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How To Increase Stamina Without Running

Stamina is central to performing well in endurance sports. As runners, we usually build stamina for running by…well, by running, of course. But as with most things in life, it’s good to have some variation. Whether it’s for cross-training to increase fitness, or to alleviate the boredom of routine, there are are many good reasons to build stamina in ways other than running.

This article will teach you how you can increase your stamina without going for a run. We’ll discuss what stamina is and why it’s important. We’ll also review why you should build it without running, and how exactly you can do that…

What is Stamina?

Stamina means the ability, energy, and strength to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. You can also think about it as endurance. It’s when you keep going even when you’re tired and want to stop.

If you want to boost the productivity of your heart, lungs, and muscles, you need to have physical stamina. If you want to be mentally ready to take on a race and make sure that you can push through the end, you need mental stamina.

To use running coach Matt Fitzgerald’s terminology, stamina is saying that you want it bad and you’re willing to work for it. But this takes time to develop, and you’ll likely need to do more than just running in order to be successful in building stamina.

Stamina is especially important for endurance sports like running because of the duration of workouts and races. You have to keep pushing hard through the end, whether that’s a 5k or a full marathon.

Why Build Stamina Without Running?

If stamina is so great and you can build it running, especially the longer the distance, why bother doing anything else except running?

Well, first, it’s another way to add cross-training to your workout routine. You can develop stamina in many ways.

Second, increased stamina will make you a stronger runner in the long run. Always keeping your body guessing is the key to seeing progress and improvement. Using a variety of different workouts to increase stamina will translate to your running.

3 Ways to Increase Stamina Without Running

Stamina just means pushing yourself so that you’re tired at the end and know that you did the most that you could at that time. As you keep pushing harder and harder, you will improve your endurance and stamina.

1. Add a HIIT Program to Your Workout Routine

If you want to improve your endurance, one of the best ways to do it is through High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. You won’t have to sustain exercises for long, but the intervals are going to be intense.

If you want to become fitter quickly, you have to do HIIT. You’ll do short bits of cardio exercise that can last anywhere from 10 seconds to five minutes, and you’ll have short rest breaks in between.

If you’re going full throttle, you likely won’t have to sustain that for anymore than 30 seconds, but if you’re at 90% or so of your max heart rate, you’ll sustain it for longer, like 3-5 minutes. For your rest periods, they will be the same time or shorter than your exercises.

One study found that just two minutes of sprint interval training can help improve your performance and stamina, thus proving that HIIT is a powerful way to get fit quick. It helps you burn fat quickly if you want to get more trim.

Additionally, research shows that you’ll improve your ability to think and increase your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which you use for learning, memory, and mood. If you typically are cranky, or need to study for something, HIIT will do the trick.

Plus, since you don’t need as much time, HIIT is great for busy days. Need to get out the door early in the morning? You can still get a quick 15-minute HIIT workout in. Home late from work? You can likely wedge a short workout in before dinner and bed.

2. Decrease Rest Time Between Reps While Strength Training

Another way to increase your endurance is to decrease your rest time between reps while strength training. If you’re already in a good regimen and don’t want to add HIIT workouts just yet, you can change up what you’re already doing.

By decreasing rest time, you’ll have to push harder through your workout. Your muscles will be burning as you drip with sweat at the end of your session. You’ll have to want it enough to push through. But the more you do it, the more you’ll start to see progress.

Another option is to reduce your weight and increase the number of reps. If you’ve gotten used to doing three reps, your body will have to work harder to get through five reps, even if there isn’t as much weight.

If you want to build stamina, you can also add some rapid-pace lifting to your strength training. This boosts endurance, although it’s not as good for building muscle.

3. Add Cardio Workouts to Routine

In order to build stamina, you have to train your body how to push through things it doesn’t like and to power through new things as well. If you typically have an intense cardio running workout routine, add some new cardio into the mix.

You can try cycling, rowing, swimming, the elliptical, or pool running. Switch some of your cardio to another sport. You’ll reduce your risk of injury from overuse because you’ll be working different muscle groups. Pool running and swimming are especially good for this.

It might even encourage you to start training for a duathlon (biking and running) or triathlon (swimming, biking, and running) to change up your race schedule some once you get more comfortable with a variety of different cardio.

Don’t forget that other team sports are also great forms of cardio. Get together a group of friends and just move around a lot. This can include badminton, basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball.

Final Thoughts

In the end, just think of stamina as working hard and being able to sustain that effort for a long period of time. While it’s great to develop stamina through running, you can do it in other ways as well.

By varying up your routine, you’ll not only become more physically fit, but also you’ll become a better runner. And you won’t get as bored with the same old exercise routine.

If you want to be able to answer Matt Fitzgerald’s question, “How bad do you want it?” with “Very bad!” and be able to push through any run and any race even when you don’t feel like it, you need to build up your stamina, with and without running.

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner