When I first started running some 30 years ago it was after a major back surgery. I had been doing some swimming and cycling as part of my rehabilitation when I saw an advertisement for a triathlon. Straight away it gave me a goal to work towards and so I added in some running to my program.
My first run was only about 15 minutes and it felt like a marathon. While I had played many sports as a kid, I was extremely unfit after my back surgery and was starting from ground zero. Every step in my first run was hard, I was breathing hard and when I finished my legs ached. Yet I loved every minute of it.
That run and consequently my first triathlon a couple of months later was the start of 30+ years of training, competing, and coaching in swimming, cycling, running and triathlon. I know what it is like to start from scratch and wonder how it is possible to run for longer when even 5 minutes of running can seem like a marathon.
If you’re new to running and wondering how to run longer here are my top 5 tips to help you:
Running is an endurance sport that requires time and patience to improve. You must play the long game and allow your body to adapt and improve slowly. If you force things by doing too much too soon the risk of injury becomes quite high. For all of it’s great benefits running can be a high risk injury sport due to the pounding effect.
If you are currently running 2-3 times per week do not go and start running 5-6 times per week. You should look at adding about 10% of your total running volume each month, not week. Maintain a consistent load for a month, let your body adapt and then add 10% for the next month. This is especially true for people new to running as it gives your body time to better adapt. Things like your tendons and ligaments become stronger and more resilient to the load running places on your body.
If you want to become better at something especially something like running you need to be consistent. If you run 3-4 times one week yet only 1-2 times the next few weeks then the consistency is being compromised. Consistency is maintaining the same frequency of training weekly, monthly and yearly. There is nothing short term about your approach.
Add walking into your program.
Yes, that’s right add walking! But I want to run longer not walk. The old saying you must walk before you can run is true for new runners. If you are running for 30 minutes and you want to increase your endurance levels to allow you to run further, then doing run walk sessions is a perfect way to do that. Walking stresses your ligaments and tendons and further develops your aerobic energy system as well. As an example, if you are currently running 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes at a time, add in some run walk after 30 minutes for an extra 10-15 minutes by doing 1 min run 1 min walk. Walking also places less stress on your body which will allow you to go further with a much- reduced risk of injury.
Train at the right intensity.
This is the biggest mistake people make. And not just those new to running. To be able to run further we need to develop our aerobic energy system. To do this we must train at an intensity that is conversational. If you were running with someone you could have a conversation with them although it would be slightly laboured. You could talk in sentences. Training at this intensity is what improves your aerobic energy system and therefore allows you to run for longer. If you are running on your own, you should be able to run with your mouth closed and only breathe through your nose. Of your weekly running volume about 80-85% of it should be at this level.
Do some fast running.
Fast running is uncomfortable, and it can be quite painful even. Your heart rate is high, breathing is laboured, and your brain’s natural inclination is to stop. To slow down and take it easy. However, this is a time where we need to have some resilience and work through the discomfort. By including shorter and more high intensity interval runs into your weekly program it also improves your endurance levels and allows you to run for longer. If you’re running 3 times per week make sure one of those session includes some faster running. An example would be 10-15 min of easy jogging to warm up then 2-4 x 2-3 minutes intervals at a pace you would do a 5km race at. Take an equal amount of time to recover between each interval by walking and jogging before going again and then finish with an easy 5-10 min of jogging and walking.
By following these 5 tips you’ll get to a point where some days you’ll feel like you could run forever. The endorphins run through you and you get what is known as a runners high. When you experience your first runners high you won’t look back and will become a life time runner.
If you're looking for a running program to help you run longer our 'Run Longer' program is included in the Hit The Ground Running course where you receive coaching videos and four 12 week training programs.