Improving Your Stamina

A lean or muscular body is not the only indicator of a person’s physical fitness. While the bodybuilding community focuses on the idea of achieving the winning physique, there are other factors to consider when evaluating your physical fitness. Common fitness indicators such as strength, endurance, or speed are all worthwhile goals to improve, but there is one factor that often is an oversight: stamina. Stamina combines multiple components of fitness into one category.
What is Stamina? 
Stamina is the mental and physical ability to sustain an activity for a long period. In other words, stamina allows you to: 
Run faster for longer distances
Take longer, more challenging walks or hikes
Lift heavy weights for more reps
Mentally and physically push through perceived pain, discomfort, or fatigue
Have higher energy levels throughout your regular daily activities
Stamina vs. Endurance
You may be thinking “aren’t stamina and endurance the same”? Well, the two terms are similar and are often used interchangeably, but endurance has two types: cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance. Endurance is defined as “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way”. As always, the cardiovascular aspect of endurance involves your heart, lings, and blood vessels’ ability to support exercises like running, cycling, swimming, or rowing. Muscular endurance, however, involves your muscles’ ability to sustain specific repetitive movements while under a given load (weight or resistance), and this is activities like weightlifting or hiking. Both muscular and cardiovascular endurance are key components of stamina. 
Tips to Improve Your Stamina
Increase cardio - A good starting point to increasing your stamina is by increasing the amount of cardio you do. If you lift weights, add 15 minutes of a cardio exercise you enjoy after your weightlifting session. 
Add running intervals - If you are a runner, a good way to dramatically increase your stamina is to incorporate intervals to your runs. This can also be done to cardio workouts such as climbing the Stairmaster. To do this, start your cardio with a brief warm up, then move on to a moderate level intensity. After a period of anywhere from 1-4 minutes, incorporate a short period (30 seconds to start) of high intensity. This can be done by increasing your speed, incline, or a combination of the two. Repeat alternating between moderate and high intensity cardio.
Increase distance or time - Again, you can look at this from a cardio standpoint, for example by running or swimming, increase the time you spend being active, or increase the distance you travel. From a strength training standpoint, increasing the time you spend being active and performing exercises. This can be non-conventional workouts like a bootcamp class, doing things like bear crawls, jump rope, battle ropes, the list goes on. 
High-volume weightlifting - If cardio like running is not your thing, hit the weights but increase the volume of your lifts by increasing the working time – your reps and sets. If you normally do 3 sets for a muscle, increase the sets by one or two. If you typically lift 12 reps, aim for 15-20 reps instead. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about bodybuilders not liking cardio – “Cardio? You mean lifting weights faster?” 
Decrease rest intervals - If you are not timing your rest periods during your workouts, you’re missing out on important markers of your fitness. When you are a beginner, its normal to need a longer rest period after a set or distance. However, as you progress, decreasing that time can increase your performance and stamina. If you normally rest for 1 minute between sets, try to reduce to 45 seconds, and when that is no longer challenging, decrease to 30 seconds. 
HIIT - A true HIIT (High intensity interval training) workout should completely exhaust you by around 15 minutes. If you can continue your workouts beyond 15 minutes (some videos on the internet label themselves as HIIT, but last upwards of 30 minutes), chances are you are not working out hard enough. A proper HIIT workout should require adequate rest for at least a day between HIIT sessions. The most basic example of HIIT training would be 10 second sprints at 100% intensity with a 30 second rest between each sprint. 
Perform more compound movements - Compound exercises incorporate and activate many muscles in your body at the same time, typically a combination of core, upper body, and lower body. Examples of compound exercise are bench press (chest and triceps), deadlifts (targets practically the entire posterior chain and core), squats (core and lower body) and shoulder press (shoulder muscles, traps, and core). Since they work numerous muscle groups at the same time, you are getting the most bang for your buck. 
Give your body plenty of rest – Getting adequate sleep is vital to your recovery. The process of recovery allows you to progressively improve your efforts over time. It is also important to take the occasional rest day. This can be a full day clear of exercise, or perhaps an active rest day, where you do something simple and easy such as taking a walk. 
Fuel and hydrate - Food is fuel, therefore what you put into your body can affect your performance. You might be one of the lucky ones who can maintain their ideal physique by eating cheeseburgers every day (unlikely, but possible if you take the IIFYM approach), however your performance might be adversely affected. Aim to eat whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals, while also getting adequate protein and an overall balanced approach. Secondly, maintaining hydration levels can affect not only your overall stamina but even your daily activities. If you are not properly hydrated, you may experience lower energy or fatigue. 
Ultimately, there are many ways of improving your stamina (and endurance), and to be the most consistent, you might find choosing one of the methods above which best align with the rest of your goals. Choose a method which you are most likely to enjoy (or at least tolerate enough to continue doing it) and stick with it. Consistency is key, and you will notice overall changes with consistency and time.