The Best of Strength Running: Endurance and Marathon Training

This is the second article in a 3-part series focusing on the best material on Strength Running. Today, we dive into endurance.

Endurance Marathon Training

I’m personally fascinated with gaining endurance and increasing aerobic capacity. It’s so seemingly simple (run more) but of course, simple ain’t always easy.

Yet most runners are more interested in running faster. They want to run that 5k or 10k faster than they did last season. Or they’re hoping they can finally PR in the marathon and qualify for Boston.

The “secret” here is that these runners don’t need to develop their speed; they need to develop their endurance. Almost every runner can run 6:00 mile pace – for a few seconds or minutes. The goal is to extend the amount of time you can run fast. That’s endurance!

If you’ve ever had me design a personal training plan then you know I prioritize aerobic workouts, especially for those training for a half marathon or marathon. And since most runners are most limited by their aerobic capacity, it’s one of the best areas to start improving as long as proper injury prevention strategies are being used.

Unfortunately, there’s too much piss poor marathon training advice on the internet that makes me want to shove bamboo up my fingernails. Like this prime example:

Bad Marathon Training

Who is this workout for? What’s the recovery? Where in the training plan is this done? And lung capacity – does this mean the amount of air I can hold in my lungs?

Advice like this brings up more questions than it answers. I’m seething just reading it.

At Strength Running, my goal is to provide you with much more detailed, actionable, and appropriate ways to boost your endurance than simply “do speed work on a track.”

Here are some of my favorite articles on SR that can help you PR in your next race:

Debunking Chronic Cardio: How Running Keeps You Lean, Fit, and Young

Before we even talk about how to increase your endurance, I want to dispel the notion that aerobic exercise is bad for you. Quite the contrary: running can be the fountain of youth if you train properly! The secret sauce lies in the stress-adaption principle and ensuring you’re recovering from long runs and workouts.

This post stirred up a lot of support from the endurance community. Use it as your rallying cry when any Paleo diehard or CrossFit athlete tells you that “running isn’t a good way to burn fat” or “running increases inflammation and oxidative stress!” Now you know better.

How to Improve Running Endurance (By Not Running) – For Beginner Runners

Beginner runners face two challenging obstacles to running faster races: they have a small aerobic base since they’re new to the sport and they’re also injury-prone. One of the best ways to improve is to simply run higher mileage – but how do you do that without increasing your injury risk?

Alternative training – coupled with strength exercises to ensure your “structural fitness” is sound – is the next best way to build the endurance beginner runners need. The best options include pool running, cycling, the elliptical machine, and even swimming. But of course, the more specific to running the cross training is, the better (the previous list is in the order of most specific to least specific).

Run Your Next Personal Best: Triathlon Edition

Six years ago I took 10 weeks and dramatically reduced my weekly mileage and ran fewer fast workouts – then PR’d in the mile and had strong debuts in 10k cross country, 10 miles, and the half marathon. How did I accomplish so much (without any injuries) by running less?

Simple: I trained for sprint triathlons. When done correctly, tri’s can help you build extra endurance safely that transfers well to running once you go back to doing that full-time. In this article I interview multiple-Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon qualifier Patrick McCrann on how best to use triathlons to become a faster runner.

The Principle of Progression: How to Consistently Get Faster

Any runner who’s seen a lot of success – from race times, to weight loss, or even just consistent, injury-free running – takes a long-term view of their training. This post includes a video whiteboard session where I demonstrate the principle of progression that can help you realize more of your potential without unneeded setbacks.

There’s two vital parts of progression to remember.

First: progression should occur over months and years, not days and weeks. Think long-term.

Second: progression shouldn’t happen all the time. Instead, build in smart recovery periods that include total rest and active rest to help you adapt to your previous training, stay motivated and mentally fresh, and reduce your risk of overuse injuries.

What’s Your Total Work Volume? Running High Mileage and Reaching Your Potential

Here’s a wake up call: there’s no substitution for hard work. There aren’t any “hidden secrets to endurance” or “magic workouts” that are going to help you run your next PR. Many runners – I’d actually venture to say most runners – could benefit from running significantly more mileage than they’re currently doing.

This article discusses a safe way to run more volume, with four specific ways of reducing your risk of injury. Plus, I reveal a unique side benefit of running a consistently high mileage training program (hint: it’s probably the opposite of what you think).

Three Marathon Workouts to Turbo Charge Your Marathon Training

Running a successful marathon is about more than just doing a couple 20 milers during your training cycle. Sure, those will help you get to the finish line. But to do so feeling good and faster than ever before, your workouts have to target the specific fitness that the marathon requires.

Those workouts include entirely aerobic work (some anaerobic or neuromuscular workouts are needed, but they’re short and don’t make up your major sessions) like negative-split tempo runs. This classic post talks about the specific workouts I ran to prepare for my 2:44 New York City Marathon debut, including several ways to “upgrade” the intensity for more advanced runners.

Fair warning: some of the strategies I recommend are for experienced runners only – like running several miles at the end of your long run at marathon pace. Make sure you’re already in good shape before you try the more advanced workouts.

You can get even more tactics to run faster, boost your endurance, and reach your goals by joining over 3,000 other runners on my private email list. Just sign up here or in the form below and you’ll get access to:

  • The How to Stay Fit on Vacation guide (free) that shows you how to maintain your endurance while dramatically cutting your training
  • My 2010 Training Analysis – an exhaustive critique of my own training to show you what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve over the long-term
  • The Strength Running PR Guide – a Q&A ebook with reader-submitted questions on everything from gear and pacing to injury prevention and more.

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Comments

  1. Jason, I really love the new series of posts. I have been battling a number of small injuries lately and my body and form feels like it is fighting itself form wise. I certainly can tell that certain things are stronger on one side but can’t pinpoint it. It actually seems like doing core and pistol squats and pushups is making it worse so I laid off it all for a while. Do you have any way to test for deficiencies and imbalances and specifically target them? Sort of like what Tim ferriss did but for runners?

  2. Hey Jason, i spent the last 2 weeks skiing which did wonders for my calf and quad toning. Because I was spending 6-7 hours a day on the slopes burning every calorie I could get in to myself and had no place to do any running, it ended up being an unwanted break for 2 weeks. Up until then I was able to crank out 7-8 minute miles on tarmac for my midweek runs and 9min/mile for my long weekend ones (week 9 of an 18week marathon prep) but now I struggle to even manage 2 miles at any pace faster than walking pace on a treadmill. As I’ve only got 10 weeks before the marathon I’m worried about how to get back up to normal cardio without injuring myself. Should I just continue the program and do as many miles as I can at a much slower pace? (Hal Higdon novice 2)

    • This is a tough one. First, why would you stop running for two weeks during marathon training?! Start back slowly, prioritizing the long run as your most important workout of the week. And don’t forget a lot of strength work – the build phase is the riskiest time for injuries.

      • Oh, I’m far too aware of how silly it is, but I’ve always put off signing up for marathons in the past because of work, travel, holidays and I didn’t want to keep putting it off. My intention had been to hit the treadmill for my training but when I arrived at the hotel found a big ‘out of order’ sign on it and my heart sank.

        The upshot of 2 weeks of skiing is that my legs feel great and my IBT is leaving me alone, just have to push on and man up now. Cheers muchly for the advice.

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  1. […] want to do shorter, faster strides. And the opposite holds true as well: if you’re running a marathon, a few longer, slower strides can help you warm up […]