How to Build Endurance for Running

We all know that forefoot running is great for running economy, but we as endurance runners are always looking for other ways to get faster. So, how to build endurance for running?

According Scovgaard et al. 2014, there are 2 main strategies to make you a faster runner and they are: concurrent speedwork and resistance training (i.e. perform speedwork before resistance training).

How to Build Endurance for Running

How to Build Endurance for Running

The researchers found that runners in the high intensity concurrent training group improved their average 10 km time from 44 minutes to 42 minutes after 4 weeks of training.

The training protocol included the following in this exact order:

  1.  2 km warm-up run at a self-selected pace
  2.  4 -12 repetitions of 30 second all-out running with 3 minute rests in between
  3.  High resistance training was performed 15 minutes after the speed session and included 3 sets of 8 repetitions of squat, deadlift and leg press exercises with 3 minute rests between each set

**The training protocol was performed twice a week (Monday’s and Friday’s) for 8 weeks**

The training protocol also included anaerobic training where runners performed 4 x 4 minutes of high intensity speed running with 2 minute rests in between. This was performed once a week on Wednesday’s.

And lastly, on Saturday’s, runners performed moderate aerobic training of 40 to 70 minute continuous running.

Why it Worked

Interestingly, the researchers found that the training protocol did not alter V02 Max and maximal activity of aerobic enzymes, suggesting that increased V02 max is not always linked to improved endurance in runners. So, if V02 max was unchanged, how does concurrent speedwork and resistance training affect the body to build better endurance for running?

One way it could have a beneficial effect is that concurrent speedwork or resistance training improves movement efficiency which arises from increased neuromuscular functions such as faster firing motor nerves, improved motor nerve excitability, and improved muscle contraction synchronization (Aagaard 2003; Folland and Williams 2007; Van et al. 1998).

The researches also offered a more physiological explanation whereby 4 weeks of concurrent speedwork and resistance training reduced concentrations of SERCA1 –an enzyme in muscle cells that is responsible for helping transport calcium protons and produces heat in some fat tissues.

Previous work have found that high amounts of SERCA can be energetically expensive because the enzyme itself is highly energy-dependent (i.e. ATP-dependent) (Clausen et al. 1991, Walsh et al. 2006), therefore too much of this enzyme can tamping down performance.

So remember, speedwork and resistance training can improve performance only if they are performed in the correct order (i.e. speedwork before resistance training, not the other way around).

And of course, caffeine never fails to boost performance and its important that you make it part of your pre-run, and especially your pre-race routine.

Performing resistance training before running induces motor deficits which negatively affects running performance. Click here to read my article on the matter.

Finally, always remember to land on your forefoot while you run because doing so is more effective at reducing impact as compared with heel strike running. Check out my articles on the benefits of forefoot running.

More From Run Forefoot:

Don’t Heel Strike! – Research shows that heel striking is a major pitfall for runners.

Barefoot Running – It’s not a fade. It’s actually one of the best ways to improve the sensory networks in your feet and joints.

Shoe Reviews – A forefoot runner’s guide to minimalist shoes.

When Your Knees are Out of Whack – Learn how to avoid runners knee.


Aagaard P. Training-induced changes in neural function. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 31: 61–67, 2003.

Clausen T, Van HC, Everts ME. Significance of cation transport in control of energy metabolism and thermogenesis. Physiol Rev 71: 733–774, 1991.

Folland JP, Williams AG. The adaptations to strength training: morphpological and neurological contributions to increased strength. Sports Med, 37: 145–168, 2007.

Skovgaard et al. Concurrent speed endurance and resistance training improves performance, running economy, and muscle NHE1 in moderately trained runners. J Appli Physiol, 2014; 117:1097-1109.

Van CM, Duchateau J, Hainaut K. Changes in single motor unit behaviour contribute to the increase in contraction speed after dynamic training in humans. J Physiol 513: 295–305, 1998.

Walsh B, Howlett RA, Stary CM, Kindig CA, Hogan MC. Measurement of activation energy and oxidative phosphorylation onset kinetics in isolated muscle fibers in the absence of cross-bridge cycling. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 290: R1707–R1713, 2006.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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