Often referred to as endurance, stamina is the ability to sustain physical or mental effort for a long period of time, and there are all kinds of reasons why you might be searching for more of it. If you’ve ever attempted to increase your own stamina, I’m sure you know fully well how much mental, as well as physical, effort needs to go into it.
Increasing physical stamina involves not only organs like your heart and lungs, but your muscles and tendons as well. If you’ve been on the proverbial backbench for a sustained period of time, the thought of even starting to build your stamina might be disheartening enough to stop you in your tracks.
But, with a healthy outlook, active lifestyle, and a willingness to take your journey one day at a time, rather than attempting to run 30k on your first day back in training (which will, I assure you, not turn out well), you can get there. And we want to help. Take a look at some of the techniques we have used in the past to build up our stamina while combating the frustration that can arise.
Why is Increasing Stamina Important? Why can it be hard to do?
Increasing your stamina is important if you want to physically perform better, as we all know, and indeed it’s crucial to increase stamina to progress within your sport. But beyond this, increasing your physical stamina can have a beneficial knock-on effect for our overall health.
Increased stamina can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower your heart rate
- Help burn fat
- Build healthy routines and promote a positive outlook
The tricky thing about building stamina back up, and taking advantage of all of these great benefits, is that the opposite of stamina is fatigue – and the first thing to fade when we become tired is usually good technique. So, with a lower level of stamina, we more quickly become fatigued and are no longer able to mobilise our bodies in the way that they have been trained to effectively perform. So really, fatigue breeds fatigue without the correct stamina-building practices.
What Happens When We Train That Increases Stamina?
When we work correctly to push our stamina further, our bodies are doing things internally to compound the benefits of our exertion so that the next time we push ourselves, our bodies will be a little bit better at performing physically.
This happens because, quite simply, the body uses oxygen to strengthen its performance. When we build our stamina, the body is being trained to improve its use of oxygen in a number of ways, one workout at a time.
For one, the muscle surrounding the heart strengthens, and this allows it to pump more quickly. This in turn means that blood containing oxygen is pumped to the muscles in our bodies by our heart. The quicker the heart pumps, the greater the volume of oxygen can be received by our muscles. Furthermore, the lung capacity increases too, which means the lungs expand more so that they can take in more oxygen each time you take a breath.
There are two types of muscle fibres in the body which contribute to stamina – Type II and Type I fibres. Type II are known as the slow twitch fibres. They don’t work as quickly as the Type I (fast twitch fibres), but can work for a longer period of time.
Fast-twitch fibres rapidly contract during short intense workouts and slow-twitch fibers contracts slowly during prolonged workouts that are more geared towards endurance. Slow-twitch muscles hold more blood and assists in creating aerobic energy, and are reliant on oxygen to keep reactions going within the muscle. Through exercise, we can help these fibres work more effectively which in turn increases our stamina.
The Best Exercises to Increase Stamina
Although increasing stamina might at first seem a bit daunting, there are many exercises that will help increase your stamina quickly, effectively and safely. These include:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This is a super flexible technique that can be customised to suit whatever fitness level you might currently be at, and whatever amount of time you have to spare. Simply, this method includes a short period of intense exercise followed by a short period of rest. If you’re a runner, for example, you could run for two minutes, and walk for one, and then repeat.
The Tabata protocol is a well known and loved technique to try: Perform one dynamic exercise as quickly as possible for 20 seconds. Then rest 10 seconds. Repeat for a total of eight rounds. It’s important to remember that pushing yourself needs to remain within tolerable limits. To avoid certain burnout and further fatigue, limit this kind of training to 2-3 times per week.
It may be tempting to start increasing your stamina with cardiovascular exercises alone, but it’s important to understand that strength training is a fantastic way to build muscle and improve endurance. Fast paced and high intensity lifting (within your limits) is the key to effectively executing this technique. It’s also recommended to minimise breaks between sets – each set is meant to leave you sweating, breathing heavily, and feeling that well-known burn.
Swimming is a fantastic way to improve your cardiovascular capabilities in a way that is gentle on your bones and muscles. Swimming is absolutely one of the best all-over body exercises and because it is so low-impact, it can be great for those recovering from a rather serious injury or for those who don’t have the capability to engage in more intense activities. By hitting the pool on a regular basis, your lung capacity will increase and your stamina will improve.
Again, cycling is a sport that boasts plenty of aerobic benefits, as well as working a variety of muscles. To maximise the effectiveness of your bike rides, try doing interval training. In other words, build strength by interspersing your ride with short bursts of intense activity. This will help improve your resting heart rate and boost your endurance capabilities.
Stair climbing is a great exercise for those who like to keep things simple. There’s no need for any special resources or equipment to incorporate stair climbing into your routine. What’s more, walking and running up an incline is fantastic for cardiovascular health and endurance.
Try finding running routes that include stairs or hills to seamlessly include them in your workout routine. You may also want to try taking the stairs instead of the lift while going about your everyday life. Every little bit helps!
Don’t forget to stretch
Although this might seem like an afterthought, or an obvious point, the importance of stretching to help properly build your endurance can’t be overstated. Regular stretching is integral for muscle fibre recovery and to maximise muscle strength and growth – both of which are of course the keys to increasing your stamina. There are also CBD balms that can help to soothe any tightness. Read also: CBD Skin Care: Everything You Need To Know
Stretching should ideally take place before and after a workout, and indeed it’s important to stretch on rest days as well.