A large part of running is building stamina to run faster and farther.
But as a beginner, stamina can be difficult to increase! And advanced runners might feel plateaued. But even pro athletes at the top of their game are constantly working on boosting their stamina.
The good news is that you don’t have to run more to build up your stamina. If you’re interested in learning how to increase stamina without running, we’re going to cover how to do that in this article!
Building stamina is one of the best reasons to cross-train, especially strength training. Let’s get into all you need to know about increasing your stamina to perform better.
What is Stamina?
Stamina is the ability to sustain a particular effort for a prolonged period of time. In this case, you’re most likely thinking of stamina in terms of the ability to continue running for a long period, which is physical stamina. But mental stamina is also important—the ability to push yourself through a difficult process or experience.
Both types of stamina are important when it comes to running and exercise. You need to be able to perform physically. But it’s easier to fade early if you don’t have mental stamina.
Physical and mental stamina work hand-in-hand, although it can be easier to build physical stamina than mental stamina!
Why is It Important to Have Stamina?
Good stamina is a must if you want to do any sort of competitive sport. If you’re simply a casual runner, you might not be too worried if you can’t sustain a strong effort over a longer amount of time. A quiet, relaxed run around the block might be enough for you.
But if you want to do well in races, you must have the power and the stamina to see it through. You need to be able to perform, but not just short-term. You need to perform well throughout your race, whether a 5K or a 50K.
Stamina is about performing well over a longer time. If you have poor stamina, you won’t be able to run for too long without stopping to catch your breath or shake your legs out. Your focus may also suffer.
But with good stamina, you can perform at a higher level for a longer. This means getting ahead of other runners in the race, maintaining your pace, staying focused on your goal, and constantly improving.
If you don’t want to compete but are interested in boosting your fitness levels, stamina is also a key factor. So in most cases, doing what you can to increase it is beneficial.
Are Stamina and Endurance the Same?
Using “stamina” and “endurance” interchangeably is common, but they’re slightly different. Both are good to have, though.
- Stamina: This is how long you can perform at or close to maximum capacity.
- Endurance: This is how long you can perform a particular action (but it doesn’t have to be at max capacity).
It’s worth noting that there are two types of endurance: cardiovascular and muscular. Stamina is usually referred to in terms of muscular or mental.
In a nutshell, stamina refers to maximizing your output—your energy, your strength, and your effort. Endurance refers to maximizing your time—pacing yourself to do whatever you’re doing for longer.
What Affects Stamina?
We all have inherent stamina in us, but as they say… Use it or lose it! It can begin to decrease if you don’t work on keeping your stamina up. And once it’s down, it’s hard work to get it back up again.
We lose stamina naturally as we age. Your muscle mass begins to decrease, and so it becomes more important to take steps to stay strong, healthy, and increase stamina.
Inactivity and poor fitness levels also reduce stamina. The fitter you are, the more stamina you’ll have—although it’s worth noting that you can be fit for one sport and unable to maintain stamina for another!
Eating an unhealthy diet will also affect your stamina since you aren’t fueling your body with the nutrients it needs to push through. If you’re carrying extra weight, you might also find it difficult to maintain stamina.
Benefits of Having Great Stamina
Increasing your stamina can have excellent benefits. Here are some of the things you’ll experience during exercise when you work on boosting it.
Improved Energy Efficiency
Stamina isn’t about having more energy to get through your activity. It’s about using your energy more efficiently. The better stamina you build, the more effectively you’ll be able to utilize your energy. Less energy = more output over time.
As you fatigue, staying focused on your goal and what you must do to achieve it becomes harder. But the more you improve your stamina, the easier it becomes to keep your mind focused on your run.
Remember, stamina is about both mental and physical. Improving both will help you to stay focused on the outcome on longer runs, pushing you through to the finish.
If you’re using your energy more efficiently and finding it easier to focus on the end goal, the only outcome is better performance. As long as you continue to push yourself towards your goals, you should see an improvement in your running and any sports you do.
How to Increase Stamina Without Running
The best way to increase stamina for running is NOT necessarily more running. Mixing things up keeps you on your toes and forces your body to do something different. Plus, it helps keep things interesting!
Do Cardio Cross-Training
Sprinkling in other cardio-based forms of cross-training can help boost your stamina and break up the monotony of running.
Some forms of cardio are better than others for building stamina. You want something that will challenge your cardiovascular system and muscles – HIIT workouts are a great option – and something you can do easily to supplement your running.
Cycling is another excellent way to build muscular endurance in your legs and boost your stamina. Rowing is another great option that’s fantastic at building stamina. Other, less common options include jumping rope and boxing.
Whatever cardio you choose, split your cardio workouts between steady-state sessions and HIIT sessions. You only need one or two HIIT workouts per week, or you’ll risk overtraining and injuring yourself.
HIIT cardio burns more calories for a longer period of time after the workout. But it also develops stamina better than steady-state cardio. You’re effectively training your body to perform on less oxygen and energy by reducing your rest periods between bouts of all-out effort.
Translate this to running when you get back on the road, and you should be able to run faster and farther on the same amount of oxygen than you did before.
Decreased Rest Time During Strength Training
The principle of reducing your rest time between sets in the gym is similar to the idea of HIIT cardio. By not allowing your body to recharge fully before going into the next set, you’re training it to be able to do more with less. Lift more with less energy.
You could also do two exercises back-to-back, also called supersets. In this case, you go straight from one set into a set of a different exercise without resting. Then, you take a short rest before going into your next superset.
Speed Up Your Lifting Sessions
As well as reducing your rest, you can also speed up your sets. Be careful with this, though—you still need to maintain proper form and keep that mind-muscle connection strong.
Just aim to move through your set without significant rests between each lift. This might be easier with things like bicep curls, but it may feel more difficult when it comes to the big lifts like squats and deadlifts!
Add Plyometrics to Your Routine
Plyometrics are explosive movements that can boost your muscle power. They target your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are larger and more powerful, training them to contract and expand more explosively.
Doing them regularly helps build muscle, increase agility, and boost your cardiovascular endurance. All of which helps build your stamina! Add exercises like box jumps, explosive push-ups, and burpees to your routine.
Fuel Yourself Properly
You can do all the training exactly right, but if you aren’t fueling yourself properly, it’ll all go to waste. We’re not talking about fueling during a race here, but rather how you fuel yourself daily.
Your diet needs to complement your training. A whole-food diet with high protein and moderate carbohydrate levels will give you the nutrients you need to stay as healthy as possible. The healthier you are and the more nutrients your body gets, the more easily you’ll build stamina.
Don’t forget that staying hydrated is also important. If you’re dehydrated, your performance suffers, so get this right if you want to perform well.
If you aren’t well rested, your stamina is going to suffer. This doesn’t just mean you need to get a good rest the night before—you need to cultivate a habit of getting a good 7 to 9 hours every night.
Aside from sleeping for those hours, your sleep must be good quality. During deep sleep, your body heals, essential for great performance and staying power.
Strengthen Your Mind
Don’t place all your focus on physical stamina, and forget to train your mental stamina! It’s a little harder than working on physical stamina but worth working on. You can try things like:
- Mindfulness meditations
- Brain-training games