Whether you want to finally finish that 5k, train up for a half-marathon, or just make it through your next barre class without feeling like a puddle of mush after those first few reps, there’s one aspect of fitness you’ll want to focus on: building endurance.
Though you might associate endurance with running, biking, or swimming mile after mile, there are actually two types of endurance training.
Cardiorespiratory endurance refers to your ability to perform sustained cardio-intensive activities (think a marathon, not a sprint), says celebrity trainer Ashley Verma, founder of Define London Barre. Muscular endurance, meanwhile, refers to your muscles’ ability to exert force repeatedly or for extended periods of time (think long planks or endless squat pulses).
Which in particular you focus on might depend on your specific fitness goals—like completing a race or sculpting your physique—but building both cardiorespiratory and muscular stamina will help you feel more capable both in your workouts and in everyday life. Everything from climbing the subway or train station stairs on your morning commute, to picking up your kids, to sitting with proper posture at your desk gets easier, according to Verma.
Increasing your stamina benefits you long after you complete your last rep or final mile, too. In fact, maintaining endurance can boost your metabolism, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, according to research published in the journal Breathe.
How do you actually build endurance, though? Put the following trainer-backed tips to work and you’ll be long-hauling-it with ease in no time.
1. Focus Resistance Training On Time Under Tension
When resistance training with your body weight, resistance bands, or weights like dumbbells and kettlebells, shift your focus from pure strength (think less than eight reps per set with heavy weight) or muscle growth (eight to 12 reps with moderate weight) to muscle endurance (12-plus reps per set with lighter weight). This increases the amount of time your muscles spend under tension, which trains them to have greater endurance over time.
If fitness classes are more your vibe, try something like barre.“Barre workouts challenge muscle endurance by holding positions for long periods of time,” Verma says. That shaking and twitching you experience after doing all the repetitions and small movements? Consider it a sign you’re pushing your muscles’ stamina to their limits.
2. Add Cardio Bursts To Strength Workouts
To give strength workouts more of an endurance edge, Gabi Garbarino, CPT, founder of Gabi’s Fitness Studio, recommends adding cardio bursts into the mix. “I love to incorporate jump squats, jump lunges, mountain-climbers, and pretty much any short cardio burst that involves spiking the heart rate,” she says. Not only does this train your cardiovascular endurance by keeping your heart pumping, but also demands that your muscles keep working between sets of other exercises, doing their stamina a solid, too.
Your move: Top off every second or third strength exercise with 30 seconds or 12 to 15 reps of a cardio-focused movement.
3. Incorporate Intervals
Though progressively increasing the duration of your cardio workouts can help you build endurance, another surefire way to make your inner engine more efficient is with intervals, suggests trainer Sandrine Cassis, CPT, founder of Empowered Fitness.
For maximum results, incorporate challenging interval sessions two or three times a week. “You can play around with time, increasing your interval times to further push yourself,” Cassis says. To get started, alternate between 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest for 20 to 30 minutes, she suggests. After a week or two, switch up your intervals and try 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest.
4. Pump Up The Jams
Sometimes, all that stands between you and a powerful sweat session is the perfect playlist. “Creating an environment you want to move in is the best way to encourage yourself to keep moving,” says trainerMichelle Kuhnreich, CPT, creator of BootyByMich.
Tinkering with your Spotify in the name of fitness is totally rooted in science, too. One Ergonomics study, for example, found that treadmill runners who increased the volume and tempo of their music ran faster than those who didn’t—without feeling like they worked any harder. TL;DR: Lizzo really can help you tap into your true endurance potential.
5. Prioritize Core Work
You know a stable, healthy core is a must for your fitness, but there’s more to it than showing off a six-pack. A strong midsection actually comes in clutch during endurance workout efforts.
“When you’re on the last mile of an endurance run, bike ride, or hike, a strong core can help prevent the body from wasting precious energy by providing a stable foundation against your repeated muscle contractions,” says Canada-based trainer Marlene Vale.
Crush your core sans equipment with this 20-minute workout:
Her secret for a killer core? Perform a high number of reps (think at least 15) of your favorite exercises with light weight or body weight. The key: Work until just before your form starts to go. (These 15 abs exercises set your entire core on fire, if you need inspo…)
6. Find Your Focus
It’s easy to zone out or go through the motions during a workout (especially if you’re going for a long run or churning out rep after rep after rep). However, connecting your body and mind is a *must* if you want to tap into (and improve!) your true endurance, says Kuhnreich.
“Aligning the mind, body, and breath creates a heightened ability to push our physical and mental boundaries,” she shares. That’s why she recommends doing the following scan before diving into your next endurance workout:
7. Sweat With A Friend
If you had a study buddy to hold you accountable back in the day, why not apply the same strategy to your training? “Having the motivation and support of someone moving with you can inspire and challenge your mental and physical limits when it comes to your workouts,” says Kuhnreich. Numerous studies show that working out with a friend can help you sustain your commitment to your activity, enjoy doing it more, and feel less stressed, all of which can help you reach your endurance goals in the long run.
Bonus: Pick a pal whose fitness skills you admire, since research suggests that you work out for longer when sweating with someone who’s a little fitter than you. Now, how’s that for stamina!
The bottom line: To build endurance, you’ll want to gradually increase the amount of time your cardiovascular system or muscles spend under tension during workouts. Luckily, there are a number of ways to do so!
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