Endurance running means long durations and distances, such as marathons and half-marathons. This is a different kind of running than sprinting, and considerations for muscle endurance require a different approach. Some exercises can significantly improve a runner's endurance so that finishing a marathon is realistic. These exercises aim to combat muscle fatigue while ensuring that muscles operate at their full potential.
According to marathon coach Jeff Galloway, the practice of injecting walk breaks into a runner's routine can improve overall finish times in a marathon. This exercise significantly increases a runner's endurance by directly addressing muscle fatigue. Endurance runners often slow down gradually over the course of a long run. This is inevitable when exercise is persistent without pause. When walking for small portions of the marathon, different muscles are used than when running. This gives the running muscles a chance to recover. When the running resumes, it can return to its initial pace without the slow-down effects from fatigue. The ratio of running to walking varies depending on the speed of the runner. At her fastest, a runner may walk 35 seconds for every four minutes she runs. Slower times may use a ratio of one minute of walking for every half-minute of running.
Plyometrics is the process of strengthening muscles by alternating between states of tight contraction and stretched extension. The squat before a tall high jump is an example of a plyometric exercise. In 1998, a University of Illinois study concluded that endurance in running improves when plyometric exercises are included in the runner's routine. While this form of exercise is not considered a part of conventional endurance training, it may help to increase a runner's maximum oxygen volume from running and consequently improve her endurance. Lower-body plyometric exercises interact with the muscles used in running. The deep squat followed by quick high jump is one option, while jumping on and off a box or high step is a similar exercise. Sideways jumping to a box or high step can train lateral muscles for increased balance and coordination when running.
Interval training is a common exercise to increase running endurance. This exercise seeks to push the body hard and in short intervals so that maximum oxygen volume is reached from aerobic activity. This is a rigorous exercise that should not be repeated more than two times per week. The exercise consists of fast running alternated with slow running or walking. The time ratio must be equal between the running and non-running segments. A typical routine may consist of three minutes of fast running to cover half a kilometer followed by three minutes of jogging. This will ensure that the body's aerobic limit is reached for brief periods, which can help to build endurance for longer runs. Since long, slow running does not reach these limits, interval training is a good exercise to include occasionally.