When people first start at the gym, they generally have no idea where to begin. Soon enough, most people start to find their way around the gym. They might not, however, have a good grasp on the lingo or how to build up some of the supporting mechanisms needed for a successful fitness routine.
People don’t always have a solid grasp on two major fitness topics (especially when they are new): endurance and stamina. Most people, long term gym rats included, use ‘stamina’ and ‘endurance’ interchangeably, even though they aren’t exactly the same:
- Stamina: How hard you can perform an action
- Endurance: How long you can perform an action
Getting through a grueling session is already hard enough for those who have been at it for awhile. Add in the lower levels of stamina and endurance commonly found among new fitness community members and it’s even harder.
How can you build up stamina and endurance without killing yourself? We have compiled a list of 6 of the best pieces of advice on how to do so.
Consistency is key in so many aspects of life. When it comes to fitness, there isn’t much that compares to consistency, especially when you are trying to increase your stamina and endurance.
Consistent stress (exercise) on your muscles causes them to grow, not only in size but also in efficiency. That extra efficiency goes miles in helping you to work out longer and harder with each session.
Following a consistent cardio routine helps your body to boost it’s aerobic abilities. Cardio strengthens your heart, increases lung performance, and helps with brain function (which can be a make or break part of a workout, itself).
Performing some sort of cardio activity multiple times a week, making sure to increase your heart rate for extended periods of time, helps your body build up it’s capability to work harder for longer periods of time. A good cardio base is a solid foundation for any fitness program.
Most people can’t help but think of muscles as a requirement for their fitness programs end goals. Did you know, however, that muscles actually help you out with how long and how intensely you can exercise? They aren’t *just* for show!
The human body is economical. If it doesn’t need to carry muscles around, it won’t. Your body won’t build muscles if the ones you already have aren’t regularly stressed and forced to grow.
Likewise, if you stop using what you grow, eventually they will shrink back down to a much smaller size.
Bigger, stronger muscles that are regularly used generally have a better blood supply. With that extra size and circulation comes better nutrient and oxygen supplies; both of which go miles towards increasing pushing your muscles longer and harder (i.e. greater stamina and endurance).
Diet is possibly one of the most overlooked portions of a well-rounded fitness regimen. Counting calories isn’t fun. Tracking macros? Boring. Avoiding an extra slice of pizza, scoop of ice cream, or a free beer isn’t exactly something that screams ‘Fun.’
Diet, or more specifically a consistent diet will do more for body recomposition than weight training or cardio will, even if weight training is done with devout levels of consistency.
What you feed to your body on a regular basis can make or break your entire program. Why do you think professional athletes have a well balanced diet? Performance!
Feeding your body the energy it needs in forms that are efficient and helpful can fuel your body throughout your workout, so your energy levels don’t come crashing down midway through your set.
2. Turn up the intensity
Repeatedly conducting higher intensity exercises is one of the most sure ways to build up some stamina. Pushing your muscles into situations where they are overwhelmed with lactic acid and depleted of fuel, causes them to build up reserves in anticipation of the next grueling session.
Over time, your muscles begin to count on doing harder and harder work. Tougher workouts become the new normal and you can push yourself harder than before with less difficulty.
Additionally, it also works on your endurance to a lesser degree since you have to work at peak output for a bit, which is a nice perk!
3. Reduce Rest Time Between Sets
Remember those definitions above? If you want to increase how long or how intense you can do an exercise, it makes sense that you would perform it with less time to recover. Adding in shorter rest periods forces how long and how hard you can exercise to skyrocket.
Stressing your muscles for longer periods of time or giving them less of a recovery period forces them to find new ways to power themselves. You want those muscles tired when you are done with them! That way they come to look forward to working longer and harder and prepare themselves.
4. Switch It Up
Your body will get used to doing the same activities over and over, eventually. Exercises that used to work won’t work as well, and results begin to stagnate. Routine is the enemy of progress in the gym.
Every few weeks change up what you are doing. If you have been doing some weight training for 6-8 weeks, try doing some CrossFit/HIIT for a few weeks. More of a cardio person? Instead of long distance running, try doing sprints or bicycling instead for a few weeks.
Changing up what you do throws your body for a loop and causes it to adapt to a different set of rules.
Pro-Tip: This is how you break past those annoying plateaus
5. Increase Workout Duration
Want to blast your endurance out of the water? Go for longer workouts. Not just five or ten minutes. Double your workout or double the volume of what you are lifting.
Instead of doing 3-5 sets, do 6-10 of the same exercise. Your muscles will have to adjust for the additional workload and adapt. If you want to have better endurance, push yourself for longer periods of time.
6. Fix Your Form
People use a ton of energy when they perform an exercise with the wrong form. Proper ergonomics and an understanding of how to perform each exercise you do (and adhering to those guidelines!) goes a very long way in increasing both, your stamina and endurance.
A fantastic example of good form helping you to work out harder for longer are what are known in Crossfit circles as ‘Thrusters.’
Basically, with thrusters you are supposed to use upward momentum from the squat portion of the exercise to force the barbell overhead. Once people start to get tired, however, their form gets sloppy. Once the form goes, people begin trying to push the barbell upwards with their shoulders and arms instead of using momentum. That is incredibly inefficient.
Fatigue sets in much faster when you have to rely on ‘muscling’ and action instead of relying on ergonomics or momentum.
Bonus: Win the Mind Game
Your brain is the hardest thing you have to overcome in the world of fitness. Often, your body will be able to continue along on its way but your brain wants you to stop. It tells you that you cannot go on, that you need a rest.
Don’t listen to it.
Your mind will tire long before you actually do; it is the biggest inhibitor of stamina and endurance known to man. Some things that might help include:
- Break up your runs into segments: Run one mile at a time. Tell yourself you just have to make it to the next light pole.
- Mentally prepare if something is going to be tougher than usual: Visualize yourself completing an activity.
Motivation and mental preparedness can push you beyond anything you ever thought you could do. Find what works for you, and embrace it.
There are lots of things you can do when it comes to stamina and endurance. Fitness might start off difficult, but once you build up those two magical things it gets much easier.