How Beginner Runners Can Build Endurance

For more advanced runners who can comfortably run for a distance, the focus is often on improving the pace at which they can hit those targets. But as a beginner runner, you’re probably focused on running further or for a longer time – to making it up to that 2k, 5k or 10k milestone. How can that fundamental endurance be built up? We’ve run through some top tips.

How to build endurance – start small

As a beginner runner, it’s important not to do too much too soon. You might be eager and excited to make progress once you’ve got started, but as a beginner you’re at a higher risk of injury and you need to take things slowly.

Improving endurance as a beginner needs to be closely linked to minimising the risk of injury, and you should be easing into progress and building endurance gradually.

The 10% rule is followed by many runners, and is a helpful way to track your gradual improvements. Using this method, you increase your weekly mileage by 10%. For example, if you run two miles a day, the following week you’d increase this by 2/10 of a mile, adding on 0.4 miles.

However, if you’re an absolute beginner, you’ll probably want to focus on increasing the duration of your runs, rather than the distance. It’s all about seeing what you can do and what you’re comfortable with – if you can run for ten minutes, great! Try increasing that to 15 minutes the following week.

You might find it difficult to get much time at all in. If this is the case, you can still build your endurance by walking. Add in short jogging intervals – try a gentle jog for thirty seconds then walk for a minute or two to recover and repeat this cycle. Make the jogging intervals longer and the walks shorter until you can jog for the whole run.

Whatever level you’re beginning at, consistency is key to improving your aerobic capacity, strengthening your muscles and improving endurance. Start slowly and don’t focus on speed – you can work on that once you’ve built up a good level of endurance!

Making a schedule or choosing a training plan will help you monitor your progress and stick to your goals, and helps you chart those gradual increases and see the progress you’re making.

Something pointed out by several Virtual Runner community members in a previous post on getting into running again, is the need to be hard on yourself. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small!

Try different forms of exercise

Beginner runners can build endurance not just through more running, but through different forms of exercise too – this is known as cross-training.

It’s possible to give your legs a rest from the impact of running and still improve the cardiovascular fitness needed to improve your running endurance. Two types of exercise work your body in a really similar way to running – cycling and pool running.

Pool running has a minimal risk of injury, as there’s zero impact involved, making it a great cross training activity, or one to be undertaken when recovering from an injury. You can try pool running either in waist-high water, or for maximum benefit, invest in an aqua-jogging belt. This will keep you afloat in the deep end, allowing you to more closely mimic the actions of running.

Building functional strength through strength training can also be incorporated into your routine, which will help with overall endurance. Likewise, why not try a bit of interval training once you’ve built up a foundational level of fitness? Having a session of high-intensity, short exertion exercise depletes oxygen quickly and increases your anaerobic capacity. In conjunction with the aerobic capacity built up on your longer, slower runs, you’lll build up overall fitness and endurance.

Above all, it’s important to have a positive frame of mind when you’re trying to build endurance as  a runner, as it can certainly be challenging. Take a look at some tips on how to encourage mental strength when running for some advice which can help when you’re pounding the pavements. For more advice on topics like getting into running again, head over to our blog!