Do you have that friend who has run a marathon or maybe even several of them? It may seem impossible that anyone can run or walk for 26 miles over a single stretch of time, but it’s truly just a matter of building endurance. In fact, most healthy people are capable of great feats of endurance with the right level of training. Do you want to learn how to build endurance and stamina so you can go longer, faster, and harder during your workouts?
Here’s everything you need to know about how to build stamina and endurance, including the best endurance building exercises.
Stamina vs. Endurance
Before you learn how to increase stamina, it helps to know what stamina and endurance are. Though the terms “stamina” and “endurance” are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle yet profound difference between the two concepts.
According to the website Healthline, stamina is “the mental and physical ability to sustain an activity for a long period.” Endurance, on the other hand, “refers to your body’s physical capability to sustain an exercise for an extended period.” A good way to understand the difference is that stamina focuses on how you feel, while endurance is all about how your body actually performs. Let’s say you spend three months attending BodyPump™ classes. By the end of the third month, you notice that you don’t feel nearly as tired as you usually do during the class. That’s stamina. You also notice that you were able to use a heavier set of dumbbells and didn’t have to skip any reps. That’s endurance.
As Live Strong explains, “One, however, feeds very much into the other. Improve your stamina, and your endurance will follow.”
What Is Endurance?
Before jumping into endurance building exercises, it’s helpful to understand what is actually happening inside your body as you increase your endurance. The key ingredient to endurance is oxygen. Your muscles demand oxygen in order to function. The better your heart becomes at supplying oxygen and the more efficiently your muscles learn to use oxygen, the farther and longer you can go. Oxygen also triggers the energy systems in your body, allowing your system to turn glucose into the energy your body needs to keep on moving.
Endurance is actually made up of two components: cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. Cardiovascular endurance is all about how well your heart and lungs can work, while muscular endurance is defined by how long your muscles can work without getting tired. Overall endurance requires both cardiovascular and muscular endurance, so the best ways to build endurance include both cardio and strength-training exercises.
Why Improve Your Endurance?
Is it worth the effort to improve your endurance? It certainly is if you have a specific endurance-related goal in mind, such as running your first 10k race, keeping up with your intramural soccer team, or participating in a walk-a-thon for your favorite charity. But what about for everyone else?
Good endurance and stamina can increase your quality of life in many ways. Better stamina makes it easier for you to enjoy exercise, which may help you stick to your fitness routine. It also means keeping up with the kids or grandkids or being able to sprint across the airport to catch your plane. You may find that improved physical endurance also helps you power through your day without feeling fatigued or burned out.
Improving your physical endurance also promotes patience, perseverance, and dedication, all attributes that can translate into success in other parts of life.
Finally, improved endurance is simply good for your health. A scientific paper in the health journal Breathe, summed it up succinctly by saying “Endurance exercise training exerts many positive effects on health, including improved metabolism, reduction of cardiovascular risk, and reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.”
So, ready to learn how to build endurance? Here’s what you need to know.
Best Ways to Increase Stamina and Endurance
Put Yourself in the Right Head Space
Endurance training often requires you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, whether that means performing longer steady state cardio sessions or restricting rest breaks. Make sure you are mentally prepared for more difficult workouts. In an article for Well + Good, nutrition consultant Rachel Gargiulo suggests mindfulness meditation as a way to “manifest a positive mindset” when pursuing endurance-based training.
Cut Down on Rests
One of the easiest ways to improve your endurance is to simply shorten the rest periods of your current workouts. If you usually take 90 seconds between a lifting set, cut that down to 45 seconds. If you perform a minute of running on a treadmill followed by two minutes of walking… you guessed it, cut down on the walking. Even though it can feel uncomfortable to push yourself when you don’t feel fully recovered, this is how you teach your body to get stronger. Just make sure you can always maintain good form while weightlifting.
Push Your Pace
Are you used to running 10-minute miles on the treadmill? If you want to learn how to build running endurance, you’re going to have to push your pace. The same goes for any other type of movement. You can even work on lifting more quickly as long as you maintain your form and do the full range of motion. So, try swimming, cycling, squatting, or even walking a little faster.
Try Interval Training
There is a special type of workout that is practically made to help you increase your cardio and muscular endurance. Interval training and its many different forms, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), are made up of short bursts of intense work followed by periods of active rest. Using an interval training format on something like running may look like 40 seconds of sprinting followed by 20 seconds of jogging for 10 rounds. Interval training forces your body to learn how to recover quickly and improves your tolerance (stamina) for high-intensity work. Many gyms, including EōS Fitness, offer interval and HIIT-based group fitness classes.
Add in Strength Training
Many exercisers make the mistake of assuming that building up fitness endurance requires lots of cardio work. In fact, as Well + Good explains, “If you want to be able to go harder for longer, you have to build the muscles that will make that possible.”
Those who want to know how to improve muscle endurance (which can also help with cardio endurance) should focus on performing more reps at a lighter weight. A good rule of thumb is to perform 10–15 reps per set, so pick an appropriate weight. The last few reps should be difficult.
Increase the Duration of Your Workouts
Interval training can help you perform at a higher intensity for a longer amount of time, but if you want to be able to put in some distance, then you’re going to have to gradually lengthen your workouts. You can’t train for a marathon by doing one-mile workouts. Long-slow-distance ( or long-steady-distance, LSD) training, as Muscle & Performance describes it “involves moving at slower speeds but doing it for long periods of time.” Bring water with you on these workouts and perhaps some of your favorite playlists or podcasts, and then… put in the work. The goal here is not speed or intensity, but simply to go the distance. Start with a shorter duration and then gradually increase over time. (These breathing techniques can help you stay strong during long workouts.)
Any time you want to improve your fitness, you need to give your body the fuel and rest it needs to recover from challenging workouts. While you rest and sleep, your body repairs the damage of the day, allowing you to wake up stronger and fitter. Resting and proper fueling is especially important after a grueling endurance or high-intensity workout. Take rest days. Stretch. Roll out your muscles and tendons. Eat enough healthy calories to fill your depleted stores of energy. All these self-care practices will help you avoid injuries and burn out.
Endurance Building Exercises Aren’t Easy, but You Can Do It
Making your body better isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. By building your endurance, you’ll be able to go farther for longer and feel better doing it. You may even find that you have extra energy throughout the day. If you want to know how to increase stamina and build endurance, buying a gym membership can help. Gyms offer the cardio and strength-training equipment you need to build both cardio and muscle endurance. Gyms also offer classes that can give you great strength and cardio workouts. Finally, if you are struggling with programming your own workouts or finding the motivation to stick to your fitness plan, hiring a personal trainer can keep you on course.