Stamina (also known as endurance) is the ability to perform an action for a prolonged period of time.
The longer you can perform, the more stamina you have. Increasing your stamina has many benefits, firstly there are the health benefits of an improved cardiovascular system, but there are also performance benefits.
More stamina means better race times when running/cycling/swimming etc … More stamina can also help you to perform better in your chosen sport.
A footballer with better stamina will be able to perform better than their rival if the game goes to extra time.
You’ve probably got a rough idea of how to build stamina – particularly if you were raised on 80s movie montages from films like Rocky!
Just work harder and for longer than your opponents. But there are better ways to build stamina. In this article we will take a look at six methods that you can add to your training that will help build stamina.
1) Progressive Overload
The ancient Greeks discovered that if you woke up every morning and performed 10 push ups you would find it easier and easier over time. Soon that 10th push up would feel as easy to you as the first push up did a few weeks back.
This is because your strength and stamina would have increased making the task easier. However, after a while your performance would plateau.
There’s only so much progress you can make without pushing yourself further. It’s the same with running (or whichever cardiovascular exercise you pick).
If you go for a 400m run every day using the same pace you will find it easier and easier but see no real progress.
You need to increase the challenge. Perform more push ups, run faster or further. Push yourself. But just adding a load more push ups or running faster isn’t the most effective way of doing this. Instead, consider setting small targets.
Next time, instead of 10 push ups try 12 or 15. Make sure that you stop when your form begins to fail. Record this and try to improve on it next time.
This is known as progressive overload. It is all about setting small targets to increase the amount of work performed so that your body has to adapt rather than plateau.
It is very popular with strength athletes and bodybuilders but is also used by people looking to increase their stamina.
Why not try hopping on to a fitness bike and trying to cycle a 10km distance?
Mark your time down and try to lower it by 1-5% next time you are on there. The difference will be almost imperceptible at first, but if you keep doing this you should see a huge change in your stamina.
If you are looking for a short-term boost to your stamina, then you could try using caffeine.
Drinking a black coffee (or taking a caffeine pill) has been shown to reduce your perception of pain, allowing you to train harder and produce more power.
This can help lead to huge increases in stamina.
3) Sleep More
It might seem a bit odd putting “sleep more” after recommending caffeine just one entry earlier. But sleep is a seriously underrated tool when it comes to fitness and stamina.
Studies have shown that better sleep has led to significant improvements in sporting ability and a reduction in the rate of perceived exertion (i.e. people think that they are working less than they are) .
If you want to run for longer, or last longer on your fitness bike then perhaps you should consider getting a full 8 hours each night.
Like caffeine, creatine has been repeatedly shown to improve endurance. Not by lowering pain like caffeine does though.
Creatine increases endurance by allowing your muscles to store more energy.
Creatine has had some bad press in the past, but there really isn’t a more well-researched supplement out there. Definitely worth thinking about if you want to boost your stamina.
Think about when you first learned to swim or ride a bike. Your technique would have been terrible to begin with, and there would have been a lost of wasted energy.
Kicking your legs to hard and making a huge splash in the water for example. Or wobbling while on a bike. It would take you twice as long to complete a length of the pool as it would once you had mastered your technique.
In running this is known as running economy, but it can apply to any form of exercise. The better your technique becomes, the more efficient your body is.
This means that you can perform more of the action (swimming, cycling, running etc) while using the same number of calories.
If your technique has improved, then your stamina will improve too.
5) Marginal Gains
The final way to improve your stamina is to look at something called marginal gains.
It’s a coaching technique promoted by Dave Brailsford, one of the most successful cycling coaches of all time. He was working with some of the best athletes in the world and trying to make them better.
As you can imagine, once somebody is an elite athlete there isn’t too much of an improvement that you can make. But Brailsford realised that by taking every advantage no matter how small he could create lots of small improvements. When added together they made a significant improvement.
For example, finding a good running shoe is not going to make a huge difference to your stamina. Training hard, following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep is going to be responsible for 90% of your stamina improvements.
However, a good running shoe may contribute 1%. Taking a multivitamin may contribute 0.2%. Meditation before a run may contribute 0.5% etc …
All of these tiny changes may not make a difference alone, but they can all contribute marginally.
Priorities progressive overload, concentrate on improving your technique, and getting enough sleep. But if you have done as much as you can, consider small changes such as the ones mentioned above. They won’t make a huge difference, but every little change can help.