Category: Recovery

How to increase stamina for running to build aerobic capacity, strength, and speed

One of the longest traditions in the world of running is to run lots and lots of miles to get faster and improve race times.

But so many miles takes a lot of time and takes a toll on your body.

What if you could increase stamina for running endurance by running fewer miles and doing more intense speed work?

Even with limited time, you are able to combine endurance miles with intensity for the perfect blend of training stimulus without building too much fatigue – and avoiding injury.

A running training plan for endurance balances long runs, speed work, strength training, and yoga, to increase stamina for running and improve performance.

Polarized training can provide best of both worlds

With the polarized training, the model that Simple Endurance Coaching uses, runners still spend training time in the endurance zone.

But the volume of mileage is significantly reduced.

Recent research at the University of Northern Iowa bears this out. Individuals who ran approximately 50 miles per week did not finish a marathon any faster than runners who averaged 40 miles per week at a similar intensity.

Runner’s World

Runners get faster by doing speed work – intervals that focus on building running efficiency, aerobic capacity, and muscle endurance.

The speed work improves VO2 max (your capacity to use oxygen).

But if we spend all our time doing the slow miles, we’ll be too fatigued – or hurt – to do quality speed work.

The goal is to do as much intensity as possible in the intensity sessions.

That’s how to increase stamina for running: build capacity with long runs, build speed with intensity.

Plus we usually avoid those middle-ground tempo runs that can build up a lot of fatigue while not being hard enough to stimulate as much VO2 improvement as hard interval work.

A running endurance training plan brings big benefits down the road

Endurance runs are still important.

But we don’t need to do 60-70 miles week to be fast in races.

In fact, some research indicates that doing only three runs a week can lead to significantly reduced marathon times.

These three runs include one long endurance run, one moderate-paced run, and one speed day. Two other days are dedicated to cross-training, particularly strength training.

If you are a beginning runner, or someone who’s doing less than 20 miles a week, adding more mileage will help build your fitness and aerobic capacity.

But if you’re already running more than 40 miles a week, then adding more will not help.

How to increase stamina for running is the balance of speed work and endurance.

That balance, plus strength training and yoga, is the reason to have a running training plan for endurance.

Not just miles but lifting heavy things and intervals

Recent research is suggesting that in addition to putting in the run training, lifting heavy things and doing intervals also builds endurance.

Building strength by lifting heavy things also increases the muscle’s capacity to do more by creating more mitochondria AND making them more efficient at producing energy.

And HIIT sessions kicks up the endurance adaption to exercise even more.

The downside of both strength training and HIIT is that you can’t do them every day. Your body can’t recover.

Lots of endurance miles, HIIT sessions, strength training, and recovery are the key elements of polarized training at Simple Endurance.

Only recovery makes the adaptations possible

There is an adage for training: gains are made when you sleep.

That’s truth.

Recovery days, yoga, proper and adequate fueling , and hydration are all key elements to rebuild our muscles and make them stronger that before.

Start off slowly and build your mileage up gradually.

Imagine that your body is a house, and training and other stressors are the weather and elements. You begin with a house made of straw, and your first bout of training is like a gust of wind. It knocks out a few walls and so you build them back up. If you have the means, you’ll probably build the new walls from brick. When the next bout of exercise comes along, your walls are more resilient, and this time nothing crumbles. You keep training, and as you do, you increase your training load, or stress, by lifting more weights, running more miles, or throwing more pitches.

Christie Aschwander, Good to Go

How do I create a running endurance training plan?

You need to go slow to get fast.

Then you need to go really hard to get faster.

A good training plan includes at least one long slow day, one or two interval days, some strength training, yoga and/or mobility work, and recovery/ rest.

How that kind of schedule works together to build up to your target event or adventure goal is what I do.

I build your program focused on the goals, building your fitness so that you’re ready to go by event day.

Do you have questions? Want to talk more about how a program might look for you? Fill out the form below and let’s talk!

I’m typing this with one hand.

I was at a beach on vacation in Boston with family this week. Some kids were skimboarding, and it looked fun.

Not me. I wasn’t standing long enough for anyone to get a picture.

So I tried, and on my second attempt, fell backwards and landed awkwardly on my hand.

I heard the bone snap, and then saw my arm totally displaced near the wrist.

The docs said the arm needed surgery to put everything back together, but it didn’t need to be done that day.

It could wait a week until we returned to Milwaukee, and I could see the orthopedic doctor who put together my shoulder.

Pay Attention to Your Body

I’ve broken a lot of bones in my life, and I’m pretty used to the pain and discomfort that goes with that.

The next morning, though, my fingers felt numb, and the pain was pretty harsh.

I called Massachusetts General, spoke to a doctor there, who managed to fit me in right away.

He didn’t like the numb fingers or the displacement and ordered the surgery right away.

Thirty minutes later, the nurses prepped me for surgery. I was grateful to get knocked out!

The lesson here is to advocate for yourself when you’re hurt and things just don’t feel right.

Four Lessons to Advocate for Yourself When You’re Hurt

Lesson 1: Listen to your body.

If something doesn’t feel right, ask someone – a nurse, doctor, etc.

Even if you’re imagining something, it’s better to ask and find out you’re imagining it than to stay silent when something is wrong.

Advocate for yourself when you’re hurt, especially if the pain is severe or something feels off.

Lesson 2: Stay on top of the pain.

I felt pretty good until the overnight.

The night nurse seemed a little lackadaisical and didn’t stay on top of the meds.

He kept giving me Oxycodone, and I kept telling him it doesn’t work well on me. (I’m a pretty firm believer in the beauty of morphine!)

I’m still clueless about what everything looks like under the wrapping.

By the time the day nurse came on, the pain was as bad as when I broke it.

She heard the message, got the meds changed, added some extra Tylenol, and finally, the pain was better. 

The next day, I was down to ibuprofen and Tylenol only!

Lesson 3: Ask questions, demand answers

Ask questions and make sure you understand the answers.

Residents and medical students from Harvard staff Massachusetts General, and one of the resident surgeons visited me at 5:30 a.m., and it felt like he didn’t want to be there. 

He kept talking about carpal tunnel release, and I had no idea what that had to do with my arm.

I asked again, got the same answer, and then he left.

I still didn’t know what the surgery was, what the carpal tunnel had to do with my arm, and even when I was leaving the hospital.

Finally, several hours later, my nurse got him on the phone. When he said he already talked with me, I responded, “Dude, you spent all of three minutes with me.”

The nurse laughed a bit as the medication was clearly talking.

He answered most of my questions, and he even made a little joke when he talked about the jenga puzzle nature of putting my bones back together.

Lesson 4: Get to know and thank the hospital staff.

Great conversations with the EMTs, several nurses, several aides, and admitting staff made the process better.

I met some really interesting people, chief among them Brian, an Irish-immigrant EMT who gave me a detailed history of the Troubles and his thinking about Brexit.

Cape Cod Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital both provided great care.

While there hasn’t been a “silver lining” in this injury, meeting people like Brian helps.

And my wife not only took care of me, but arranged “placement” for our daughter, who was a rock star, with her cousins.

The adventure reminded me just how important it is to advocate for yourself when you’re hurt, or find a person to help you, when there’s an injury.

Coming Back From Injury?

If you have questions about how to train when you’re returning from injury, let’s talk!

Recovering from a broken radius/ ulna and two surgeries this summer has been a challenge for my training, but today’s workout gives me some hope of peaking for the rest of cyclocross season.

Cyclocross is always my main focus during the year, although next year I plan to branch out into some gravel racing and some trail running.

And I had planned peaking in November for the Wisconsin State Championships and try to hang onto some form for USA Cycling Regionals in December.

But this year, due to injury, I’m going to have to accept that peaking will be at a much lower level.

And I’m okay with that.

I miss the racing!

Periodization Prepares Endurance Athletes for Peaking

Periodization in endurance sport training is like a triangle with the long base on the bottom. You build a big base with long endurance rides and some long intervals and a lot of strength training. Then as the season progresses, you do less volume and more intense, shorter intervals.

And when you’re close to your peak event, your volume drops way down and the intensity of very short intervals increases.

So my spring and early summer had a lot of long slow endurance rides with quite a few days of 2×20 or 3×20-minute intervals on the bike at a hard pace. Right before we left for vacation to Boston, I put in 10 days of really hard training with long days and shorter, more intense intervals. I planned a long recovery block with lots of easy walking, eating good food, and drinking good whiskey.

The Best Plans Can Get Derailed. Then What?

I snapped the radius and ulna of my right arm at the beach in Cape Cod while trying to use a skim board.

The next day, I had emergency surgery to release a carpal tunnel block and pin together the radius.

This is my arm after surgery #1. The plate and screws put my radius together, but you can still see pieces of the radius sticking out like a snapped chicken thigh bone.

Yet when I returned to Milwaukee to see my orthopedic surgeon, who has already repaired both shoulders from previous bike crashes, he didn’t like how the arm looked. So he did surgery #2 to fix the problems.

I wasn’t able to ride or do any strength work for nearly three weeks.

That’s a lot of fitness to lose. I tried riding on a trainer in the garage, but the splint prior to surgery #2 was just too unwieldy, even with a pillow on the handlebars.

After I got the cast, and my daughter bedazzled and painted it,

I did start to do very short and easy rides first on the trainer, and then outside. I did some Cycle classes at the Wisconsin Athletic Club in Greenfield where I work as a trainer.

These were pretty effective, and I felt like I was regaining some fitness.

A bedazzled cast was by far the best part of having a cast! Thanks to my daughter Sarah for her art work. It kept me motivated while building up to peaking for cyclocross

When Fitness Falls, the Triangle Becomes “Stout” Isosceles

The point to all of this is that I started off with a strong base and a strong middle in my periodization triangle.

That would mean the point of the triangle is pretty high (my math teacher wife tells me this is like a “tall” isosceles triangle.

And obviously the taller the peak, the stronger I’d be on the bike.

Now, with the big reduction in fitness, my triangle is a little more, well, “stout” with a long base and short sides.

Once a week, I’ve been doing longer over/under intervals by going hard up hills in a local loop, and keeping up the pressure on the downhills and flats.

And once a week, I’ve been doing 60-second hill climb intervals. I’m also getting in at least one endurance ride and one strength session.

Honestly, even that little amount of work wipes me out. My body is clearly still recovering.

The cast is gone now, and I wear a splint with velcro fasteners that I can take off easily. I’m doing a lot of therapy at home, and I can do more strength training at the gym – primarily split squats, single-leg leg presses, and some plyometric jumps.

Finally, a Bit of a Breakthrough

I do the hill repeats on a trail up the Rock Sports Complex hill. It’s a paved trail that is a 6 to 8 percent grade. It’s a good place to return to each week to see if there’s progress.

Tonight, there was some progress.

I got the best one-minute power numbers in several years, and I was able to do more consistently strong efforts up the hill.

I’m beat now, and the arm hurts a bit, but it feels like there is some hope of peaking for the end of the season.

We have a group of new cyclocross racers at the WAC in a class I teach, and our first race – and my first race back – will be in Dousman at the Tough Udder Oct. 20.

My bike handling skills will be terrible since I still can’t lift a bike over the barriers.

But we’re going to have fun.

I’ve taken cyclocross way too seriously for too long, trying to reach a high level.

This year, it’s a chance to come back with better breathing after a year of working with a good asthma doctor.

I’m not going to waste any of that time ruing my “misfortune” this summer.

I’m just going to go out, holler, and ride as fast as I can. Even with a stout isosceles of a peak!