Running is one of the simplest ways to improve your mental and physical health. From an elevated mood to a healthier heart, even one, 30-minute run can have huge health benefits. But if you’re looking to build your endurance, your usual jog won’t cut it. Peloton Instructor Marcel Dinkins, CSCS, says consistent running at a consistent distance and pace won’t improve your endurance.
“That is not to say that adjusting either of these variables in the slightest won’t lead you to significant gains,” says Dinkins. “If you wanted to improve your vocabulary, but you only read the same page in the dictionary for a year straight, you would have learned all the words on that page. But at some point, your mind would have committed those words to memory and you're no longer learning, you're simply reciting.”
Dinkins says the body behaves similarly when starting a new running program. “The changes will happen initially, but your body will adapt over time. You'll have to find a new way to spark more change and improvement, and that comes with variety.”
While consistent training is a huge part of the endurance-building puzzle, Dinkins says variety, time, and recovery are also crucial pieces. “Run varying distances, intensities, speeds, and durations. The key here is that you are training not only your body to handle more, but also remember that the heart is a muscle and running is cardio so if you want it to handle more, you have to train it for more.”
Often forgotten, a major part of endurance building is proper rest and recovery. “Statistically, endurance runners are more susceptible to overuse injuries than any other athletes,” says Dinkins. “So, it's important to remember that this will keep you from training and improving your endurance.” She says if you train hard, you need to rest hard. “Treat recovery runs as recovery runs and rest days as rest days. The best way I know to explain this is Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, sit down and kick your feet up: Not only have you earned it, but it is also the only way you will stand a chance at improving.”
As a run coach, Dinkins’ best advice is to be patient and trust the process. “It takes time to get better at a new skill, and running is very much a skill,” she says. “Yes, everyone has the potential to do it, but it takes time to do it better and to do it well. Most over-training and lackluster performance improvements come from attempting to cram three months or even six months of training into six weeks. Be patient and respect that final piece to the puzzle: time.”
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