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Do you often get tired in the middle of a cardio session? Are you a person who feels exhausted just at the thought of running? Or maybe you are bored with your jogging routine and now looking for easy ways to help you run the extra mile. 

Well, the good news is you can easily do it by making some small changes in your workout routine, or picking one up if you don’t have one yet. Your running stamina is not just contributed by your muscle endurance but also your lung capacity. Only by working on both these at the same time can you reach your 10k goal quickly.

  1. Ways to increase running stamina

Running the extra mile has always been a key goal of most sportspersons to maintain a steady pace with their normal training routine. Even if you are not a serious runner, chances are that you measure your fitness with your running stamina. Here are some ways to give a boost to your stamina and take your muscle endurance to the next level.

  1. Interval training to increase running stamina
  2. Yoga to increase running stamina
  3. Breathing exercises for increasing running stamina
  4. Cross-training to increase running stamina
  5. Best foods to increase running stamina
  6. Tips on how to improve running stamina

Interval training to increase running stamina

Interval training, more prominently known as Sprint Interval Training (SIT) is the most popular method for increasing stamina. Studies indicate that regular practice of interval training, especially high interval training has a significant impact on both cardiovascular capacity and overall fitness.  

The key principle of interval training is to start slowly without exerting your body too much and gradually challenging it to take more. If you are not active in sports and think that interval training is not your cup of tea, don’t lose hope and try to figure out the method that works best for you from the ones mentioned below. There are two types of interval training :

High-intensity interval training: It includes incessant use of high-intensity exercise training with alternate rounds of low-intensity exercises followed by a period of rest. This is generally done by trained athletes. Research studies involving pulmonary function tests have shown that eight weeks of interval training seems to have a significant impact on the total lung capacity. It has also been proven to improve endurance and strength in both aerobic and anaerobic performance.

Low-intensity interval training: This is similar to high-intensity interval training except that the high-intensity exercises aren’t that intense. This can be done by people who find it difficult to do high-intensity interval training. 

A combination of high intensity and low-intensity training can help to increase the overall performance of a person.

How to do interval training?

  • Begin with short rounds of jogging or warm up for 10-15 minutes for the first 15- 20 days. You can also perform stretching or yoga to warm up your body. Don’t directly jump to intense training
  • Make a schedule for your workout. If you are a beginner, start with only one or two sessions a week with a recovery gap of at least 3 days. Follow this for at least six weeks
  • Through the course of six weeks, keep a check on your heart rate and fatigue period. This will help you schedule the next level of your training. It’s important to note that your heartbeat will remain low during this period
  • After six weeks, increase the number of workout sessions with a suitable recovery gap. For eg: if you notice a lower heart rate then it’s safe for you to decrease the recovery gap accordingly
  • Follow the principle of pyramid training. Begin the second level of your training with a ratio of 1:3 i.e 45 seconds of high intensity followed by 15 seconds of low intensity. Move on to gradually increase the time period of high intensity and corresponding low-intensity period simultaneously. For the second round, start with 50 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 15 seconds of low-intensity exercise and so on
  • Slowly switch to a variable interval training session, which involves intermixing of high intensity and low-intensity exercises in an arbitrary pattern. For eg: start with 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of low-intensity exercises. For the second round, carry out 10 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 20 seconds of low-intensity exercise
  • Keep going and slow down your session with a small cooldown period of around 30 seconds
  • Repeat the exercises and slowly keep on increasing the time and intensity of your training

Note: 

If you are suffering from diabetes, heart, joint or muscle problem, interval training isn’t recommended for you.

Yoga to increase running stamina

Yoga is a traditional method of attaining physical and mental fitness. The practice of yoga is generally not preferred by regular sportspersons or athletes since they substantially depend on interval training for gaining stamina. However, since yoga doesn’t involve too much exertion and is relatively easy to do it can be performed by everyone.

Asanas
There are many yoga (asanas) that can help improve running stamina. Let us have a look at them:

Navasana (Boat pose): Navasana helps to strengthen your core muscles, making it easier to move your legs, pelvis and back while running. It also corrects your posture, helping you run the extra mile with ease.

Procedure:

  • Sit erect with your legs stretched straight in front of you
  • Press your palms on the floor on either side of your hips with fingers pointing towards your feet
  • Exhale slowly, bend your knees and lift your legs straight, raising your feet to the eye level. Your legs should be at an angle of about 45 degrees with the ground
  • Now, raise your arms parallel to your legs along with leaning back a little
  • In the final position, your whole body should be balanced on your hips and tailbone 
  • Make sure that your spine is straight 
  • Stay in the position for 10 seconds and then relax 
  • Repeat the asana 4-5 times a day for effective results

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Chakrasana/ Upward facing bow pose): Urdhva dhanurasana helps to stretch the accessory muscles (intercostal muscles) which further aid in increasing lung capacity. It also has an energising effect so that you are warmed up for your sprint. 

Procedure:

  • Lie in a supine position 
  • Bend your knees and bring them near your buttocks
  • Place your palms on either side of your head a bit above your ears with your fingers facing your feet
  • The soles of your feet should be firmly planted on the ground
  • Pushing with your palms and feet, lift your hips above the floor
  • Take a breath and slowly lift your upper torso and head above the ground
  • In the final position, your arms should be stretched straight, your shoulders should be pressed a bit towards your back and your head should be hanging, crown towards the floor
  • Try to look towards the floor and stay in the position for a few seconds while breathing normally
  • Bring your body back in the original position by bending your arms and knees

Ushtrasana (Camel pose): This asana, just like Navasana helps to improve the strength of core muscles and energise the body.

Procedure:

  • Kneel down on the floor with your hands on your knees (basically in Vajrasana)
  • Move your legs slightly apart and come up on your knees
  • Bend your spine backwards while exhaling and try to touch your heels with your fingers
  • Do not push yourself if you can’t. Just bend as far as you can
  • Maintain your body in the same position while breathing normally for 10 seconds
  • Come back in your original position by pushing with your palms 

Matsyasana (Fish pose): Matasyasana helps to build the strength of the core muscles and improve breathing patterns, so you can run for longer without getting short of breath.

Procedure:

  • Sit erect with your legs folded in crossed position (more accurately in padmasana) 
  • Now with the legs in the same position try to bend your body backwards with your hands on your knees so that your crown touches the floor
  • The weight of your body should be on your arms instead of your head 
  • Try to keep your shoulders stiff to help balance the asana
  • Stay in this position for a few seconds then relax your head and chest and unfold your legs to come in a supine position

Dhanurasana (Bow pose): Regular practice of bow pose expands your chest muscles, thus helping increase lung capacity.

Procedure:

  • Lie down with your face towards the floor and your arms by the sides of your body 
  • Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are facing your head
  • Raise your hands backwards and try to touch your ankles 
  • Hold your body in the same position for around 10 seconds
  • Come back in the original position by straightening your legs

Utkata Konasana (Goddess pose): It increases the overall stamina of your body.

Procedure:

  • Stand straight and set your legs a little apart
  • Turn your toes out and heels in at an angle of 45 degrees
  • While exhaling, bend your knees a little to come in a squat position
  • Now raise your arms above your shoulders with the elbows at an angle of 90 degrees and your palms facing away from you
  • Lower down your hips to the height of your knees
  • Involve your core muscles and push your tailbone in the direction of the floor
  • Stay in the same position for about 30 seconds
  • Straighten your legs and push up your torso to come back in the original position

Pranayama/Anulom – Vilom
Pranayama is considered as one of the five major principles of yoga. It consists of inspiration (inhaling) and expiration (exhaling) in a rhythmic pattern so as to activate all the energy centres in the body. When done regularly, pranayama helps improve overall health, making you feel more energised and active. Here is how you can do pranayama:

  • Sit in padmasana position with your back straight
  • Close your left nostril with your right finger and inhale using right nostril
  • Now close your right nostril with your right thumb and exhale using left nostril
  • Repeat the above steps for about 10 minutes

Note: Do not do this exercise if you feel dizzy. (Read more: Dizziness treatment)

Breathing exercises for increasing running stamina

Various types of breathing exercises can help to increase pulmonary lung capacity and meet the necessary oxygen requirements that can ultimately benefit in increasing your running stamina and reducing respiratory fatigue. Generally there are three types of breathing exercises that can be performed by people of all ages:

Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises involve the use of diaphragm muscles (muscles at the base of your chest) for improving lung capacity. Research studies have shown the exemplary impact of diaphragmatic breathing on the overall lung capacity by markedly increasing tidal volume (amount of air going in and out of lungs), inspiratory capacity and expiratory capacity. This method is generally preferred by common people who are not actively involved in sports or fitness training. Sometimes even athletes and sportspersons perform this as a part of their warm up. 

Procedure:

  • Sit or lie relaxed (as per your comfort) and place your hand on your chest
  • Inhale with your nose. Observe the air going through your nostrils into your chest and belly
  • Exhale out the air by pursing your lips slightly as and while pressing your abdomen. It’s important to make sure that while inhaling or exhaling only your abdomen moves outward and not your chest
  • Repeat the above steps for about 10 minutes

Pursed breathing
Pursed-lip breathing has emerged as a new and effective method of controlled breathing exercises that help to improve respiratory capacity. It is similar to diaphragmatic breathing in the sense that both of them involve inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. The only difference is that pursed-lip breathing involves comparatively slower exhalation, allowing your lungs to maintain positive pressure. Pursed lip breathing is much more efficient in diaphragmatic breathing though the two are generally done together due to their synergistic effect on regular breathing patterns.

Procedure:

The procedure for pursed-lip breathing is almost the same as that of diaphragmatic breathing except that diaphragmatic breathing uses smooth deep inhalation and can be performed by either lying or standing whereas pursed lip breathing uses gentle inhalation and is generally done sitting. Here is how you can do it:

  • Sit or stand (as per your comfort) and keep your body relaxed
  • Inhale for about 2 seconds and then exhale out the air through partially puckered lips
  • Repeat the steps for around 10 minutes

Rib stretching
Rib stretching involves the use of ribcage and accessory muscles (intercostal muscles) for improving lung capacity.

Procedure:

The procedure for rib stretching entirely depends on the action of lungs for both inspiration and expiration. Here is how you can do it:

  • Stand erect with your back straight 
  • Exhale all the residual air from your lungs
  • Breathe in slowly by expanding your ribs and forcing air into your lungs 
  • Hold your breath for around 10-15 seconds
  • Exhale out slowly 
  • Repeat the above steps for about 3-4 minutes
  • Now stretch your ribs by bending your waist sideways and repeat the breathing procedure mentioned above

Cross-training to increase running stamina

Cross training involves the use of more than one type of training activity to develop overall performance. It helps maintain a balance between all the five measures of fitness i.e. cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and body composition. This method relies on the nullifying actions of disadvantages posed by one kind of training method by other kinds of methods.

Procedure: 

  • To carry out cross-training, you can add various activities to your existing training exercises like weight training, pushups, cycling, and swimming.
  • Always try to alternate between more than three activities to ensure proper exertion of different body muscles because that is what cross training is aimed at

Best foods to increase running stamina

Often during intense workout periods, your body and muscles fall short of energy, leading to fatigue or muscle strain. There are certain foods that can help you acquire instant energy and boost your stamina during intense workout sessions. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Bananas: Bananas are an excellent and unique source of carbohydrates, potassium, antioxidants and vitamin B6, which can act as a quick source of energy in times of exhaustive training sessions. They also help maintain your blood pressure levels.
  • Apples: Apples are a good source of simple sugars and phytochemicals like quercetin and catechin, which are known to possess strong antioxidant properties. They help in slow and sustained energy release to ensure lasting energy levels throughout your training session.
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a whole grain containing carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fibre and varying amounts of fat along with vitamin B and beta glucan. All this nutrition gets slowly absorbed in the body, providing a constant source of energy.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the best energy-rich foods that you can take after a workout session. Hosting a good amount of proteins and calcium, it aids in reducing muscle wear and tear post workout. For best results, try adding some fibre rich fruits to your yogurt.
  • Avocados: Avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids and essential nutrients. It is thus a good grab for instant energy intake. Being loaded with dietary fibre, this fruit also helps maintain a constant source of energy through your workout session.

Tips on how to improve running stamina

  • Stop smoking, especially if you are suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Avoid polluted or dusty environments and passive smoking conditions (Read more: Effects of smoking on body)
  • Enhance your diet with antioxidants
  • Go out for morning walks 
  • Adopt ideal sitting postures and maintain good air quality in your surroundings
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References

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