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You start running and after only two minutes you are out of breath. You are forced to stop.

In this article, you will find out why you can’t run longer and how to fix that.

15 reasons why can't I run longer

Generally speaking, some runners can’t run longer due to a lack of endurance and reduced lung capacity. Likewise, their muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints are not strong enough or possibly not warmed up.

Below you will find all the reasons why you can’t run longer and how to avoid it.

1. Your fitness level is not high enough

One of the main reasons you can’t run longer is that your fitness level is not high enough. Patience is important in running and nothing comes overnight. Start with walking and then gradually include running segments. With time, your endurance will improve, and you will be able to run longer without stopping.

2. You have a small lung capacity

Shortness of breath after just a few minutes of running is the result of the disparity between the oxygen required by your muscles and the oxygen that your heart and lungs are able to deliver. You have to pause and stop running to catch your breath even before you start feeling tired in your legs.

Running increases your need for oxygen. This increases your breathing rate, as you try to take in as much oxygen as possible, and your pulse accelerates the flow of oxygen-rich blood in your body. Aerobic exercises, such as running, increase the efficiency of this process and can increase your lung capacity. The higher the capacity of the lungs is, the easier you will breathe and take in more oxygen with each breath.

Just as you want to strengthen the muscles of your leg and torso, so your goal should be to strengthen the muscles that you use for breathing. That way, you will improve your endurance, reduce fatigue, and you will be able to run longer. A strong respiratory system will allow you to become a better and more efficient runner.

Lung capacity can be increased through breathing exercises. Besides that, pay attention to your posture. Don’t be hunched over. Proper posture is very important to allow the maximum amount of air into your lungs.

Gradually, with proper training, you will progress, and your lungs will adapt to your oxygen needs, which will lead to improved endurance, better circulation, and increased lung capacity.

3. You have a wrong breathing pattern

A wrong breathing pattern prevents the necessary oxygen from coming into your muscles. Proper breathing during running will improve your efficiency and reduce fatigue and allow you to run longer.

Provided that you run at a very slow pace, you will be able to breathe through your nose alone. Likewise, you can inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

When running at a higher pace, do not keep your mouth closed because you will get tired faster. Opposite to that, inhale and exhale through your nose and your mouth, increasing the oxygen supply to the muscles. Besides that, mouth breathing helps relieve tension and clenching of the jaw, allowing you to relax your face and body.

The frequency and quality of breathing can be an indicator of your fitness level or the way in which your body reacts to the pace and intensity of your running. If you run beyond your means, you will experience shortness of breath or tightness in your chest. You can track your fitness level by measuring your resting heart rate. The higher the fitness level, the lower your resting heart rate per minute will be.

4. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints are not strong enough

You can’t run longer because you feel pain in your leg or ankle. You have to be careful about this and listen to your body. If the pain is dull, talk to your doctor. However, this pain is often unpleasant and a result of weak muscles and inadequate preparation of your body for running.

Before you start running, it is important to prepare your body for the physical stress of running to reduce the risk of injury. It is necessary to do strength exercises to strengthen your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Furthermore, both beginners and advanced runners should include strength exercises into their training plan to become faster and more efficient runners.

In addition to reducing the risk of injury, strength exercises improve your running technique and, with it, your running economy. Likewise, they improve your neuromuscular efficiency, the communication between nerves and muscles, accelerating nerve impulses that send signals to muscle fibers. That way, your muscles will be better coordinated for a more intense workout or a race, and you will be able to run longer.

Read more: Strength Training for Runners (Top 19 Workout Exercises)

5. You are not warmed-up

You can find yourself catching breath at the very beginning of a workout due to not being warmed up. Warming up before running increases your heart rate and dilates your blood vessels, providing your body with more oxygen.

It is necessary to warm up before every run. That way, you will be mentally and physically ready for the challenge that awaits you, thus improving your performance and lowering the risk of injury.

Adjust the warm-up to the type of training that awaits you, your fitness level, and weather conditions.

Read more: Warm-up Before Running (Ultimate Guide)

6. You run too fast

The reason why you can’t run longer might be because you start too fast. This is the most common beginner’s mistake. It is better to start slower than the set pace than to start too fast.

Next time, try running at the slowest pace possible. If necessary, include walking segments as well. Shift between running and walking and gradually increase your running time, while reducing your walking time.

If you are a more advanced runner, use a running pace calculator to determine the pace at which you should be running to avoid starting too fast.

7. You are not running with the proper running technique

By adopting the proper running technique, you will improve your running economy and efficiency, and you will get less tired and be able to run longer.

While running, it is important that you keep your body straight, slightly leaning forward. Look straight ahead.

Your arms are bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Swing your arms in the direction of your movement. Do not clench your fists, always keep your palms open.

Check your posture. Do not run on your heels. If you run fast, run on the balls of your feet.

Avoid overstriding because it costs you too much energy and reduces your efficiency. You should land your feet just below the knee, slightly in front of your center of gravity. This maintains torque and helps avoid braking. Likewise, your knee is protected, and the muscles and tendons in your leg allow you to cushion the impact of landing.

8. You run on a full stomach

You must adjust your diet to your training schedule. Running on a full stomach can cause nausea, cramps, bloating, which will force you to stop.

Your body is busy digesting food, while blood flow to the stomach and intestines is increased so that your body can absorb nutrients from the food. Food in the stomach cannot be adequately digested, and the muscles used in running start to get tired much faster, as they lack oxygen which allows them to function at full strength.

Depending on the size and contents of a meal, a different amount of time is needed for it to be successfully digested.

If you ate a larger meal, such as lunch, wait for at least three hours before you start running.

Read more: How Heavy Is Too Heavy to Run? (17 Tips for Heavy Runners)

On the other hand, if it’s an early morning workout and you don’t have time for breakfast, then run on an empty stomach. If you feel any discomfort or dizziness, eat a bite of an energy bar. Always have an energy gel or a bar with you so that you can take it if your blood sugar drops.

9. You are not adequately hydrated

In addition to nutrition, hydration is also important. Consume enough water throughout the day, and especially if you know that you have a workout scheduled for that day.

If it’s hot outside, take an isotonic drink to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating and to prevent muscle cramps.

10. You are anemic

Many runners struggle with anemia, especially female runners. I have been struggling with anemia for many years. Some signs of anemia include shortness of breath and heavy legs. Personally, I was helped by dietary supplements, reduced coffee intake (because caffeine impedes iron absorption), and focusing on the consumption of foods rich in iron, vitamin C, and folic acid.

Consult with your doctor and do blood tests to determine if you are deficient in iron, folic acid, or ferritin.

11. You are overweight

Excess weight might be the reason why you can’t run longer. The heavier you are, the more stress you put on your body and thus increase the risk of injury.

Read more: How Heavy Is Too Heavy to Run? (17 Tips for Heavy Runners)

Before you start running, prepare your body with strength exercises and walking. Walking will help your body, especially your joints and tendons, get used to the exertion. With time, when you feel ready, add running segments.

12. You are overtrained

Overtraining appears when the body is exposed to excessive straining caused by insufficient recovery time, extremely tough or too frequent training, poor diet, or lack of sleep.

You are motivated and you want to become as endurant and fast as possible. To achieve this, it is not enough only to do great training. Recovery is equally as important. Rest, recovery, and enough sleep are equally important for your training, as well as running.

Some signs of overtraining are insomnia, loss of appetite, poorer results, chronic fatigue, lack of energy, and frequent colds.

Listen to your body and pay attention to signs of overtraining or injury.

13. You run in the wrong running shoes

Running shoes are the most important part of a runner’s gear. It is important to invest in a good pair of running shoes to avoid injury and to be a more efficient runner.

Get your running shoes from a specialized sports gear store and take into account your style of running and foot shape. Buy them at the end of the day or after running because your feet swell during the day. When picking your running shoes, observe how they fit your foot, how stable they are, and how well they cushion impact. Try on multiple models of running shoes until you find the ones that are most comfortable for you.

Also, take care that your running shoes are not worn out and that you don’t run too many miles in them. It is generally advised to change your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. However, when exactly to change your shoes depends on the surface you run on, whether you belong to the category of heavier runners, and your style of running.

why can't I run longer

14. You are impatient

You start running and you already think about when it will finish. It is natural for it to be difficult and for your legs to be hurting, but try to focus your thoughts on your running technique, breathing, and running pace.

If you are bored, listen to music during running, change your route, or run with other runners.

15. You don’t believe in yourself

Sometimes a lack of self-confidence can be the reason you can’t run longer. Listen to your body and gradually push your limits.

I often hear the phrase “I can’t do it”, but don’t limit yourself with bad preconceptions. Prove to yourself that you can do it the next time you go running. If you listen to your coach’s advice or follow your training plan, pay attention to your diet and hydration, there is no reason why you would not be able to run longer and faster. What running has taught me is that your success depends on the effort that you put into something.

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Matea Matošević
Matea Matošević
Article by:
Matea Matošević

Hi, I’m Matea! I’m Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…