You are training for the half or full marathon - and you want to do your best. However, you keep running into endurance issues. It doesn’t matter if you’re running in the, Sun Run, BMO or Scotiabank Half Marathon – or any other of the dozens of running events out there.
Endurance and loss of strength - are cause by a multitude of reasons. Here’s my "endurance insurance" guide for improved results.
Have you ever felt or had these thoughts while running?
- My body feels like its hit the wall.
- I've lost all my stamina.
- My legs have lost their strength.
- I just don’t have the lungs today.
- Why is my heart punching my ribs?
- Why am I so out of breath?
- Why are my legs burning so much?
- How do I improve endurance in my overall endurance?
You are only as good as your weakest link. If you want to improve your endurance, strength and ability to run for miles and miles and miles – then you need to start improving these three interlocking components.
- Your Training
- Your Diet
- Your Mind
It does not matter if you are a beginner or an advanced runner. We are all in the game of running - stronger, longer and faster.
Nobody’s goal is to run - weaker, shorter or slower.
If you use the methods that I am about to teach you, then you will increase your chances of decreasing your time at the finish line.
You will always have good and bad training days – the key is to train, eat and think (a certain way) so you can perform your best come run-day - Because that’s when it matters most.
Tip #1 – Adversity Training
Adversity training is when you train under conditions that are “intermittently” more difficult than steady-state training or race day conditions. Here are my top three methods.
Interval Training: This is when you run at a normal pace for a few minutes and then you double or triple your running pace for a few minutes, or until you are breathing very hard.
For example: If I was running for 3-miles, I would break my running speed into these intervals. Normal pace for ½ mile – then double or triple speed for ½ mile – repeat this 3 times.
Another method is to go to the track & field track and run as fast as you can for 400m (one time around) and then walk briskly for 400m. If you are running the half, do this 7 to 12 times. 1-run + 1 walk = 1 time. Double this formula if you are running a full.
Running Up Hills: Hill training is hard – but worth it. It’s a secret weapon of world-class runners.
Running one mile up hill is better for cardio and leg endurance than running two miles on flat land. The added resistance caused by running against gravity makes your body use more muscle fibres in your legs and glutes/butt.
This automatically taxes your heart and lungs – making them stronger and providing them with the adversity that makes them use oxygen more efficiently.
For example: Once a week or every 10 days, find a hill (even if you need to drive there) – Run up hill for 30-60 minutes. If your hill is short, then run up – walk or jog down. Time yourself (only on the up hill portion) be sure to get at least 30 minutes under your belt. Running up stairs in the same fashion will also help strengthen your overall endurance.
Lifting Weights: Go to the gym or train at home. Circuit training, is a secret weapon of Lance Armstrong, excluding EPO, doping and testosterone.
Here is a sample workout routine that will have your entire body on fire, and your heart and lungs will feel like they are outside of your chest. Train at your own pain-tolerance level. Use short rest intervals - as your method of controlling intensity.
- Beginners do this for 30min
- Intermediates do this for 45min
- Advanced do this for 60+ min
Sample circuit: 2-3 times a week.
- Dumbbell squats 10-15 reps – no rest
- Push-ups to failure – no rest
- Burpees to failure – rest as needed
- Dumbbell Deadlifts to overhead press 10-15 reps – no rest
- Walking Lunges till legs burn – no rest
- Bicycle Crunches to failure – no rest
- Step-Ups till failure – rest as needed
- Planks to failure – no rest – back to #1
- Repeat until you have reached your goal time. Count how may rounds you did, and try to beat this number in future workouts.
The reason this circuit training works so well for improving cardiovascular and muscle endurance. Is due to the fact that you are training a lower body muscle group and then switching to an upper body muscle group. Your heart is forced to pump blood to the lower extremities and then it needs to pump blood to your upper extremities - going back and forth, removing lactic acid and bringing in fresh oxygenated blood to the entire body.
Running just can't match this type of demand - but you get all the cross benefits of this method of training. In short, running becomes such an easy exercise for your body that you are able to handle a faster longer pace, due to cardio and muscular adaption.
Tip #2 – Diet for energy
Food intake will affect your energy levels, as calories are fuel for your body. The key to endurance is to have enough glycogen stored inside your muscles and bloodstream, so your body isn't overworking to replenish your spent energy.
“Plus, if you are not hydrated (adequate water intake) before, during or after running then your performance will suck - and it will suck big time.”
Sports drinks (in moderation) will help restore electrolytes, potassium levels and hydration needs. Coconut water is my choice because it’s 100% natural.
I will not get into the science of energy and athletic performance, as that is outside the scope of this article. In fact, you should be your own scientist, so you can test what eating protocol works best for you.
For the sake of making this article short and effective, I am going to simply address how to eat for race day. Test yourself (on training days) to see if you are a carb loader or fat loader.
Carbohydrate loading on its own, is old school, because there are people who perform better by eating more fats and protein, than they do loading up on mostly carbs.
The test is simple; I want you consume a 500 to 800 calorie meal - depending on your size. The smaller you are the less you eat and visa versa. Eat this meal 1 to 3hrs before you train. You should know your food to time of exercise tolerance. If not, start testing if you can run better, eating 1 hour before or 2 or more hours before.
Read your food labels, measure your amounts and do your math.
Fats loading formula:
Approx. 100 to 160 calories of protein = 25grams to 40grams
Approx. 100 to 160 calories of carbohydrates = 25grams to 40grams
Approx. 300 to 480 calories of fats = 33 grams to 53grams
Carb loading formula:
Approx. 100 to 160 calories of protein = 25grams to 40grams
Approx. 100 to 160 calories of fats = 11grams to 18grams
Approx. 300 to 480 calories of carbohydrates = 75grams to 120grams
Try both these formulas and see which one works best for you. Try these formulas about 2 weeks before your race day making sure you run the same distance for each test and have the same amount of rest days in between runs for a more accurate test.
A quick test, to see if carbs are not your best energy choice, is to ask yourself this question. After eating pasta or rice, do you feel good - and then 30min after your meal, you could pass out on the couch?
*If you answered, YES… Then fats are your better energy source, because your blood sugar levels rise and fall too quick, thus causing energy highs and lows in a short duration. Eat more fat content foods to stabilize your energy output.
My favourite carbs are:
- Green & Colorful Veggies
My favourite dominant fats are:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp hearts
- Olive Oil
My favourite proteins are:
Tip #3 – Mental Strategies
Where the mind goes the body will follow.
Running is a mental game as much as it’s a physical game. You know as well as I do - the moment you get headstrong you get body-strong.
The moment you start letting negative thoughts enter the picture, is the moment performance goes down the tubes. You need to find your inner strength via these popular methods:
- Getting pumped-up by embracing the pain – using struggle to fuel you instead of detouring you
- Listening to upbeat music
- Talking/praying to God (Believers)
- Talk or pray to Darwin (Atheists)
- Run Angry
- Run Happy
- Never run sad
- Use a mental image or an inspirational thought(s) to override your current condition
- Watch an inspirational movie the day before your race -one that depicts human triumph.
All the above is your ENDURANCE INSURANCE