Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner or have just started running for the very first time, you’re probably aware of how important stamina is. Almost all of us want to be able to run farther and longer, but doing so is much easier said than done. 

It can be extremely frustrating to feel as though your body can’t continue halfway through a run – but the good news is that there are lots of small things you can do to improve your endurance and running stamina.

So, whether you’re hoping to run your first 5K or are working towards your fifth (or 50th!) marathon, here are 13 simple tips to increase your running stamina.

1. Drink enough water

Drink enough water

We all know how important hydration is to our overall health – and it’s just as crucial when it comes to improving our fitness and endurance. If you don’t drink enough water before running, your body won’t be able to deliver energy to your cells efficiently or regulate your temperature properly, and you’ll be forced to slow down while running or stop early.

Make sure you drink at least 500ml of water before you run, ideally a couple of hours before you begin so your body has a chance to absorb the fluids and become hydrated. If you’re going to be running for more than 30 minutes, it’s also important to rehydrate during your run. Try to drink at least 200ml of water every 10 to 20 minutes.

You might want to think about buying a running water bottle. These have handles so are easy to hold, and mean you can stay hydrated without having to wear a running belt with bottle compartments, or hold a clunky bottle while you run. If you’re running long distances – especially during the warm summer months – you may even want to think about investing in a runner’s water backpack.

2. Fuel up before your run

Fuel up before your run

Just as it’s important to stay hydrated before running, it’s also important to eat for endurance – otherwise you’re quite literally running on empty! When it comes to running, carbs are your friend; as they give your body glycogen, which is fuel for your muscles. This doesn’t mean you need to eat an enormous plate of pasta before a run, but eating a 400 calorie meal two hours before setting off on your run can be helpful.

Complex carbs like whole grains, oatmeal, bananas, and brown rice are better than refined carbs, and it’s wise to stay away from sugary foods. These will make your blood sugar spike, which will be followed by a crash.

Try to avoid eating foods that take a while to digest, like cheese, beans, and high-fibre fruit. If you find yourself lacking energy during your run, then you might want to increase your carb intake next time. Generally speaking, it can be a good idea to aim for making carbs 55% – 65% of your total calorie intake.

To find out more about what you should eat to fuel up properly – and to calculate how many grams of carbs you need to eat based on your weight – have a read of these tips from the Cleveland Clinic. Or, to keep reading about the carb best sources for runners, check out this article by Podium Runner.

3. Warm-up


Warming up before a run is essential. Not only will it improve your muscle elasticity, but it will also reduce your risk of injury and muscle soreness. Because warming up boosts your body temperature, it also increases blood flow to your muscles before you set off, which can improve endurance.

After you warm-up, it’s important to do some stretches too, like ankle and neck rotations, side bends, arm circles, and shoulder and waist rotations. To find out more about the best pre-run warmups, have a read of this article by Runner’s World.

Cooling down after a run is just as important – especially if you don’t want to be really sore the next few days. If you’re running on a treadmill, it can help to make use of the warm-up and cool-down settings – and if you’re running outside, remember to slow down significantly at the end.

4. Wear the right shoes

Wear the right shoes

While you don’t need to be wearing all the latest fancy running gear, it’s still important to wear the right shoes. Decent running shoes won’t only keep you safe and comfortable, they’ll also help you prevent leg and foot injuries and muscle cramps.

However, there are so many brands and styles of running shoes that trying to pick the right one can be overwhelming. So if you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to go to a running shop and speak to a member of staff. Once they know what type of running you’re doing, how you run and what your feet are like, they’ll be able to pick the right shoes for you.

If your feet are highly arched, for example, it might be advisable for you to wear supports or inserts. These provide extra cushioning and can also absorb shock, so you may be able to run for longer without feeling the same degree of impact.

5. Focus on breathing

Focus on breathing

If you practise yoga or pilates, you probably already know how vital it is to focus on your breathing, and it’s just as important for running, too. Focusing on your breathing can lower stress levels, boost your energy, and increase your stamina – mainly because by using less oxygen, you can put more energy into your running.

When you reach a point while running where things start to feel really challenging, it’s normal to start holding your breath subconsciously – or at the least, forget to increase your breathing speed. But if you’re running faster, you need to breathe both faster and deeper – and holding your breath is a really quick way for your stamina to plunge.

To focus on making your breathing more efficient, try practising performance breathing. Inhale through your nose for two seconds, hold the breath for a further two seconds, and then exhale for four seconds. To find out more about the benefits of performance details and how you can master it, have a read of this advice from Ace Fitness.

6. Prioritise posture

Prioritise posture

As well as focusing on your breathing, you should also factor in posture. Maintaining proper posture is vital for our health, and unsurprisingly, it plays a major role in how effective our running is too.

When you maintain good posture while you run, your muscles are more supported, which means they’re more efficient and you’re able to run for longer.

Maintaining proper posture also helps keep your muscles flexible and prevents injury. Try to avoid hunching forward or tensing as you run. Instead, stand tall, keep your midsection stable, and look ahead. It’s fine to lean slightly forward, but try to raise your torso at the same time so your lungs have space to expand.

For more guidance on the correct running posture, have a read of these tips from Very Well Fit.

7. Increase distance gradually

Increase distance gradually

Though it might sound obvious, if you want to be able to run for longer – you’re actually going to have to run for longer. You won’t be able to increase your stamina without pushing yourself and making yourself run further. But with that said, it’s also crucial not to overdo things.

It can be tempting to push yourself to run a much longer distance than usual, especially if you feel excited about improving – but this is almost never a good idea. Your body needs a chance to adapt to these longer distances and build new muscles slowly, so the best way to improve your stamina and build endurance is to increase your running distance gradually.

It’s usually a good idea to increase your running time or distance by around 10% each week. It might not sound like much, but over time it will add up, and before you know it you’ll be able to run for much longer distances. Pushing yourself too hard and trying to run too far before you’re ready is one of the most common causes of injury.

However, depending on where you are with your training, the 10% rule can sometimes be a bit too general – for example, if you’re being too aggressive with your training (or too conservative), it can mean your new goal distance is too far (or too short). To find out more about how you can make the 10% rule work for you and increase your distance safely, have a read of this article by Active.

8. Incorporate interval training

Incorporate interval training

If you’ve just started running, the idea of doing interval training can seem daunting. But while interval training can sound complex, it’s essentially just alternating between short bouts of intense activity and longer bouts of moderate activity.

The best way to incorporate interval training into your running practice is to sprint for 30 seconds before easing into your normal running pace for a few minutes. Then, sprint again for a further 30 seconds, before jogging for another couple of minutes.

Interval training isn’t only a great way to improve your aerobic capacity, it also helps build muscles, burn fat, and improve your running form – so this is one of the most helpful tips when it comes to increasing your stamina.

To find out more about the benefits of interval training and how you can apply it to your running – no matter what level you are – check out this guide by Road Runner Sports.

9. Run on challenging terrain

Run on challenging terrain

Another great way to strengthen your leg muscles and increase aerobic capacity is to run on challenging terrain. If you’re lucky enough to live by a beach, try running on sand. This will really challenge your body, and once you hit the road again, it will seem much easier.

While it can be tempting to go barefoot when you’re running on sand, if you’re not used to it it can lead to ankle sprains or Achilles injuries, because your feet are unsupported. So generally, wearing your normal running shoes is advised.

Running on hills is also really helpful – and a great way to practise interval training. Try sprinting up a hill for 30 seconds before running gently to recover for the next two minutes. If you don’t have any hills near you, or you run on a treadmill, just set your treadmill to incline and run uphill that way.

Do be mindful that when you’re running on challenging terrain it becomes even more important to wear the right shoes and ensure your ankles are properly supported. If you go to a running shop to buy a new pair of shoes, make sure you speak to the staff members and tell them where you’ll be running, so they can ensure your shoes provide the right amount of support.

10. Be consistent

Be consistent

It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are – if you don’t commit to running, you won’t be able to increase your stamina. Being consistent and committing to training is hugely important if you want to see an improvement. Regular training will increase your aerobic capacity and help to build your muscles.

While it’s good to start off by training gently, as time goes by you need to up both the volume and the intensity of your training sessions if you want to increase your stamina. For example, you could start by adding extra runs to your week as you progress, though it’s best to keep these runs slow and gentle.

Once you’ve built your base running fitness, it’s a good idea to aim for three to four running sessions per week, for at least 30 minutes at a time. If this sounds overwhelming, remember that it doesn’t matter how fast you run during these training sessions, only that you run. Go as slow as you like – remember that speed comes after endurance!

11. Listen to your body

Listen to your body

While you do need to push yourself and be consistent, it’s equally as important to allow yourself time to rest and recover. Listen to your body. If you feel you need an extra rest day – whether it’s because you’re experiencing aches and pains or are just tired or irritable – don’t beat yourself up about it.

The more you run, the more you’re pushing your body, and this means you need to allow it time to recover properly between sessions. Proper recovery doesn’t only come from having rest days. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and stretching properly are also key.

Try to eat a decent meal or snack that contains both carbs and protein within the first half-hour after completing your run. This is the period where your body is best able to absorb the nutrients it needs to recover, so make sure you’re consuming plenty of complex carbs, lean proteins, and vitamins.

12. Do low-impact exercise

Do low-impact exercise

Running can be tough on your body, so a great way to increase your stamina without adding too much strain is to do low-impact exercise. Walking, swimming, and cycling are all low-impact exercises that help you build strength and endurance without risking injury.

You might also want to think about giving Pilates a go. It might look like stretching, but Pilates is actually one of the best ways to improve your posture and strengthen your legs, core and back – both of which are important for running. Just doing one session a week can help you become more flexible, which helps protect and support your muscles.

Why not check out our article, 14 low-impact exercise ideas, for more inspiration?

13. Listen to motivating music

Listen to motivating music

If you don’t listen to music while running, you might want to think about putting together a playlist. Studies have found that listening to motivational pop or rock music while exercising can increase endurance by 15%! It can also improve a runner’s “feeling state”, meaning they derive much more pleasure from what they’re doing, and feel more positive, even when they’re close to physical exhaustion.

Have a think about the type of music you personally find most motivating. Often, this is related to films we find inspirational – so, if you’re a fan of the Rocky movies, for example, you might find that ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is the song that helps you run that extra mile!

Final thoughts…

It can be frustrating when you want to be able to run further but your body won’t allow it – but there are many things you can do to increase your running stamina.

Building endurance doesn’t happen overnight, of course, and requires time and considerable effort. However, if you’re committed to improving your stamina and prepared to put the work in, you’ll soon begin to notice a difference.

The most important things are to be consistent with your training, to incorporate interval training and try running on more challenging terrain, and to factor in things like posture, breathing, and eating the right foods. Though it’s just as crucial to go slowly and listen to your body – and if you feel you need a few extra rest days, don’t be afraid to take them. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

If you’re just beginning your running journey and would like to find out more about getting started and running safely – as well as get some tips from expert runners – you might want to check out our beginner’s guide to running.

Are you working on improving your running stamina? Or do you have any other tips that can help boost endurance that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.