Three Ways to Increase Running Stamina

As the distances get longer, it’s imperative that you find ways to increase running stamina. Without that, fatigue sets in early and you lose the power and endurance that it takes to finish long runs. I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading up and experimenting on ways to increase running stamina and three stuck out as my favorites. I try and weave this into my weekly runs as much as I can in addition to at least one longish run.

Increase Running Stamina

Look, I’m 42 and I’ve been running for a little over a year now and running one race a month for the past 8 months. While I do challenge myself and pretty happy with the way my running is turning out, I’m also very realistic about what I’m trying to achieve. As a late bloomer with two kids active in sports and extracurriculars, I also don’t have a whole lot of time to train. So fun and injury-free distance running matters to me a whole lot more than winning medals and breaking records. At this age, I’m also confident that I can build and sustain my endurance for many years to come, but not necessarily the speed. That said, here are the three that bring the fun back in my running while keeping me from melting down on 20+ mile runs.

1. Running the Bleachers

Bleacher Running

Bleacher Running, Photo courtesy maliavale

I wrote about stair climbing a while back and compared that to downhill running, but running up/down the bleachers for just 30 to 45 minutes can build up some amazing strength and explosiveness. The first variation is a simple climb up and a run down. The second version is to skip a step as you race up the stairs. The knee drive, the extension of the hip adductors and push up with your ankle all serve to build up strength that’s critical to running hills safely. Focus on lifting up your knee just enough so it’s smooth and that your foot lands softly minimizing the impact sound. The last variation is hopping on one leg all the way up, running down and then using the other leg. Just make sure you don’t trip, fall and bust up your shin. Maybe start hopping up 5 steps, then 10 and build up slowly before you run up the whole way.

2. The 30-20-10 Interval Run

GymBoss App Interval Timer

GymBoss App Interval Timer

Not really sure where I heard about this one, but this one was a favorite, especially during the first few months after I started running. The idea is simple enough. You run at a very slow pace for 30 seconds, a medium pace for 20 seconds and then as fast as you can possibly run for 10 seconds. The hard part of this interval run is timing yourself. Especially if you are getting started, glancing at the watch periodically while also trying to focus on posture and technique can be super difficult. One way that worked for me was to run the 30-20-10 by counting the number of steps that I was taking instead of the time. The other way was to use a free app like the GymBoss App on the iPhone that I could configure with simple interval timers. A different beep on each of the intervals and then rinse and repeat.

3. The Kenyan 25-1-1 Interval Run

I’ve got to say that this is my favorite interval run of all. I read about in the Running with the Kenyans book not too long ago and I’ve made this my interval run of choice. Not to mention how simple and incredibly effective this run is. Set your watch to beep every minute and then start running. The first minute is a super easy, really slow jog. When you hear the beep, take off as fast as you can and keep going until you hear the beep again. Repeat this cycle for about 30 to 45 minutes. In my case I’ve been doing a 5-mile loop nearby for interval runs and over the past year my pace has gone down from an average of 9:00 minute/mile to roughly 7:00 minute/mile. I recorded this on Strava for the first time today to see how wide the minute-over-minute variations in my pace were and was definitely pleasantly surprised by the result.

Kenyan 25-1-1 Interval Run

Kenyan 25-1-1 Interval Run

I ran my fastest minute at 4:48 minute/mile and the slowest at 11:16 minute/mile. The really cool thing about this interval run is that the fast minute seems to stop right when you are feeling out of breath and as you slow down, breath deeply and relax yourself, it starts again just when you start getting comfortable.

You might also like these other blogs on running tips and techniques:

How do you increase running stamina? What are your favorite interval runs to boost endurance?


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  • Monica Maze

    So when can I start training with you? I need someone to show me the 1st time. You really got it down Kowsik. No wonder your speed is awesome! Take care and have fun.

    • http://freeradical.me/ kowsik

      Monica,
      I guess our first training run is the Big Basin 50K! :) Seriously though, I plan on running a ton in summer when kids school is over. I think we should be able to get some runs together. I especially want to explore the Bay Area Ridge Trail more. Some fantastic trails up there.

  • Bill Dyer

    Don’t let the age factor get you. I’m 43 and ran a 5k over the weekend on a paved trail BAREFOOT in 20:02. I thought I was getting younger for a minute after the race.

    • http://freeradical.me/ kowsik

      Thanks and that’s awesome Bill. I can definitely see the kenyan 25-1-1 make a big difference in my speed and endurance. This past week, I finally broke the 7 min/mile barrier for the first time on a 5 mile stretch. Ran the 5 miles in 34:14 with my Luna Sandals.