New runners often feel frustrated when they find themselves getting winded soon after starting a run. While some people may tell you that you’re simply out of shape, it’s not necessarily your fitness level that’s the issue—it’s the speed at which you are running and the way you are running.
Building running endurance takes time, but with continued practice, you can run longer distances and feel less tired or winded when doing so. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building stamina for running, there are a few key principles to keep in mind.
As important as it is to start working out, you will get far more out of a run if you learn proper running form and technique. Equally important is how you prepare for a run, including the foods you eat and the amount of time you spend warming up.
The following guidelines can help you build endurance and stamina so you can run longer distances without running out of breath.
How to Build Endurance
Before Your Run
Making sure you’re adequately prepared for your run can help prevent you from getting winded while you’re running.
Many runners get winded too quickly because they run at a pace that is too fast. For this reason, before you head out the door, it can be helpful to set a target level of intensity for your run.
Warming up prepares your muscles for more strenuous activity. This is especially important if you are running in the cold.
Start your warm-up with an easy jog or a walk. Aim for about 10–15 minutes of activity to get your blood pumping and to increase your core temperature. If you choose, add a few running drills or dynamic stretches.
Fueling properly is key!
Running requires an ample supply of fuel in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose (sugar) which our body warehouses in muscles and liver for future use. If you participate in longer runs (lasting more than an hour) you should be especially careful about making sure that you eat well before you run. This is why you hear about carb-loading prior to a marathon; for shorter runs, your usual diet will be sufficient.
Your maximum heart rate (MHR) is the upper limit (determined in heartbeats per minute) of your cardiovascular ability. The most simplified way to estimate your MHR is to subtract your age from 220.
When you first start out with running, it’s a good idea to keep your heart rate around 65% of MHR or lower. If you are able to run at this pace without getting winded, you can gradually increase until you reach 85% of your MHR. If you have a heart rate monitor such as a watch, you can also use the heart rate reading provided on your watch as an indicator of your intensity level while you’re running.
Relax Your Breathing
If you allow yourself to breathe deeply but comfortably, you may notice that your breathing starts to sync with your foot strikes. This is called locomotor-respiratory coupling (LRC). All mammals do it, but humans have greater flexibility in the way that they use it.
Many runners fall into a natural 2:1 LRC pattern, meaning that for every two steps they take one breath. Try not to force yourself into an unnatural pattern, but simply find your natural rhythm and relax into it as you run.