If you want to run for longer, you need to build your stamina and avoid getting bored while running. Those aren't merely self-evident facts; that's the verdict of T3's new popular science sister site. If you've ever wondered about the science behind building stamina – as opposed to the practical reality of it, which is to run and run, even when you don't want to – then we have some insights for you here.
Arguably even more important for anyone other than complete running noobs is to stave off tedium while plodding around. Some people are born to run, and can pile through the miles feeling nothing but enjoyment. Others – me for instance – start getting bored and irritable after about the first 5 minutes, and badly need distractions and encouragements.
Well the good news is, we have some great tips for that too. Now read on, as I don my white coat, and quite literally 'follow the science'.
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These tips come courtesy of Live Science by the way. This long-running pop science brand launched in 2007, and is now part of T3's Future family of websites, covering everything from space travel to, evidently, fitness.
According to Live Science, muscles including glutes, hamstrings, core, calves and quadriceps are used while you run – thanks for that. Quoting the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism (opens in new tab), it adds that this is assisted by your body converting adenosine triphosphate into adenosine diphosphate, 'releasing a net gain of energy… that kickstarts your session.' So now you know.
Your muscles then make fuel for your movement through anaerobic glycolysis; this also causes a build-up of lactic acid as a side effect, so it's not all good news.
If you want to run further for longer, Live Science suggests 'focusing on your slow-twitch fibres'. As you probably know, slow twitch fibres are used to power longer-term exercise, while fast twitch fibres kick in for greater effort – sprinting being the obvious example when we're talking about running.
This is a rather long-winded way of saying that to get better at running for long distances, you need to force yourself to run for increasingly long distances.
'Focusing on slow twitch muscle fibres' is a neat phrase but quite hard to do. You could start, for instance, by doing a large number of reps with low resistance on gym workout machines that target your legs and core. However, the main way to gain stamina for running is to do more running. Live Science suggests running at a 'conversational' pace, which I think means a pace sufficiently slow that you can still speak while running.
To this end, you can look at running more efficiently by taking stock of your form.
- Keeping your eyes up
- Keeping your shoulders back
- Maintaining engagement in your core
- Relaxing your hands
- Using shorter steps instead of long strides
This is all sound advice. However, if your form is very different and you are happy with it, it can be counterproductive to try to move to a more 'correct' form too quickly, and without coaching assistance.
LS also recommends remaining consistent with your training.
'Persisting even when you seem to be getting nowhere will ensure that you maintain your progress; simply stopping when it gets too hard or when you see little improvement can be detrimental to your training.'
Don't push yourself too hard, however, as that way injury lies. Slow and steady – at least in the early days, weeks and months – wins the stamina race. Apologies for that terrible cliché, there.
Avoid boredom when running
If you are one of those people who achieves a near-mystical high from running, perhaps you don't need to think about this. I'm sure most people find running more of a chore that features occasional moments of enjoyment, however. That's certainly the case for me. For us normal people, then, here are Live Science's top tips for staving off boredom, with some notes from me.
- Try a new running or workout style – or try running with weights
You could also read our guide to turning your run into a full body workout
- Pick a new goal and adjust your training plan accordingly
Aim for a longer distance goal, a new time goal (even across a shorter distance) or enter a race at a different distance to your norm
- Try breathing exercises while running
- Get inspiration from runners, books, or blogs. Follow athletes and professional runners on social media
It's great to know more about your chosen subject and learn from experts
- Update your running playlist
This is a great idea. It can be genuinely helpful to listen to more 'motivational' music at the right tempo for your running style – even if it's the type of music you would never listen to at home. Another excellent playlist choice is to take the opposite approach and go for your absolute favourite tunes, so you're rewarded for running – and hence listening – for longer. Have a look at our best running headphones guide before you go
- Team up with a loved one or local running club
If you are a social animal – many runners are not, let's face it – joining the right type of run club for you can be a huge help when it comes to motivation. Whether it's positive help – being encouraged by others – or negative – not wanting to look stupid in front of others, or a bit of both, running in a squad can really make a difference. I'm not so sure about running with a loved one, as I suspect they might end up not being your loved one. Maybe that's just me…
- Change your route
This sounds obvious, but it's so easy to just do the same 5k or 10k trudge every day
- Invest in new gear and pre-run fuel
Get yourself all the gear, and have some idea
- Add short walking periods into your run
This is the first time I've seen this as advice. I just call this 'getting tired'
- Leave your watch at home to avoid concentrating on timings
An interesting notion that would never occur to me
- Take the pressure off by focusing on the fun of running
Possibly easier said than done, but worth a try – leaving your watch at home might be a good starting point, or use an app such as Zombies… Run!
- Change up your schedule by running at night
But do be safe, and wear reflective gear and lights. The streets will be more empty, if nothing else
- Running stamina and anti-boredom tips come courtesy of Live Science (opens in new tab)
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