Tips for Building Endurance

Ask the Expert

Q:

How do I increase my endurance? I've been running three miles, three times a week, for about six months. I can't seem to run more than three miles at a time. Do you have any tips for building endurance?


A:

Experienced racers and marathoners use a variety of training paces and workouts to help build performance. To get past your barrier, for one week, try focusing on your pacing and running time instead of thinking about the distance you've run. Slow yourself down. Running at a slower speed for a longer time will help you build the aerobic endurance needed to run further and, eventually, faster.

For example, if you usually run your three miles in 30 minutes (a 10-minute-per-mile pace), try slowing down to an 11:30-minute-per-mile pace and run for 40 minutes. Your pace should be slow enough that you are able to carry on a conversation with a training partner. If you are used to running as fast as you can every time, this new pace will seem strange at first. However, it will help you adapt both physically and mentally to running for a longer time without tiring too soon.

Run three days a week, with one day being your "long run" with a slower pace. Each week, try to add three to five minutes to your long run time to build your endurance.

To work on speed, add interval speed training. For one workout each week, run one mile at a slightly faster pace followed by walking for one minute. Repeat this cycle for three or more miles. Your pace should be fast enough that it's uncomfortable to have a conversation but not so fast you can't speak at all (about 30 seconds faster per mile).

Your weekly endurance-building plan will look something like this:

  • 1x per week—your usual 3-mile run, at your usual pace.
  • 1x per week—a "long run" at a slower pace, for longer time.
  • 1x per week—an interval speed training run at a slightly faster pace, followed by a 1-minute walk break, repeated for a total of 3 miles.

If you are over 35 or overweight, please check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough for this type of cardiovascular training.

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