Improving your stamina will benefit all aspects of your life—from daily activities like climbing steps and chasing after your kids to better performance in the gym. Building stamina helps you perform for longer without feeling fatigued and boosts cardiovascular health, which is essential for warding off the risk of cardiovascular disease.
To discover the best-proven ways of improving your stamina, we asked ACE-certified trainer and Founder of Model Trainers, Sean Alexander and Abbey Christie, NASM-certified personal trainer at Model Trainers, for tips.
Meet the Expert
- Sean Alexander is an ACE-certified trainer and Founder of Model Trainers.
- Abbey Christie is a NASM-certified personal trainer at Model Trainers.
Spike the Intensity
“HIIT workouts and explosive movements provide greater benefits for your stamina than repetition of low-intensity exercise. Challenging your body to push through a higher intensity workout trains your body to be more powerful and efficient in the slower or easier version of the movement so that you won’t be tired as quickly,” explains Alexander.
Try adding plyometrics or high-intensity intervals to your workouts between sets, at the end of a strength training session, or as a stand-alone workout.
"Caffeine is basically liquid stamina," says Alexander. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and thousands of weight loss and exercise supplements. "Many studies have shown that caffeine increases both athletic performance and mental focus, the two biggest components of fatigue," says Alexander. To avoid negative side effects, the FDA warns against consuming more than 300mg of caffeine per day.
Clean Up Your Diet
Pay attention to your diet if you plan to increase your stamina. “Take a few days to record what you eat, and assess your current eating habits. When you’re trying to improve your performance, your diet plays an important role in regulating your energy levels,” suggests Christie. You can use an app or record your meals with pen and paper.
So what does the proper diet look like? Christie explains: “A stamina-focused diet will have plenty of calories, complex carbs, and proteins, with adequate levels of fats, vitamins, and minerals. Aim to get as many nutrients from whole food sources as possible to get the biggest bang for your buck.”
Good choices include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. Don't forget healthy fats from fish, nuts, and plant oils. And, of course, stay hydrated with lots of water throughout the day and during your training session.
Reducing the amount of time you spend resting during workouts is an excellent strategy for building stamina. “If you usually sprint 100 meters and then rest and repeat, try adding some active rest to your circuit by replacing the rest time with walking or light jogging in between sprints.—this raises the recovery threshold and allows your body to clear fatigue in between sets by keeping the body moving,” says Christie.
Other methods of active rest include practice reps, mobility exercises, or core work. Practice reps are low weight or bodyweight repetitions performed in place of complete rest times between sets. These, along with mobility or core work, will keep your heart rate up and encourage blood flow.
Harnessing Your Own Body
“Far and away, the most critical tool for improving your stamina is to get specific with the activity you would like to see an improvement. Your body is an incredible adapter, so specializing in one activity and working to improve your efficiency will give you much better results than just generally sustaining a strenuous activity,” says Christie.
For instance, if you want to get better at running, practice running. It may seem obvious, but people often believe that complex methods are needed to improve results. Be consistent and aim for three-to-four sessions per week for 30 minutes or more. Make one of your training sessions longer or more intense than any of your other sessions that week. Try to build your duration, intensity, or frequency each week.
Don't Skip Recovery
Recovery days are vital for building stamina. If you overtrain, your body won't keep up with the demands, and your performance will suffer. You could even increase your chances of getting sick and having bad moods. Take rest days that are still active with walking, light cycling, swimming, or yoga.
Good recovery also means a focus on quality sleep. Without a good night's sleep, your body can't replenish itself and repair the damage done during your training.