Looking to improve your stamina to run further, faster, and for longer?
You might run competitively, you might not. But either way, every runner wants to improve their performance and achieve new PRs.
Stamina plays a big part in how far you can run, as well as how long you can run for at a certain intensity.
It’s ultimately a measure of the health and strength of your cardiovascular system, which transports oxygen and blood to your muscles to help them continue to work.
Understanding stamina, endurance, and how to increase both of these might sound overwhelming right now, but this guide is going to tell you everything you need to know.
What Is Stamina?
This is worth understanding first, since most people get it wrong! While stamina is often thought of as the ability to run for long periods—which is true—it actually means something more specific than that.
Stamina is the ability to maintain a physical activity at a set intensity (output level).
So, in running, stamina is the ability to run, essentially at a set pace, without slowing down.
To provide an example, running at a set pace (speed) and making sure to maintain that pace for as long as possible would be a test of stamina!
What Is Endurance?
Like stamina, most people use endurance to refer to running for long periods. Again, they’re not wrong, but endurance also means something more specific than that.
Endurance is the ability to maintain a physical activity over time.
And for running specifically, endurance is the ability to simply keep running, regardless of the intensity.
To provide an example, running at any pace (speed) for as long as possible, without stopping, would be a test of endurance!
Stamina Vs Endurance
So, is there a difference between stamina and endurance?
If you made it through the above definitions, you’ll now know that yes, there is a difference between stamina and endurance.
While stamina means sustaining a physical activity at a certain intensity, endurance means sustaining a physical activity – at any intensity.
Stamina is more important for sprinting, for example, while endurance is more important for long-distance running.
Overall, the difference between stamina and endurance isn’t huge, and both can refer to running for long distances.
But stamina is more about sustaining a certain intensity while endurance is more about sustaining the physical activity itself (at any intensity).
How To Increase Stamina
With the definitions and differences out of the way (phew), let’s get to the main part: how to increase stamina for running.
This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but the best way to increase stamina for running is to simply get out and run. The more you run, the more your stamina will improve, allowing you to run for longer periods.
However, what’s important here is to monitor your performance—specifically, your running pace over a set time or distance—to be able to have a foundation that you can improve on.
Tracking these metrics is possible with a running app or GPS fitness tracker.
You can also increase your stamina by managing your breathing. Since stamina is linked to cardiovascular health, breathing is super important for running (any exercise for that matter).
Focus on regulating your breathing while running, using deep inhales and steady exhales.
Lastly, you can increase your stamina by doing other exercises, aside from running.
Sprinting, swimming, cycling, and workouts involving HIIT or plyometrics are all going to challenge your stamina, with benefits that will transfer over to your runs.
Other ways to increase stamina simply include maintaining a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep!
How To Increase Endurance
Since endurance is another factor (different from stamina) that affects running performance, it’s also worth knowing how to improve it.
Like stamina, you can increase your endurance by getting out and running more. But instead of tracking your running pace over a set distance or period of time, what’s more important here is tracking overall time and distance – full stop.
Simply run for as long as you can with each run, pushing yourself to go further than your usual limit!
Once again, these metrics can be monitored using a GPS fitness tracker or running app.
Breathing is also important when it comes to increasing endurance, as well as maintaining a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep.
It’s possible to improve your endurance by doing other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming and cycling.
And since endurance is key for running long distances (such as marathons), carb-loading and keeping hydrated are vital for fuelling and sustaining your endurance!
Mental Stamina & Mental Endurance
Stamina, as well as endurance, are not just physical. Mental stamina and mental endurance are real things, both referring to your mental ability to sustain an activity over a period of time.
For running, this is your willpower and determination to keep going – whether that’s at a certain running pace or for a set distance or time. In other words: your ability to continue even if you feel tired.
Of course, it’s important to stop running when you are completely fatigued, or sense discomfort or a possible injury.
In other cases, however, it’s worth remembering that your mindset plays a big part in helping you push your usual limits, since the mind can often give up before the body!
Mental stamina and endurance for running can be improved in various ways, including good sleep, a healthy diet, caffeine, motivational self pep-talk, running with a partner or group, and listening to inspirational music while you run.
Increasing your stamina is one of the keys to running further, faster, and for longer.
And it can be done by working on your breathing, maintaining a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, and incorporating other exercises into your routine, such as sprinting, swimming, cycling, HIIT, and plyometric workouts.
Most importantly, however, increasing your stamina is done by monitoring your running metrics—pace, distance, and time—and constantly challenging yourself to push past your usual limits!