Have you ever found yourself winded from climbing the stairs? You're not alone. Whether you're an avid runner or a person who enjoys a long walk once or twice a week, endurance plays a big part in both our daily lives and our fitness routines. To help increase our stamina, we reached out to Ben Wegman, a trainer at The Fhitting Room.
Just as the act of working out is important, so too is increasing our stamina. According to Wegman, endurance is a significant part of any physical activity, as it "increases the amount of oxygen in the body, therefore increasing or boosting your ability to perform an exercise for a longer period." Be it carrying groceries into the house or running a marathon, endurance activities benefit "every aspect of your life," says Wegman.
Read on for Wegman's seven tips on how to build endurance.
Meet the Expert
Ben Wegman is a trainer at The Fhitting Room, offering small, challenging workouts live or on-demand. Ben is Fhitting Room's Chief Curriculum Officer with several certifications, including Kettlebell Concepts, PROnatal Fitness Pre and Post Natal, TRX, and Kettlebell Athletics.
"Too often, endurance is sacrificed for simple, heavy strength training or steady-state cardio," says Wegman. To be a well-rounded athlete, he suggests adding endurance work to your everyday fitness routine, as studies show that sessions of sprint interval training increase aerobic performance and endurance capacity. To add intervals to your workouts, Wegman suggests breaking up your cardio routine with a few short stints of sprints.
Catch Some Zs
A good night's rest is essential to building endurance. "Being well rested allows your body to work longer and harder simultaneously," says Wegman. So just what qualifies a good night's sleep? According to a 2021 study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, seven to nine hours is ideal, and even more may be necessary if you're an athlete. Less sleep than that can negatively affect your appetite, metabolism, and performance. If you struggle to get enough sleep, try increasing your current sleep cycle by an hour, and see if it improves your fitness endurance.
Eat A Balanced Diet
According to a review in the journal Sports Medicine, appropriate nutrition improves athletic performance, conditioning, and recovery. According to Wegman, a balanced diet, specifically one with healthy carbohydrates like whole-grain rice and bananas, is essential to increasing fitness endurance instead of their more heavily processed counterparts. For a breakdown on eating healthily, check out these nine commandments for a balanced diet, as told to Byrdie by nutritionists Kelly LeVeque and Elissa Goodman. Don't forget to keep hydrated when you're working on endurance, too, and add electrolytes if you're exercising for over an hour or in humid conditions.
Before any exercise, make sure you warm up your body by performing dynamic movements and active stretches.
Don't Stick To A Routine
According to Wegman, "routine is endurance's number one enemy." Instead of growing comfortable with a specific workout like strength training, Wegman suggests changing "your workouts and intervals to consistently challenge your body in new ways." To mix up your regular workout routine, try a program like ClassPass, where you can experiment with various workout classes at different studios.
Wegman says that "fitness endurance pushes you beyond your known limits." To challenge your expectations and your body, Wegman suggests being open-minded to new workouts. Get out of your comfort zone and try something like boxing, yoga, or rock climbing, as pushing your limits and setting new goals will not only help increase your physical endurance but will also "open your mind to other areas in your life where you can go farther or succeed more than expected," says Wegman.
Low Intensity, High Repetition Exercises
"Low intensity, high rep skills are a great way to improve endurance simply because low intensity, high rep work trains the body to normalize continuous motion," says Wegman. Using a lower weight during strength training, for example, allows you to lift more repetitions than if you go heavy, building muscle endurance that transfers over to other activities like running or biking. "As reps increase, there is a gradual transition from strength to endurance-building work. By working high rep, low intensity, you will increase your endurance when moving back to high-intensity exercise," adds Wegman.
Decrease Recovery Time Between Sets
"Decreasing recovery time between sets forces your muscles to work when they are under duress or tired, which is how most of us feel after a long day at work," explains Wegman. Training yourself to take shorter rests and getting back to it before you're fully recovered can help build resilience. "By decreasing your recovery time between sets, you are actually training the body to improve work capacity and perform better when tired. This also means the body can push longer, not stopping when those first signs of fatigue creep up," he says.
Up The Duration Of Workouts
And of course, if you want to perform longer, practice makes perfect. Training yourself to keep pushing by monitoring and recording how long your workouts last can help. "If you want to increase endurance, you have to train the body to do so. That means gradually putting forth physical effort for longer and longer periods," says Wegman.
But how do you do that? Wegman offers this advice: "Start by increasing one of your weekly workouts by a small time frame, say five minutes. The following week you could increase another workout by five minutes or increase that same workout to 10 minutes. Stay consistent as you up the duration, and you will see the benefits everywhere." And don't forget to keep track of your progress so you can see how far (or long) you've come.
Koral J, Oranchuk DJ, Herrera R, Millet GY. Six sessions of sprint interval training improves running performance in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2018;32(3):617-623. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002286
Sargent C, Lastella M, Halson SL, Roach GD. How much sleep does an elite athlete need? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2021:1-12. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2020-0896
Spriet LL. Performance nutrition for athletes. Sports Med. 2019;49(Suppl 1):1-2. doi:10.1007/s40279-018-1027-9