- What’s the difference between endurance and stamina?
- How to increase endurance and stamina
- Examples of strength training exercises for beginners and advanced athletes
- What is endurance training, and why is it important?
How to Build Up Endurance and Stamina for Long Races
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, your number one goal is to be better. This notion is especially true for athletes who are constantly competing in long races and national or international championships.
While there are a number of ways to achieve this goal, one surefire approach is to build up endurance and stamina. In this guide, we’ll unravel and list down some of the best ways to improve an athlete’s endurance and stamina and survive long races. We’ll particularly focus on endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming, and triathlon.
Endurance VS. Stamina
Endurance and stamina are often used interchangeably but have characteristics that differentiate them from each other. Endurance solely refers to your body’s ability to do physical activities for an extended period. Stamina, meanwhile, represents the body’s mental and physical capacity to maintain a psychological or physical challenge for an extended period.
Athletes both need improved stamina and endurance to sustain long and demanding races like Ironman triathlons. They need to enhance both the body and mind to conquer challenges and finish races.
How to Increase Endurance and Stamina
Increasing endurance and stamina for long races should be done before the actual race itself, as this is a long, trial and error process. Every athlete’s journey is different, but here are some effective ways to ensure that you have enough endurance and stamina come race day:
Warm up religiously during training and on the actual race day itself. Warm-up exercises like jogging, walking, and knee or leg bends can prepare the body for what’s to come and improve your athletic performance.
“Passive/active warm-ups increase adenosine triphosphate turnover, which reinforces muscular functions, muscle cross-bridge cycling rate, and oxygen uptake kinetics, which significantly affects exercise performance,” confirmed a study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation.
Make sure you warm up 10 to 15 minutes before the long race begins. Target the specific core muscle groups that you’ll mostly utilize during the race, such as the ones in your arms and torso.
Train on Real Environments
Help your body get used to the actual demands of the race by training in real environments, such as open-water or swimming pools, hills, and race tracks. This will condition your body and mind to perform well in the right environment.
For running and cycling, aim to incorporate hill training into your overall program. Running and cycling uphill is the greatest form of training to improve endurance and stamina. Look for publicly accessible hills, mountains, or slopes where you can train and push your limits. Start with slopes with a gentle incline, then try harder at higher slopes as your endurance improves.
For swimming, look for publicly accessible pools or open water that offer the same environmental conditions as the race venue. Swimming alone, on its own, is already a great activity to increase your body’s overall endurance and stamina. When you practice swimming in challenging conditions and environments, you push your body to do more and be more.
It’s best for triathletes to train in all the aforementioned environments, no matter how demanding, since triathlons cover all three endurance sports. However, to avoid overtraining, incorporate real-environment training at least once or twice a week.
Eat Right and On Time
Strengthening your body and improving your endurance is not just about performing exercises; it also involves everything your body consumes. Eat right and on time to ensure that your body functions properly during training and on race day.
Make sure that you’re eating enough because running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, and other endurance sports burn a lot of calories. If weight loss is not part of the picture, make sure that you eat enough calories to fuel your body throughout the race.
For reference, a five-mile run burns around 500 calories, 30 minutes of swimming can burn around 250 calories, and an hour of cycling can burn roughly 500 calories. Athletes should replace all these calories during long races. According to Mayo Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center in America, most athletes need 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight daily for general training. In comparison, endurance athletes may need up to 12 grams per kilogram.
The best food sources for refueling are healthy and unprocessed food rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Just make sure that you don’t load your nutrition plan with too much fiber, as it can cause bloating during long races. Eat your meals on time and avoid eating too late. Drink plenty of water during mealtime and take small sips throughout the day when needed.
To know more about proper hydration and refueling strategies for athletes, including the best food to eat and avoid, check out one of our blogs about what to eat during triathlons.
Incorporate Strength Training
Incorporate strength training into your regular routine, regardless of your sports. Runners, swimmers, cyclists, and triathletes must have sufficient muscle strength based on their weight, height, and goals. Strength training also hits two birds with one stone as it can both improve your muscle endurance and muscle strength.
Here are some examples of strength training that works for beginner and advanced runners, cyclists, swimmers, and other endurance athletes:
- Bench Press
- Chair dips
- Lat Pull Downs
- Single-Leg Deadlift
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press
- Single-Arm Rowing
To create a program, try to add weight training to your strength training program at least twice a week, then aim for at least 150 minutes of cardio exercise for the whole week. If you’re a triathlete, your best option is to follow an interval training pattern that combines muscle strength and muscle endurance exercises.
Go For Hybrid Exercises From Time to Time
Diversify your workouts and improve their intensity as you progress. Hybrid exercises allow you to work on two or more muscle groups simultaneously as they combine basic or compound movements with improved intensity.
Take your workout and training sessions to the next level with these hybrid exercises:
- Renegade Row Push-Ups – Place dumbbells or kettlebells on the ground about shoulder-width apart. Place the weights closer together on the ground with your palms facing in, and do a narrow grip push-up.
- Bicep Curls – Stand holding a dumbbell with both of your arms. Let your arms hang by your sides, your elbows close to your torso, and your palms face forward. With this position, curl the weights up to your shoulder level and contract your biceps.
- Pull-Ups With Knees Tucked Forward or Behind – Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms straight and your legs dangling down. Do a pull-up and tuck your knees into your chest (forward) or your lower butt (behind).
Go for Long Walks or Low-Intensity Runs
Long walks or low-intensity runs are some of the best ways to improve your stamina. By simply moving your body for an extended period, you improve your physical and mental capacity. Beginners can see gradual and impactful changes to their bodies and capabilities through small movements. At the same time, advanced athletes can enjoy instant stamina boosts if they try exercises with varying speeds and intensities.
Meanwhile, walking as part of cross-training gives runners a chance to eliminate muscle pains and aches caused by high-intensity exercises. It can also improve your running skills, capacity, and form.
To apply long walks and low-intensity runs to your routine, walk 30 to 60 minutes continuously or do 5 to 10-minute segments in between your actual routine throughout the day. Keep the pace quick as you progress.
Listen to Music, Podcasts
Listening to music, podcasts, or any other type of media content can not only relieve your boredom and boost energy, but it can also improve the quality of your exercise or training and positively affect your stamina. Some forms of music, podcasts, and even videos can be motivational, so they offer positive physical and psychological effects to listeners.
“A combined music and video intervention has a beneficial effect on exercise of high intensity in conditions that may induce premature fatigue. Video and music may primarily be of use to non-competitive, recreational gym users who are more likely to select dissociative attentional strategies to elongate or tolerate a high-intensity exercise workload,” said a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
Listen to motivational music and talks during your training to improve your workout sessions. As much as possible, choose music with steady beats or talks with topics related to your goals and interests. You can do this during training sessions and on the race day itself.
Decrease Rest Intervals
Decrease rest intervals to some of your daily workouts to maintain your momentum and improve your stamina. Allow yourself to have less rest time if your body can physically do it, except on high-intensity workouts like heavy weightlifting, which may require three to five minutes of rest in between.
Various studies have proved the instant benefits of decreased rest intervals in enhancing an individual’s body composition and muscular strength, so it’s definitely worth trying if you’re looking for ways to boost stamina and endurance instantly.
One study and controlled trial featuring male individuals published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found out that “8 weeks of periodized high-intensity strength resistance training (RT) with shortened rest intervals (RI) induces significantly greater enhancements in body composition, muscular performance, and functional performance, compared to the same RT prescription with extended RI”.
Add meditation to your daily routine before you participate in long races. Meditation is one way to boost stamina, which, as we’ve mentioned before, refers to an individual’s physical and mental capabilities. Due to its therapeutic effects, it can lessen stress and change your cognitive perspective. Some of the best forms of meditation for athletes are yoga, visualization meditation, and resting awareness.
This piece of advice is a no-brainer, but it needs to be cemented in every athlete’s mind. Be consistent during training to increase endurance and stamina. This is the only way to ensure that your body can improve and adapt to various physical and mental challenges with varying intensities.
Consistent training will build and improve your aerobic base, increase your aerobic capacity, and strengthen your muscles. All these factors affect your endurance and stamina in the long run. Consistency is key.
What Is Endurance Training and Why Is it Important?
Some of the listed tips and strategies on this blog are considered endurance training. Athletes should remember that endurance training is important for any workout routine and sport because it changes your overall body composition and functions to adapt to the physical activity you intend to do.
Endurance training, in general, covers all types of exercise activities that test how long and how far your body can work out. There are two types of endurance training to narrow down all these activities: muscular and cardiovascular.
Muscular Endurance Training
Muscular endurance training covers activities that aim to build and maintain muscle strength so that you can perform activities repeatedly for a longer period and in good form. Muscle strength improves by repeating the same activities and adding weights or other challenges to the program.
Cardiovascular Endurance Training
On the other hand, cardiovascular endurance training involves physical activities or workouts that test how well your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart, lungs, and blood vessels, can provide your muscles with oxygen. It basically determines how long you can do an activity without needing to rest. If muscle endurance training plays with the intensity of an activity to test and enhance your endurance, cardiovascular endurance training plays with time to increase your endurance.
Endurance training, as a whole, goes beyond improving an athlete’s ability to compete in distance and demanding events. It’s essential for every individual because of its numerous health benefits. Endurance training can improve metabolism, enhance mental health, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, improve sleeping habits, and increase overall lifespan.
You can surely increase your endurance and stamina by incorporating all the techniques and tips listed above. These strategies and little habits can go a long way—figuratively and literally. Remember that there’s no secret or shortcut to increasing endurance and stamina, so it’s best to start as early as now.