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How to Increase Stamina Without Running

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Running isn’t for everyone. It’s high impact, hard work and for many people, just a bit boring. But here’s the good news – you can increase stamina without running. Here’s how…

Some people love the buzz and high that a good run gives them. They love nothing more than an early morning jog, enjoying the glorious outdoors as the sun begins to rise. They push their bodies to see how far they can go or how hard they can challenge their minds to keep on going, even as things get difficult.

For others it’s their worse nightmare.

The thought of pounding the sidewalks of the urban jungle fills you with dread. The soreness of your knees, the tightness in your legs and the burning in your lungs just aren’t worth the benefits to endurance and fitness.

You need to know how to increase stamina without running… and that’s why we’re here…


Fitness and Running Benefits

Have you ever caught a glance of yourself in the mirror one morning and thought…

“I really need to drop a few pounds”?

Or…

“Wow, I really need to get fitter”?

If you have, chances are the first exercise that pops into your mind is running – the second most popular fitness activity in the US behind walking.

Running actually provides a load of health and fitness benefits. And it’s the go-to for many people who want to shred a few pounds or get fitter and healthier.

Whether you love it or despise it, you can’t deny that running is one of the best tools for keeping healthy, avoiding disease and illness, and pushing the barriers of your fitness.

Running burns calories and increases energy expenditure

According to a recent multidisciplinary assessment of health and well-being benefits [1], runners burn an average of 790 kcal each time they hit the streets, and provide a perfect opportunity for sightseeing, socializing, and experiencing nature.

Keeps your heart healthy and reduces your risk of vascular disease

With over 600,000 people each year dying of heart disease, it’s important you do all you can to protect yourself from this serious illness.

Stopping smoking, eating healthily, lowering stress and reducing body fat are all great ways to build a bulletproof body.

And it appears that regular running helps too, with studies [3] showing that for every 16 kilometers you run each week, heart disease risk decreases more and more.

As a vigorous activity, running improves your aerobic capacity

If you want to get fit and increase endurance, running is a great option. At higher-intensities, running boosts your VO2max – the single most important determinant of aerobic fitness. 

Frequently pounding the park or sidewalk improves the way in which your body pumps blood around your body, how your cells use energy to keep your legs moving, and how efficiently you use oxygen for energy [2].

Running strengthens your bones and protects against bone cell loss

Osteoporosis affects around 200 million people worldwide. It’s a disease where your bones degenerate, become brittle and much easier to fracture.

Finally, running helps to strengthen your bones by providing a stimulus for bone remodeling. Every time you put pressure through your skeleton it tries to adapt to make itself stronger.

Activities like running are great for protecting your bones as it’s a high impact movement – each time you strike your foot on the ground you have to absorb the landing through your ankle, knee, hip and spine.

In a study of 42 active adult men, running was found to be more effective at improving bone mineral density than both cycling and weight training [4].

And here are a few more benefits too…

  • It’s easy, convenient and cheap
  • You don’t need any equipment
  • It’s a functional, transferable skill
  • Boosts strength, speed and stability
  • Reduces cognitive decline

Young women running at sunrise against a blue and orange sky

Key Point: Running is a popular activity that boosts calorie burning, mood and physical fitness… but it’s not for everyone.


This Is How Your Stamina Actually Improves

Anyway, enough about the benefits of running. We know you’re here because you’re looking for alternatives that’ll boost your stamina without having to lace up your sneakers and hit the sidewalk.

And that’s cool.

But to answer that question we have to look at exactly what stamina is… and how it actually improves when you exercise.

Stamina is the ability to sustain prolonged physical effort

Otherwise known as endurance, resilience and cardio fitness, stamina is all to do with ‘staying power’. It’s about being strong in the face of a tough workout and having the motivation not to quit as the intensity increases.

The way you develop stamina is all down to the stimulus of exercise you provide with body with. Get that right and your endurance will increase significantly.

Here’s a break down of what happens to your body when you train to increase stamina (without running):

  • Your heart muscle grows – endurance exercise is like ‘weight lifting for the heart’. The walls of your heart grow and strengthen so that you can pump more blood in any one beat – a process called myocardial hypertrophy.
  • Resting heart rate reduces – in order to balance the increased blood volume from each pump, your heart doesn’t need to beat as regularly to sustain blood flow. A low resting heart rate of 55 or below is a sign of great stamina and fitness.
  • Red blood cell count goes up – you carry more oxygen in your blood, meaning you can deliver a higher concentration to your muscles as stamina increases.
  • Lung capacity and efficiency improves – much like blood volume increases, so does breathing volume. You’re able to take much deeper breaths and deliver more oxygen to your cells.
  • Oxygen uptake increases – this is the best indicator of cardio-respiratory endurance and stamina and shows you can use more oxygen during exercise.
  • You don’t accumulate by-products as quickly – during exercise, hydrogen and lactate inhibit muscle work and as such you have to slow down. As stamina increases though, you don’t accumulate them as much and your ability to tolerate these cardio side effects increases.

Muscular man preparing for a heavy deadlift in the gym

Key Point: An increase in stamina is due to various physiological adaptations that take place to your heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles.


How To Gain Running Endurance Without Actually Running

You’re here because you want to know how to improve endurance and build stamina without running one single step. And you’ll be pleased to know that this is totally achievable.

Running is just a mode of exercise. As long as provide your body with the right stimulus, you’ll still trigger the physiological adaptations needed to improve your fitness levels.

How to increase running endurance and stamina the right way

We said earlier that stamina was about sustaining prolonged physical effort. To be able to keep going longer and longer without fatigue, and improve physical endurance over time.

Running is a great activity for improving stamina because it challenges the heart, lungs, circulation and muscles. But it’s not the only way…

Intensity matters

When it comes to crafting out stamina and building fitness it’s not so much about what you do, but how you do it.

For weight loss or general health it’s okay to work at a intensity that’s light and easy – you’re still burning calories and boosting energy expenditure.

But to make your lungs and muscles more efficient, make your vascular system stronger and teach your body to cope with more demanding workouts, you have to turn up the dial a little.

Working at an intensity above 80% of your maximum heart rate forces your body to adapt. It’s what’s known as the cardio zone of exercise and it’s where you build stamina and fitness.

Training systems such as high-intensity interval training are great for boosting endurance and stamina because they involve periods of really high intensity, but for only short periods.

Research has shown that interval workouts turn over a monstrous 13.4 kcal per minute and improves everything from VO2max to aerobic power [5].

And best of all.. you can do HIIT on bikes, in the pool and even on the gym floor. You don’t need to run at all.

Lose weight

This is such a simple way to improve stamina and endurance that it might have not even occurred to you.

When you’re exercising, you have to move your own body mass. The heavier that mass is, the more energy you need to use. Imagine carrying a backpack full of bricks while you exercise – that’ll give you an idea of how much any extra weight you’re carrying can affect stamina.

The best way to improve stamina and ‘power to weight ratio’ is to reduce excess body fat. That way your body doesn’t expend as much energy during your workouts and you automatically improve stamina.

Check out this Complete Guide to Cutting Fat With Instant Knockout to help you on your way.


Man and woman in active wear in the gym

Train to get stronger

Have you ever been working out and all-of-a-sudden realized your leg muscles feel super heavy or your arms just can’t move without intense fatigue?

Muscle weakness can be a real limiting factor when it comes to stamina.

Incorporating strength training into your weekly routine helps to fight fatigue during cardio exercise, and boost your strength and stamina at high-intensities.

Don’t expect to turn into a muscle-bound bodybuilder with a basic routine either. Even marathon runners lift weights to improve performance.

These are the best strength exercises to get you started:

  • Squats and lunges
  • Pulldowns and rows
  • Press-ups, bench presses and overhead presses
  • Arm curls and extensions

Aim for 2-3 sets of each exercise and use weights that challenge you to squeeze out between 8-15 reps.

For a more detailed weight training for stamina article check out our guide to Gym Workout for Beginners.

Mental toughness is key

Yeah okay, elite athletes have sky high levels of fitness and their genetics are suited to very specific events; but there’s one more thing that they have oozing from every pore… resilience.

Stamina is just as much psychological as it is physical.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “wow this is hard, maybe I should just quit” or “I can’t do this” during a really intense workout, you’ll understand just how powerful your brain can be when it comes to building or limiting endurance.

Stamina is basically the ability to fight off fatigue.

And the good news is that you can train mental toughness just like you can your physical fitness. It’s just about ‘digging deep’.

Developing grit and determination is about attitude.

  • Think about why you’re training hard when the intensity is high. This is a great motivator.
  • Come up with solutions not excuses.
  • Practice daily rituals that boost positive thinking.
  • Don’t break your routine.
  • Embrace the fact that sometimes things get tough. But you can beat it.
  • Reward yourself when you’ve pushed past your comfort zone.

And the best thing about mental toughness is it’s not just restricted to exercise. It improves your daily life, work and attitude in general.


How to boost stamina without running

Summary – Can You Really  Increase Stamina Without Running

Stamina is about sustaining prolonged physical effort during exercise. It’s just as much about willpower and resolve as it is about physical fitness.

Building endurance comes down to how you train and not what you do. You can cycle, swim, walk or hit the gym and you’ll build stamina – just train at the right intensity and build mental toughness to optimize results.


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References

  1. Wolf, ID et al. Walking, hiking and running in parks: A multidisciplinary assessment of health and well-being benefits. Landscape for Urban Planning. 2014; 130: 89-103
  2. Conley, DL et al. Running economy and distance running performance of highly trained athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1980; 12(5): 357-360
  3. Williams, PT. Relationship of Distance Run per Week to Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors in 8283 Male Runners The National Runners’ Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 1997; 157(2): 191-198
  4. Rector, RS et al. Lean body mass and weight-bearing activity in the prediction of bone mineral density in physically active men. J strength Cond Res. 2009; 23(2): 427-35
  5. Tabata, I et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996; 28(10): 1327-30


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