When temperatures begin climbing and the grass starts growing, many people set their sights on participating in marathons, mud runs, endurance races or holiday hiking in the outdoors. Others want to increase their energy to get through a long day or be able to play soccer or chase after the kids when they get home from work.

You can gain a competitive edge or increase your overall health if you boost your endurance and stamina. Here are four key elements to achieving that.

1. Change up your workouts

Variety is not only the spice of life, but it’s essential to improving endurance and stamina. Take a look at your workouts and do the following:

  • Mix up rep ranges
  • Alter the number of sets you do
  • Shorten the rest time between sets
  • Change your cadence or tempo
  • Add different types of activities

Inserting diverse exercises into your routine is a key component, especially if you target something you’re normally weak at doing.

For example, some people are terrible long-distance runners. If that’s you, specifically work at extending your distances. It’ll be hard, but it does have a direct impact on your endurance and will also improve your sprinting capabilities.

Add plyometrics or HIIT
Plyometrics and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) should be part of a plan because both offer bursts of intense exercise that train your body to move quicker, as well as recover faster. It also results in less fatigue when you’re trying to go longer distances.

Plyometrics include exercises such as box jumps and burpees.

Incorporate compound movements
Compound movements (squats, pullups) use more than one joint, which helps develop endurance and stamina because they involve bigger muscle groups and recruit more muscle fibres to do the exercise compared with isolation exercises.

2. Focus on recovery 

A person who runs 20 kilometres every day and doesn’t take a rest day likely won’t succeed in ever hitting their goal of doing a full marathon. Endurance athletes need fresh muscle so ensure your body has time to recoup if you’re asking it to max out its capabilities.

Remember to taper your workouts, have easy days in between hard ones and also rest days when you back off in order to ultimately improve your endurance over time. 

After a workout, always focus on stretching properly. Do a yoga class, which helps mental and physical recovery. 

3. Find a motivator 

Psychological influences can impact training for endurance races. Try to do these:

  • Find the right music to listen to during your exercises
  • Find a workout partner
  • Use a personal trainer to design a program and push you even on those days when you may not feel like working out

4. Make a commitment 

Being consistent in your workouts improves if you have defined commitments. Sign up for a competition, so you have a firm deadline/target and work back from the date to plan your routine.  If you’re taking the kids hiking this summer, use that as an event target. 

If you expect to be walking for 10 kilometres a day, your training could start with progressions on the treadmill at different inclines and speeds. Get on the stair climber, too.

Set markers for the distance you can walk, including wearing a backpack. Go for a hike somewhere and see what your improvements are. People training for a marathon should do a five- or 10-km run or half marathon at a midpoint marker to see where they’re at and get some experience.

Positive results along the way might be noticing your sleep is improving, your muscle recovery is good the next day and you’re generally feeling more energetic.

Of course, don’t forget about the ongoing mantra in the fitness world – get proper sleep and nutrition!  Adequate sleep is critical for promoting healthy brain functions, regulating your hormones and facilitating muscle-fibre recovery.

Healthy fats and lean protein fuel the body to handle the demands of endurance training.

The key factor to better endurance and stamina is knowing where your starting point is and setting appropriate steps for improvement. There’s nothing wrong if you’re starting from ground zero, but don’t set your sights to run a marathon by next week.

Be aggressive, but be realistic.