For new runners, the thought of running a marathon can seem as daunting as climbing Mount Everest.
This is completely normal!
Ask any marathoner about how they felt when they first started running and they will tell you the same thing.
The good news is that endurance is something that you can train for and improve methodically.
Whether your want to run a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon, you will be able to reach your goal if you focus on improving your endurance.
In this video, certified personal trainer and YouTube personality, Sarah Dussault, shares 3 proven tips for beginners that are guaranteed to boost your endurance.
Tip #1 - Don't Be Afraid To Walk
For whatever reason, many beginners think it is wrong or bad to incorporate walk breaks into their training or races. However, quite the opposite is true.
- speed you up: an average of 7 minutes faster in a 13.1 mile race when non-stop runners shift to the correct Run Walk Run ratio – and more than 13 minutes faster in the marathon
- give you control over the way you feel during and after
- erase fatigue
- push back your wall of exhaustion or soreness
- allow for endorphins to collect during each walk break
- break up the distance into manageable units
- speed recovery
- reduce the chance of aches, pains and injury
- allow older or heavier runners to recover fast, and feel as good as in the younger (slimmer) days
- activate the frontal lobe – maintaining your control over attitude and motivation
I like to compare walk breaks to rest time between sets in bodybuilding.
For those unfamiliar to bodybuilding, a typical exercise, bench press for example, might consist of 3 sets of 12 repetitions. In between each set, there is time to rest before starting the next set.
Forcing yourself to run continuously without walk breaks would be like trying to perform 36 bench presses in a row - not good!
Your body needs some time to recover and recuperate in preparation for the next set.
This is what the walk break can do for you. It gives your body some time to recover and reset in preparation for the next spurt of running.
Incorporating Walk Breaks Into Your Training
The key variable in adding walk breaks to your training is the ratio of running to walking. For example, a 2:1 ratio means that you are running for twice as long as you are walking (eg. running for two minutes and walking for one).
As you are training, your goal is to increase that ratio week-by-week. A sample 4-week training plan for the complete beginner might look like:
- Week 1 - Run for 15 sec, walk for 30 sec (0.5:1)
- Week 2 - Run for 30 sec, walk for 30 sec (1:1)
- Week 3 - Run for 60 sec, walk for 30 sec (2:1)
- Week 4 - Run for 90 sec, walk for 30 sec (3:1)
Keep in mind that you will be tailoring your training plan to match your fitness level.
To start off with a baseline ratio, go for a brisk run and note the following:
- How long you can run before feeling like you need to take a walk break
- How long you need to walk before you feel like you can start running again
These two numbers will give you a starting ratio. From there, try to increase that ratio every week by either increasing your run time or by decreasing your walk time.
Tip #2 - Run For 10% Longer Every Week
If you run the same distance or for the same amount of time every week, you will never improve your endurance!
You need to put your body through some stress so that it can grow and adapt to new stimuli.
Every week, aim to run for 10% longer than you did last week. For example:
- Week 1 - Run for 10 minutes
- Week 2 - Run for 11 minutes
- Week 3 - Run for 12.1 minutes
- Week 4 - Run for 13.3 minutes etc…
Not only will your body be getting stronger, but your mind will be getting stronger as well. You will start to develop the mental focus and toughness needed to run that 5k or 10k or whatever other goals you set for yourself.
Before you know it, Mount Everest will start looking like a mole hill.
Tip #3 - Run At Least 3 Times A Week
Run for at least 3 times a week, but no more than 6 times a week. You will need at least 1 full rest day per week to let your body recover.
For beginners, 3 times a week is a good starting point.
On your off days, consider going for a walk or cross training in another activity (eg. cycling, swimming, soccer).
Once you are able to run a few miles non-stop, make your third day a “long” day. If you normally run for 20 minutes, try running for 30 minutes on the third day (walking if needed, see Tip #1).
This will keep things challenging and fun. Who knows, you might just crush the long day and be in race shape much sooner than you expected!
Bonus Tip - How To Prevent Cramps
Getting a cramp in the middle of your run just plain sucks.
Sarah shares two pieces of advice to ward off cramps:
- Avoid dairy
- Drink an 8 oz glass of water before you run
For more info, check out this article on How To Avoid Runners’ Cramps.