How to Build Stamina Safely and Effectively

Fitness Tips

How to Build Stamina Safely and Effectively

Stamina is one of the foundations of a fulfilling and healthy life.

Whether climbing the corporate ladder, running after active toddlers or building lean muscle at the gym, your stamina level determines how much you can do and how quickly you can recover.

Here are some signs that you could benefit from incorporating stamina-building strategies into your fitness program. Do you:

  • Feel exhausted after a workout instead of refreshed?
  • Work out regularly but don't seem to be getting any stronger?
  • Avoid important tasks or events because they are too physically demanding?
  • Catch every bug that comes around the office?
  • Get enough sleep but still feel weak or have low energy?
  • Have the energy or strength to do everything you'd like?
  • Feel like your body can't keep up with your mind?

Good stamina includes a range of physiological factors, including lung capacity, a well-conditioned endocrine system, good heart health and optimum lean body mass. Improving your stamina means you'll need to tweak your daily habits and steadily increase your fitness capacity.

Nutrition

Don't diet and don't fast. Calorie or carb-restricted diets are not a good choice when thinking about increasing stamina.

It's more important to focus on replacing refined carbs with whole grain alternatives and ditching unhealthy trans fats for heart-healthy omega-3-rich sources such as fish or nuts. Reduce your intake of sugar and caffeine, and eat small helpings of protein-rich foods with each meal. Add in plenty of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables.

Hydration is essential -- don't overlook it! Add lemon, orange slices, mint and other goodies to your water pitcher for added minerals and flavor.

Exercise

Cardio is the staple of any stamina-building program.

Increasing lung capacity and strengthening the heart muscle should be your primary objectives. Going too hard is much worse, meaning it's better to err on the side of less intensity. Your best friend is a good heart monitor, especially if you are in the habit of overdoing it. Aim for maintaining a heart rate at about 60 percent of your resting heart rate. Following a cardio workout you should feel pleasantly energized and relaxed, but not exhausted. (While being sure not to overdo intensity, the American Heart Association recommends that you should try to get at least 150 minutes of cardio each week.)

Building lean muscle is the other component of a stamina-building program. Focus on compound moves such as squats, lunges, pull-ups and push-ups. The correct form can be a challenge, so take the time to master it. Familiarize yourself with the machines and equipment at your gym or ask for a guided tour. These machines can help you learn the proper alignment and form while you develop the strength to perform key body weight moves on your own.

Pacing yourself is key. Shorter and more frequent workouts can work better than marathon sessions. Increase the time you spend incrementally, never pushing yourself to the max. Use your heart monitor to measure your intensity and slow down if you need to, even if you're taking a class.

Rest

While you sleep, your body repairs itself, and this improves your overall endurance. The great news is that better endurance also improves sleep cycles. If you aren't sleeping well, try limiting stimulating activities and exercise in the late evening. Cut out caffeine and energy drinks after the early afternoon, or at least eight hours before bedtime.

Rest isn't just for nighttime. Downtime during the day is also essential for wellness. Pace yourself during the day with micro-naps, deep breathing and relaxation. These actions will help to keep the endurance well from going dry. If you're lucky enough to control your own schedule, plan to have down time. Even if you work in an office, you can straighten your shoulders, breathe deeply and use your break time to relax and renew your mind and body.

Setting limits instead of pushing past boundaries is integral for building and maintaining stamina, both in the gym and outside of it. Always be sure to pace yourself and put your own health first.

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