You don’t have to be training for an Ironman to want to increase your stamina. Often referred to as endurance, stamina is essentially your body’s ability to sustain a physical or mental effort for a long period of time. Perhaps you’ve been slacking lately (who could blame you?) and haven’t exercised in a bit. All it takes is a few minutes of exertion to make it clear that you don’t have the ability you once did and you’re forced to slow down or stop.
Not to worry: You can build it back up and then some. The more regularly you exercise, the longer you’ll be able to last. And the more you’ll get out of each exercise. Without getting too technical, the science behind getting fit has a lot to do with your VO2 Max (your ability to use oxygen efficiently during exercise). The greater your VO2 Max, the less likely you are to run out of breath and the more you’ll be able to put into a workout.
Stamina is built up over time, not all at once. Every time you push yourself so that you’re tired and out of breath, your lungs are forced to adapt and the stronger you’ll become. A common rookie move is to just pile on the cardio like jogging or cycling. But that’s only one part of the equation. In order to go longer and harder, you’ll need to kickstart your body in a number of ways. Here are five proven methods personal trainers prescribe.
Find Some Steps
Usually having to run up a stairwell is a punishment for being late. But it can be used to supercharge your stamina, says Jono Castano, co-owner of Acero Training Series. Make a workout from running up and down a few sets until you’re winded. The higher the heart rate, the more oxygen we need to take in, leaving us breathless, he says. But if you do just enough to push past your limit, you’ll gain more endurance each time.
Reduce Your Rest
In order to increase muscle endurance, your best bet is to limit your rest time between sets. This will vary depending on how much you’re currently resting, but try shaving at least 30 seconds off your current time between sets. To help accommodate this, research published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Research suggests opting for circuit workouts with less resistance and more repetitions, resting for 30 seconds or less between exercises. In other words: prepare to be huffing and puffing at the end of that circuit.
We’ve spoken before about the benefits of compound movements—the exercises that engage several large and small muscle groups simultaneously. Because those dreaded burpees, squats, push-ups and pull-ups require so many muscles and joints at one time, they can be taxing on the body. But in a very good way.
There’s a time and a place for keeping a steady pace, but if you’re looking to increase stamina, you’ll want to turn up the intensity. According to Erica Giovinazzo, registered dietitian and CrossFit coach, the simplest way to do that is to add in some intervals at an explosive sprint pace. It could be running, but also cycling or rowing. She says you’ll know you’ve increased the intensity when you’re out of breath and feel that good burning sensation in whatever muscles are being worked.
Switch Things Up
When it comes to building endurance, routine is the enemy. The human body will start to get used to a workout after two weeks of the same movements. So if you’re consistently skipping rope, try swapping in some burpees instead. If you like cycling, change it up by running stairs. The different movements help your muscles to adjust and adapt. Plus, it’s good for motivation because you’re not used to the new routine.