Tips to Improve Running Stamina and Prevent Injuries
Are you a new runner with some questions about how to get started? Or are you more experienced with a training question about how to get faster? As a nine-time marathoner and former cross country and track coach, I have answers for some common running questions. Let’s dive right in!
Get started slowly with a walk-jog-walk routine. Remember to add in recovery time.
If you don’t have any background in running, I would implement a walk-jog-walk routine for a few weeks. This helps your muscles, joints and body adapt to the increased impact running causes. It also slowly improves your heart and lung operation – key traits to become a better runner.
Try this running routine three times per week:
- Walk five minutes
- Jog one minute
- Walk four minutes
- Jog two minutes
- Walk three minutes
- Jog three minutes
- Walk two minutes
- Jog four minutes
- Walk one minute
- Jog five minutes
Doing this exercise should help you run 10 to 15 miles each week, working your way up to 20 miles.
Consider adding strength training to your running routine.
Strength training can bring additional benefits to your running routine. It helps strengthen muscles, speeds up the recovery process and will help you run longer. A few bodyweight plyometric exercises like planks, squats, crunches, push-ups and calf and toe raises will tone up the muscles. If you’re more of a weights person, try light dumbbells, lateral pull downs and bicep or hamstring curls.
Choose a specific type of running workout to reach your goals.
A tempo run is when you’re tackling a longer distance at a specific pace, which teaches you to stay as relaxed as possible as your body’s working hard. This pace is usually specific to a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon distance. These usually start and end with 5-10 minute warm up and cool down jogs. Your heart rate should be anywhere between 145 and 160 beats per minute for max effect.
Tempo runs improve your body’s stamina and increase your legs’ slow twitch muscle fibers, which are critical for surviving long runs.
Interval training includes repeats of 800 meters, 1200 meters or one mile. The idea behind them is to put your body in ideal race shape over time by focusing on form and breathing when you get tired. Try starting and ending with a 5-10 minute warm-up jog followed by three or four strides to loosen the legs. Then tackle four to six intervals of a chosen distance. Your heart rate should be anywhere between 160 and 180 beats per minute for max effect.
Intervals improve your body’s ability to stay strong when you’re feeling tired.
Incorporate speed work if you want to finish runs and races feeling strong. As you’re finishing a distance running event, your energy storage should be mostly depleted. By incorporating speed workouts, you’ll feel more confident to out-sprint your friend to the finish line.
Speed workouts include several intervals of hill sprints and laps around a track. These should be runs equal to what you’d consider an 80 percent sprint – fast enough to stay on the balls of your feet and pumping your arms without straining your muscles or breathing. Keeping your form from beginning to end will help you build confidence to finish your runs and races strong.
Prevent injuries with hydration and rest.
Hydration, rest and erring on the side of caution are the best ways to prevent injury. Try your best to drink several glasses of water throughout the day. This will help your muscles retain energy and prevent them from cramping mid-workout. Replenish the electrolytes and nutrients you burned during your workout by using products like Nuun and UCAN supplements and Honey Stinger bars. And finally, do not over-do your workouts. Running too fast, too often and too long often lead to overuse injuries. Join the YWCA Minneapolis Endurance Sports Training program if you are looking for help starting your running routine or want team camaraderie and accountability. We offer individual classes to learn the basics, coaches to show you the ropes and a team of athletes to run with.