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Elevate your stride: How to improve running endurance and stamina
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Elevate your stride: How to improve running endurance and stamina

Several factors, be it aerobic capacity, training routine or diet, must be addressed to improve running endurance and stamina over time
To increase running endurance and stamina, it’s essential to improve aerobic capacity through exercises
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

Every runner strives to run that extra mile, targeting longer distances and new personal bests. Endurance and stamina play a significant role in running performance — be it distance or pace — making it all the more important to improve these aspects through training, which will enhance running efficiency.

Endurance refers to a person’s ability to do something for a long duration while maintaining an intensity level below their maximum limit. “Stamina focuses on maximizing output while endurance focuses on maximizing time,” says Amit Kumar, an Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and National Institute of Sports (NIS) certified running coach from Mumbai. “Stamina refers to a person’s ability to do something at maximum intensity for as long as possible.” Stamina is important for sprinters, while endurance is essential for long-distance runners, he adds.

Ways to increase running endurance and stamina

Building running stamina and endurance is great for overall health, as it strengthens the heart and lungs. It can help you manage your weight and lower the risk of health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

“To increase running stamina and endurance, it is important to build aerobic endurance and capacity, which involve conditioning the cardiovascular system to sustain you for a run, whether it’s a half marathon or longer distances,” says Chetan Sehgal, a UESCA (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy) certified running coach from Delhi. “The focus should be to build endurance over a period to a level where it is easy to sustain the distance.”

Performing aerobic exercises regularly improves blood circulation as well. “Aerobic exercises refer to those that elevate your breathing and heart rate, which include speed interval runs, hill runs, tempo runs, plyometric sessions, sand training, swimming and dancing,” says Kumar.

Runners also need to vary the kind of training they’re doing to avoid plateauing. Do not run or train at the same pace or intensity continuously for many days.

Running endurance also depends on the lactate threshold, which is the point at which lactic acid levels increase rapidly in the body. Lactic acid is the byproduct of the breakdown of glycogen by the body for energy. When you do high-intensity exercises, crossing the threshold, lactic acid spills into the blood, leading to soreness and a dip in performance. However, when one runs below their lactate threshold, the lactic acid is utilized and dissipated quickly. Hence, increasing the lactate threshold directly impacts performance.

“Endurance and stamina are influenced by Vo2 max [the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense physical exertion], and the amount of oxygen that one can use efficiently depends on their lactate threshold. Hence, both these aspects need to be worked on in tandem,” says Sehgal.

Endurance is not only about aerobic fitness; it’s about strength training too. In addition, a lot of factors play an important role in being an efficient runner, which include biomechanics and running form, fine-tuning the strides and running economy (the amount of oxygen used by the body to run at a certain speed or intensity).

Do not make the mistake of running too fast too quickly, advise experts. While one may initially observe benefits like improved endurance, it will cause a decline in performance over time, reaching a point where recovery becomes difficult. Injuries are also common, which would take time to recover. Hence, it is important to design a structured workout with the help of a coach to avoid plateauing and improve endurance without getting injured.

Role of diet in improving running stamina

Glycogen, used by the body for energy, gets depleted while running. Incorporating a healthy mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats into the diet is essential to replenish this energy source, which in turn helps increase running stamina.

A healthy diet can enhance sporting performance,” adds Kumar. “A well-planned nutritious diet should meet an athlete’s vitamin and mineral requirements while providing enough protein to promote muscle growth and repair. Foods rich in unrefined carbohydrates, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, should form the basis of the diet. It’s beneficial to include fruits and salads as well.”

Takeaways

  • Endurance and stamina play a significant role in determining running performance. While the former focuses on maximizing output, the latter aims at maximizing time.
  • It’s essential to increase your aerobic capacity through exercises to improve running endurance and stamina. In addition, increasing the lactate threshold and varying the training routine can help as well.
  • Apart from training, eating patterns also play a key role in improving running efficiency. Incorporating a healthy mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats into the diet is essential to increase running stamina.

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