Getting started with running can be a bit frustrating because it may take a while before you start to see some improvement. And just when it starts to get a little easier, you get the confidence to push your run a bit farther — and then it feels difficult again.
If you’re just getting started with running, try some of these endurance-building strategies. Just don’t go overboard: To avoid injury, you shouldn’t increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week.
1. Try a run/walk strategy.
Increasing your distance is more manageable if you do a run/walk combination. Try intervals of running for 5 minutes with a 1-minute walk interval. When that becomes too easy, continue to add minutes to your run intervals. If your goal is to eventually run continuously — don’t worry — you’ll slowly build the fitness and confidence to run long without walk breaks. And don’t beat yourself up about walking for part of the distance. There are lots of benefits to a run/walk approach, and many runners incorporate walk breaks into their training runs and races. To get started, try following a training schedule that uses a run/walk approach, such as this 30-Day Beginner Running Training Schedule.
2. Use the “talk test”.
Beginner runners should do their runs at a conversational pace, which means that you can very easily talk in complete sentences while running. If you’re gasping for air, you’re definitely going too fast. Slow the pace and you’ll find that you’ll be able to go longer.
3. Check your form.
If you’re not running with proper form, you may start feeling aches and pains that will make you want to throw in the towel. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and back, so you’re not hunching over. If you’re leaning over, it will be harder to breath, which makes it more difficult to run. Your arms should be at your side, at a 90-degree angle. They should be rotating at your shoulder, not your elbow. Keep your hands in a relaxed fist, and make sure you’re not clenching them, since that can translate to tense arms, shoulders, and neck.
4. Set mini-goals.
Choosing short-term goals to work toward can also help with the mental challenges of running longer. Your goals can be as simple as running to the next mailbox or lamp post. Once you reach it, pick a new target. It may feel like a lame goal but, who cares? As long as it keeps you going, it’s serving its purpose.
5. Run more frequently.
Some runners expect great progress with just one to two runs a week, but it’s going to take more than that to improve your endurance. Slowly (and therefore safely) add more short runs to your weekly plan, so you increase your number of running days. Try doing one- or two-mile runs (or another distance that works for your current ability and fitness level) five day a week. After doing that for a couple of weeks, you’ll be surprised at how easy it will be to add some more miles to one of those runs.
6. Do some hills.
Running hills helps build lung endurance, as well as muscle strength. If you typically run at 0% or 1% incline on the treadmill, bump up the incline for some short intervals during your run. Or find a short hill outside and do a few repeats during your run.
7. Add strength training.
Strength training helps your muscles and joints handle the stresses of running. You’ll be able to run longer before your muscles start getting fatigued. Even with just two or three 15- to 20-minute strength-training sessions a week, you’ll build more muscle mass and notice a difference. You’ll also find that you’ll be more injury-resistant and recover more quickly from your runs.