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How to increase your running endurance

Written by Fiona

December 01 2016

Running is hugely popular and the appetite for running longer is, seemingly, on the up. There has been a growth in the number of ultra-distance races and many sell out quickly or operate a ballot system for entries due to demand. But how do you increase your running endurance and distance without fear of injury?

My guest writer, Dan Chabert, is an experienced ultra-distance runner. He offers his advice for building up your running endurance.

Health check

Before you jump feet-first into training for your endurance event, it’s important to be sure you are healthy enough to do so. If you are worried at all about your health or weight you should seek the advice of a doctor.

Run-walk strategy

 Acolytes of Jeff Galloway (American Olympian and author of Galloway’s Book on Running) will be familiar with the run-walk strategy in endurance events. The basic premise is that you break-up your run distance into manageable run-walk ratios like 1:2, 2:3, or the like, meaning that you run for 1 minute, walk for 2; run for 2 minutes, walk for 3, and so on.

The combinations are virtually endless. In time, you’ll be able to make your run-walk ratios longer on the running side and shorter on the walking side, should you so choose, and Galloway maintains that using different muscle groups by running and walking regularly will allow you to go further for longer while also minimising your injury risk.

Run and chat...

Run and chat…

Be a tortoise

 It’s often true that slower and steadier win. Many people who don’t run regularly think that every time a runner goes out for a jog, they are basically going for a 100m sprint, pushing to go as hard and fast as possible and eventually ending up in a collapsed heap at the end.

When you’re looking to increase your endurance, you should be aiming for the opposite. In fact, take a note from the tortoise and be like him instead of the hare.

You should be running your mileage very comfortably, enough for you to be able to carry on a conversation, and if you find that you’re sucking wind to be able to talk or sing, you’re probably pushing harder than you need to be.

Running fast is fun, don’t get me wrong, but save your hard running for workouts where the intended purpose is to run fast, otherwise, in your general everyday “bread and butter” runs, you should be running comfortably and rather effortlessly.

Don’t do too much too soon

You should very slowly increase your mileage, especially if you’re new to running. When you are trying to increase your endurance, it makes sense to add miles to your daily running. However, do so rather cautiously.

A golden rule in running is to only increase your week-over-week volume by no more than 10 per cent. If you’re new to running, after you’ve been doing it for some time, consider adding only a few minutes at a time to each of your runs. Granted, it may not make for a considerable uptick in weekly distance volume initially, but it’s more important that you err on the side of caution and avoid doing too much, too soon, too quickly so that you don’t injure yourself (and therefore render yourself unable to run!).

It pays to be conservative when you’re looking to increase your endurance, particularly when you’re a newbie runner.

Run in the hills and mountains. Pic credit akunamatata under Creative Commons Licence.

Run in the hills and mountains. Pic credit akunamatata under Creative Commons Licence.

Get off the beaten track

 Running trails instead of the pavement can be a nice way to mix-up your training while also increasing your endurance. If you’re used to running 10-minute miles on flat pavement, you might find that on trails, where you’re navigating hills, tree roots and loose rocks, that it takes you closer to 13 minutes to cover a mile.

Not only will running trails help increase your endurance, since you’ll be taking a longer period of time to cover the same distance that you’d otherwise cover on flat lands, but you’ll also be strengthening many stabiliser muscles that are important to running that you might miss by running exclusively on pavement.

Plus, as a bonus, trail running is a lot of fun and you get to run through “nature’s playgrounds” like a kid. The beauty you witness and the peace of mind you’ll get from running trails simply can’t be beaten.

Learn from others

Ultra runners often run together for company and there are growing communities of these runners all over the world. Many are only too happy to offer tips and guidance to newcomers. You might also benefit from the expert advice of a personal trainer, who can also offer a programme so you can build up your mileage with consistency. If you are looking for gear tips, too, see Gear We Are or check out the many kit reviews on this site.

It’s all about one literal and figurative step at a time!

chabertBiog: Dan Chabert is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner living in Copenhagen, Denmark. He manages websites including, and and has been featured on several popular runner blogs.

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