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Ah, yes, stamina – that necessary ingredient to continual achievement, productivity, goal optimization, and overall ability to move through life.
It is defined as the bodily and mental capacity to endure a prolonged effort or activity. Without stamina, you can fall down never to get back up or be seen again.
Importance of Stamina
Stamina allows the body to better adapt to outside stressors in order to achieve optimal functioning. During a long slow distance cardiovascular exercise, aka LSD, your body adapts to the physical stressors of the movement via the external force.
Your capacity to tolerate the stressors and function better correlates to:
- The duration of the exercise (amount of time you are doing the exercise)
- The intensity of the exercise (the speed at which you are performing the exercise)
- The frequency of the exercise (how many times you are doing the exercise per week)
Let’s say you are a beginner runner and you have 3 months to train for your first 5 K run. First of all, good for you!
Second, you are going to need to build up your stamina by:
- Incrementally adding distance to your training runs (you may even start out walking)
- Increasing the speed at which you run, such as from a 15-minute mile pace to a 12-minute mile pace
- Adding days to your training schedule
Your body is going to adapt to the stress of training and will build stamina over time.
Exercises to Increase Stamina
According to the American Heart Association, adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise, which equates to 30 minutes of steady-state low-impact walking/jogging/biking/swimming for 5 days a week. (1)
Bear in mind that exercise is cumulative. That means you could take two 15-minute brisk walks per day and meet the recommended minimum requirement.
Note: As with any new exercise program, be sure to check with your health care provider first if you have any heart condition, diabetes, or other chronic illnesses to ensure the exercise is appropriate for you.
Some great exercises to improve your stamina are as follows:
Walking is an excellent low-impact cardiovascular exercise and is often overlooked. Doing two 15-minute walks per day at a brisk pace will boost your stamina and help reduce stress levels.
Running will get your heart pumping right out of the gate. If you are a beginner runner, aim to walk for 2 minutes and then run for 2 minutes, until you reach 30 minutes total. Continue to shorten the time you walk until you build up enough stamina to run the whole 30 minutes.
Bicycling is a super fun way to move your major muscle groups with a low impact on the musculoskeletal system and big gains for your heart strength.
4. Stair climbing
Stair climbing will raise your heart rate and stamina quickly because of the muscle groups involved in the movement and because you are propelling your body up.
Hiking is one of the best ways to boost stamina and be exposed to the beauty of nature.
6. Strength training
Strength training is a great way to build lean muscle, increase bone density, and improve overall functionality.
Dancing is a great exercise to increase stamina and de-stress, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home!
8. Vinyasa yoga
Vinyasa yoga, which literally translates to linking breath with movement, is also an excellent stamina builder. Do 30-minute to 90-minute practices, 2–6 days per week, to gain maximum benefit.
Lifestyle Tips to Help Boost Stamina
Aside from doing the proper exercises, the following also need to be considered when building stamina:
Adequate hydration is a key component in ensuring that your muscles have the proper nourishment to function optimally. Most people need to drink 8–10 glasses of water per day.
Carry a 24-oz water bottle with you daily, and make it a goal to fill it up three times to help keep track of your water intake. (2)
2. Proper breathing
Breathing properly during exercise is key to optimizing your stamina. Proper breathing techniques with each exercise facilitate optimal muscular functioning. If you hold your breath during exercise, you are not engaging the muscle groups properly and risk injury.
Furthermore, when you concentrate on your breath and body connection, your mind has no choice but to be present where the body is. This mind-body connection encourages the practice of being present, which enhances focus, mental clarity, and reduces stress. (3)
Make sure you have adequate sleep. Your body is not a robot and needs complete uninterrupted sleep to gain important benefits. (4) Keep these tips in mind for better sleep habits:
- No Wi-Fi or TV 1 hour before sleep.
- Your last meal should be 3 hours before sleep.
- Keep all electronics outside the bedroom.
- Practice reflecting on gratitude, mediation, gentle yoga, or other mindful practices before sleep.
- Set up a bedtime routine, giving it importance equal to your morning routine.
- Trust you did your best during that day’s activities/work, and seek to improve each day incrementally. No need to travel down the worry lane.
Make sure you are getting enough dark leafy greens, nutrient-dense carbohydrates, good-quality fat found in avocados and coconut oil, and proteins that support your nutritional needs and preferences. Minimize or eliminate sugar altogether.
A Quick Stamina-Building Routine
Here is a favorable way to increase stamina if you are short on time and want maximum returns with low impact to your joints (it does require access to a treadmill or can be done outside with access to a good hill):
- Warm-up for 1–3 minutes. Alternate walking lunges, alternating arm-leg reach, and bodyweight squats, followed by stretching the quadriceps, calf muscles, and gluteal muscles.
- Start walking on the treadmill at an easy, comfortable pace with no incline for 1–2 minutes.
- After the 2-minute mark, increase your treadmill’s incline either to the max or a couple points less, and increase your walking pace to just before you need to jog for 1 minute. Make sure you hold onto the handrails.
- After 1 minute, decrease your incline by 4–5 points while maintaining your speed.
- After that minute, decrease your incline back to zero and lower your speed for a rest pace duration of 1–2 minutes.
- Repeat this cycle multiple times, according to your convenience, until you’ve reached 30 minutes max.
This quick and simple exercise will boost the release of endorphins in your body and help you increase your stamina.
What Hinders Stamina?
The biggest myth around stamina is that you have to do MORE to build it, leading to not taking enough time to recover between training sessions.
To prevent burnout, make sure your training program has planned recovery days where you are exerting less force, such as:
- Just walking instead of running
- Doing low-weight-bearing exercises, such as swimming, for 30 minutes at a slow and steady pace
- Taking a gentle yoga class
- Getting a massage
All of these activities offer the much-needed rest and recovery for your body to work even better the next time you have an intense training day.
Being able to stand through a long, hectic day requires endurance and determination. Stamina not only helps you become stronger and sustain adverse situations, but it also benefits your general physical and mental health.
You can build your stamina gradually and do away with fatigue through simple exercises such as walking and dancing.