Wish you could run without needing to walk? Here's how to increase your stamina

Inspired by the sheer stamina of the lionesses at the Euro 2022 final? Wish you could run around for 120 minutes without needing to stop? Follow these expert tips and you might just make it (goal scoring not guaranteed).

If there’s one fitness lesson we can all take away from this Euro 2022 competition, it’s that the Lionesses have serious stamina. They were still scoring goals after 100 minutes on the pitch, running the opposition ragged up and down the pitch. While most of us can only dream of being quite as fit as the England squad, we can aspire to building our own running stamina. 

Having better stamina and endurance should be a goal for us all. Having speed is all well and good, but being able to keep moving for a longer period of time means being able to play games like football comfortably, enjoy long hikes or entertain dreams of trying for a 10K or half-marathon. 

“Endurance running is simply a form of continuous running, where a runner is aiming to maintain a constant, physiological effort for a prolonged period of time and withstand fatigue whilst covering an increased amount of distance,” says sports scientist Anna Kosciuk from smart insole brand NURVV. “While keeping that physiological effort up, the runners should be exercising in an aerobic state – meaning they are using oxygen as their fuel source.” 

How to increase your running endurance

“Sadly, there are no shortcuts when improving endurance and stamina in running – the key to endurance running and reaching the results that you want is consistency, regularity, and patience,” says Kosciuk. “Every runner is different, so it is common for some to progress quicker than others. There will also be runners who will seriously struggle to see results in the first few weeks when working on endurance, especially whilst they are also working on building their overall fitness.”

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Build up distance very, very slowly

“First of all, when working on your endurance and the ability to run further at the same or lesser effort, all runners should build up their running mileage gradually to avoid spikes in training load and prevent themselves from doing too much too soon,”  says Kosciuk. “The human body needs a certain amount of time to adapt to higher training load and it will vary between individuals, depending on their age, level of fitness, muscle mass and running experience.” 

Adrienne Herbert, a runner from the Strong Women Collective, has previously suggested that the best way to increase distance is by adding on 10% each week. That means if you’re used to running 5ks, your first longer run should only be 5.5k, and the next week, just over 6k.

Schedule a mix of tempo, slow and long runs

That doesn’t mean you should just run one long run a week though. “If you’re looking to improve endurance, a good aim would be to do one really gentle run, one tempo run (which is a short, speedy run) and one longer, steady state run a week,” says Strong Women editor (and multi-marathon runner) Miranda Larbi editor.

Kosciuk suggests that endurance has to come from improving fitness, and a good way to do that is byintroducing interval sessions. This sees you running intensely for short bursts of time, then jogging or walking, and repeating. 

When it comes to stamina, slow and steady wins the race – both in terms of building up distance and speed.

Build up time on your feet

While adding in shorter runs will improve your overall fitness, “to run for longer, you’ve got to spend more time on your feet,” says Larbi. “It’s so important that you’re physically able to stay on your feet for say, two hours, if a half marathon is your goal.” 

That might sound daunting to start with, but you don’t need to be running for the full two hours to start with. Remember, increase your distance gradually, and give yourself breaks during longer runs if necessary. 

Go slower than you think

When it comes to running without stopping, pace is crucial. “Experimenting with pace and trying to find your sweet spot, especially across longer runs, will be beneficial in knowing where you should be in respect to your race and performance goals,” says Kosciuk. 

Naturally, your longer runs will be run at a slower pace than your shorter runs. The key is to not dismiss the slowness as ‘too easy’ over the first few kilometers and run too fast. A consistent pace throughout your run will help your stamina and mean you can go further more easily. 

Chatting with your mate is a great way of slowing down the pace while pushing your cardio stamina to the max.

Try to talk as you run to build stamina and relax

“When I went to university, I went from only ever running on my own to leading a group run every week for my boat club. I had to chat to the people who were struggling and yell out instructions and I found that my running really improved,” says Larbi. “Now I run with my partner and we make sure that we do at least one easy run a week where we chat nonstop for up to 10k.” 

Talking simply adds another element of challenge onto your running, testing your cardiovascular (and mental) fitness. “If you can run and chat, you’ll find that the runs you do with your mouth shut and full concentration will be so much more energetic. I also think that chatting helps with cadence – you’re less likely to slow down or speed up if you’re maintaining a conversation.”

For Larbi, it’s also about relaxing into the run. If you can head out with good friends and have a catch up, you’ll probably feel a bit calmer, have more confidence and be nicely distracted from the extra distance you’re hoping to cover. 

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Images: Getty

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