem strange that running slowly during long runs can help you achieve the time you want, but if you train correctly, it will be beneficial.

4. Run More Miles

Simply put, if you want to be able to run long distances without getting tired, you need to do a lot of running. The more you do something, the better your body gets at it. There is no better way to improve your running than to run more.

After you have gotten used to running shorter distances and have found a good routine, you can start running longer distances to prepare for a half marathon and eventually a marathon.

Marathons are VERY different from halves, however. If you don’t do enough training runs leading up to a marathon, your performance will suffer. If you want to be able to run a marathon without walking, you need to start by running higher mileage.

You don’t need to run 60+ miles per week, but gradually building up to that level will increase your ability to maintain your goal race pace for the marathon.

5. Include Quality (Speed) Workouts

Quality runs generally involve speed. Today can be both scary and thrilling all at once. While marathon running generally consists of a lot of easy running, it can be daunting when it’s time to get the fast-twitch muscles working.

Research suggests that completing speed sessions can help improve your endurance by teaching your body to better use oxygen.

One reason why speed sessions are done in the middle of a solid piece of mileage is that they help improve your speed.

Also, running quickly will improve your endurance by making you more efficient. Speed runs improve your VO2 max. When you run regularly, you not only improve your cardiovascular health but also build muscle, which makes it easier to maintain a once-difficult pace.

Remember that improving your speed takes time and patience. If you stick to a weekly speed workout schedule, you will eventually be able to sustain a marathon pace for a longer period. And that equals more endurance!

6. Make Recovery and Rest a Priority

Recovery, Active Recovery and Rest are all part of allowing your body to reap the benefits of the hard work you are demanding of it. I think most runners usually think more is better.

If you always approach training with this attitude, you will probably become exhausted. If you don’t take some time for yourself, it will be difficult to train enough to be able to run a marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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