Bec Wilcock is a Nike Running Coach, Nike Trainer, Ladder Athlete, and Ultramarathoner who has competed in some of the most grueling race in the world. She has over 10 years in the fitness industry and a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science. She also founded a non-profit female running group, HER (Here We Run), that focuses on training specific to women.
I’ve known for years that running makes me feel empowered and resilient. It keeps my body strong and my mind sharp, it brings me joy, both immediately after a run and in the long-term.
The best motivation in the world is seeing yourself reach new levels, but that's exactly what makes running feel hard for so many people.
The ability to build endurance and increase stamina -- which can be measured by running for long distances or being able to move quicker through the same distance -- is one of the best ways to measure progress.
Whether it's the feeling of completing a race or just be able to run a mile without feeling exhausted, improving your endurance brings a sense of appreciation and enjoyment for your hard work regardless of your level of fitness. And for new runners, it makes you see how much you're capable of doing -- no matter where you start.
I might have conquered some of the hardest races in the world, but finding a starting point to build running endurance is a similar path for everyone.
If you're looking for a place to start, or ready to get back on the running comeback trail, this guide is for you. It's your path to endurance building running workouts that reduce the risk of injury, add in different types of workouts (like interval training) so you don't get bored, and, ultimately, help you run a longer distance.
Why cross-training for running endurance?
One of the biggest surprises for new runners (and sometimes experienced runners) is that in order to build endurance and become a better runner, strength training is an important part of the process.
For one, strength training allows you to build all of the big and small muscles that will help power your body through a run. It can also improve your anaerobic endurance, which will support the aerobic work you do when you run. And, maybe most importantly, it allows you to prevent imbalances that can lead to injury.
Remember, running is a balancing act from one foot to another. So, incorporating single-leg exercise that ensures you don't have one dominant side is one of the best ways to avoid the aches and pains that many people think have to be a part of running (they don't).
And, as you try to build endurance, the extra strength will make sure that your body can handle the extra time you spend running. Remember, the strength that you build at home or in the gym will translate to your runs.
Here is a sample training program
Monday: 1-mile run
Tuesday: 20-30 minute strength circuit
Wednesday: 2-mile run
Thursday: 20-30 minute strength circuit
Friday: Fun cardio (could be a 1-mile walk or swim)
Saturday: 3-mile run
When you're just starting out, the key is to focus on completing the goal. You'll get to the point where you want to improve your time or speed, but for now, this is about starting and finishing.
So, if you're one-mile run is at a slow, conversational pace, that's OK. Completing the one-mile is the goal, and so is showing up each day for your workouts.
My favorite thing about exercise is being able to push myself beyond my own limitations, and I feel like I always learn every time I push a little bit harder and get a little bit stronger.
You can fall in love with a different kind of fitness by slowly introducing it into your own program, so for me as a runner, I never went and did yoga, so I slowly introduced it and now I actually couldn’t live without it.
Be patient with yourself and appreciate progress and make it fun! Training in a group (like HER) or with a friend is incredibly motivating.
How To Stay Motivated
Taking on any new task can be daunting or feel overwhelming. A big part of building running endurance is finding what motivates you to get out and move.
This is a top priority when it comes to running. Whether you’ve been running for years or a beginner, having your own motivating toolbox is a must!
To start, find your top three motivators and write them down.
Here are my top three motivators:
To avoid getting bored, engage the mind and body. Start this by keeping your internal dialog positive, fill it will a simple “I can” instead of those well known “I cannot’s”. This positive feedback loop will help you stay focused. Once you have the mind sorted your body will follow
Or just listen to a good podcast or audiobook whilst running, this motivates me to go the distance. What I’m actually doing here is distracting my mind from what my body is doing.
Keep Your Training Plan Fresh
Having a program. My program will change from week to week and this keeps me motivated. However, I would advise that you change up the types of running sessions to keep the body interested. For example, introduce speed sessions or interval sessions.
Run With Friends
I have running friends that I call to organize a running buddy for certain sessions, this helps me stay motivated as I’m no longer alone. I love using sport to be social.
How to Recover After Each Workout
Whatever you do, don't forget to prioritize recovery. Especially for new runners, taking the time to let your body heal is a big part of feeling great, so you can keep running.
Post-run recovery should consist of static stretching and foam rolling. And, this doesn't have to take long. It can be as simple as 5-10 minutes where you spend a minute each on your hamstrings (back of legs), quads (front of legs), glutes, calves, and lower back.
You should also restore your fluids and nutrition within 30-45 minutes after your cool-down, combining carbohydrates and protein.
Personally, I love a Ladder protein shake after I train. Here is one of my go-to recovery smoothies.