How to improve your running stamina: top tips for bettering your distance and speed

running stamina
Take steps to build stamina for running (Image credit: Getty Images)

Running stamina is defined as your ability to sustain effort for longer or, in other words, to run further or faster without tiring. This applies to any running distance, from 5km to 100 miles, or more.

Whatever you goal and wherever you are starting from on the road to this goal, it is important to build stamina for running.

running stamina

Set a goal for improving your running  stamina (Image credit: Getty Images)

Key steps to building running stamina

Follow these tips for improving your stamina for running.

Slow and steady

The best way to increase stamina for running longer distances is to build up the miles slowly over time. 

Making a sudden jump up in distance increases the potential for injuries and also it may well affect your motivation. 

If you try to run further than you have trained for and then feel very tired, or fail to make the distance, you are likely to lose the desire for your goal.

Making incremental progress is far more likely to be successful both physically and mentally. 

Many sports coaches recommend a build up of 5% to 10% per week and then have a recovery week every four weeks.

Add strength and conditioning

To gain stamina, it is a good idea to build muscle strength. Add in a circuits or strength-based session at least once a week – hopefully twice – to your training programme.

Improving your overall strength, including leg, core and back muscles, will also reduce the potential for injury and niggles as you increase the distance that you are running. 

Be consistent

Try to follow a plan for building up the distance that you plan to run. Don’t jump from one week to the next and if you miss a few days or training, or a week or two, it’s a good idea to go back to where you left off, or go back a few weeks and restart.

The aim of your training is to build from less total running and less intense training to a bigger training load and with greater intensity. 

Train for the goal

If you want to build stamina to run a longer distance on the road, then train on the road. If you want to run further in the hills and mountains, then include this type of terrain and hill reps into your training.

If you want to build your stamina for running a faster 5k or 10k, or to finish a 100k race, then make sure your training is focused on where and when you will attempt these events. 

It is important to be specific with your build up to improve running stamina.

Time for recovery

Recovery is as important as the training. When building up to running further or with greater intensity, you will be putting stress on muscles and joints.

Recovery serves two purposes as it, firstly, allows you to recuperate from a session and allow you to prepare for the next outing and, secondly, when at rest, your muscles can build and repair from the stress you have loaded on to them. If you allow muscles to repair they will become stronger.

Take time off from running each week, or include some cross-training, such as a swim, yoga or an easy bike ride.

Set a goal

If you have a goal, such as to run further or to run a distance faster, you will be more likely to keep to the programme. Trying to build your running stamina without a reason will make it much tougher. 

A goal, such as a race, helps to motivate and to keep you on track to a set focus.

Following these key tips will allow you to successfully build stamina for running.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.