So how can you work your way up to more miles? And how can you simultaneously work on your quickness? Luckily, the same principles make up both basic and speed endurance and there are easy solutions to enhance your strength as a runner.
Below, you’ll find seven endurance-boosting strategies that have worked for a range of athletes.
1. Build Up Mileage Slowly
If there is one overarching principle of endurance-building, this is it. Call it gradual adaptation. That is, be consistent, be patient, and build up slowly. This principle applies to all circumstances and all runners– the beginner who’s trying to make it around the block four times, as well as the 36-minute 10K runner who’s training for a first marathon with long runs that stretch to 12 miles, then 16, then 20.
What you should do: Whatever your present endurance conditioning, build it slow but steady. We like a program that adds 1 mile a week to your weekend long run, for example: 5 miles, 6 miles, 7 miles. Every 4th week, reduce mileage by skipping the long run. Rest and recover. The next week, start building again, 1 mile at a time: 8 miles, 9 miles, etc.
2. Run Yasso 800s
With the Yasso system, you run 800-meter repeats on a track in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes goal time for a marathon. (So if you’re looking to run 4:30, do your 800s in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.)
We learned about this amazingly useful workout when Runner’s World race and event promotions manager, Bart Yasso, first wrote about it nearly a decade ago. Since then, literally thousands of runners have reported the program has worked for them. Runners are drawn to Yasso 800s by Bart’s unforgettable name, the simplicity of the workout, and word-of-mouth success stories. But most importantly, it is an uncomplicated speed workout that builds speed endurance gradually.
What you should do: Run Yasso 800s once a week. Start with just four or five of them at your appropriate pace, then add one a week until you reach 10.
3. Run Long and Slow
Marathoners should focus on consistent, easy-paced training runs that help them build endurance without getting hurt. The problem with many runners is that they over train without knowing it.
Runners should focus on “effort-based training.” Instead of running to meet a certain pace. To keep the effort modest, run at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance.
What you should do: Do most of your runs at 80 percent of the speed you could race the same distance. So, if you can race 10 miles at 7:30 pace, you should do your 10-mile training runs at 9:23. To convert a race pace to an 80-percent training pace, multiply the race pace by 1.25.
4. Make Every Workout Count
For those of us who live lives that aren’t centered around running, a three-day training week might make the most sense. In using a three-day plan, you can omit what some athletes call “garbage miles.”
To make it work, follow the usual advice to alternate hard days with easy days. The three running days should all be hard workouts. On the other four days, you can mix in weight and cross training.
In stripping your training program to its essence, one is a long run, one is a tempo run, and one is a speed workout.
What you should do: Pierce does interval training on Tuesdays, tempo training on Thursdays, and a long run on Sundays. For interval repeats, he runs 12 x 400 meters or 6 x 800 meters at slightly faster than his 5-K race pace. On tempo days, he runs 4 miles at a pace that’s 10 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 10-K race pace. On Sundays, he runs 15 miles at a pace that’s 30 seconds per mile slower than his marathon race pace. You can easily adapt these workouts to your own 5K, 10K, and marathon race paces.
5. Add Plyometrics to Your Training
It’s important to note that being able to run faster, longer depends on strength and your body’s ability to handle distance. That’s when leg endurance and quickness comes in.
Quality sessions focusing on core movements and explosive, plyometric leg exercisesgo a long way in creating super strong legs.
Jump roping, skipping drills, box jumps, and even high-knee sprints through the “rope ladder” that you often see at football training camps help runners’ feet spend less time on the ground. Additionally, these moves motivate athletes to run with increased stride frequency.
What you should do: You could always train with your local high school football team while they work out with the rope ladder. But if that’s too intimidating, here’s a simple alternative: Instead of running strides at the end of several easy runs a week, do a “fast-feet” drill. Run just 15 to 20 yards with the shortest, quickest stride you can manage. You don’t have to lift your knees high; just lift them fast, and move forward a few inches with each stride. Pump your arms vigorously as well. Rest, then repeat six to eight times. Once or twice a week, you can also do 5 minutes of single-leg hops, two-legged bounding, and high-knee skipping, all on a soft surface such as grass or packed dirt.
6. Run Longer Tempo Runs
The conservative view on tempo runs suggests that you cover 20 to 40 minutes at a pace that’s 10 to 20 seconds per mile slower than your 10K pace. But for runners looking to make a breakthrough in their speed endurance, it’s time to up your tempo runs up to 60 minutes.
What you should do: Do a tempo run once a week for eight weeks. Start with a 20-minute tempo run at 10 to 20 seconds per mile slower than 10K race pace, and add five minutes to your tempo run every week. Be sure to take 1 or 2 easy days before and after tempo days.
7. Run Long and Fast
Okay, we know we told you to go long and slow. But going faster just works for some runners, just as the long-and-slow approach works for others. A perfect example of the “high-responders” versus “low-responders” principle.
Old school: The only thing that mattered was spending two or three hours on your feet. New school: If you want to finish strong and improve your times in the marathon, you have to run hard and fast at the end of your long runs.
What you should do: On your long runs, pick up the pace for the last 25 percent of the distance. Gradually accelerate to your marathon goal pace, or even your tempo-run pace. You don’t have to attack your long run, and you shouldn’t collapse when you finish. But you should run hard enough at the end to accustom your body to the late-race fatigue of your goal race.