Endurance is a term we throw around often, particularly in relation to long-distance running or achieving high reps in weight lifting. It essentially means having the ability to maintain activity for an extended period of time.
It takes a great deal of time, effort, and consistent practice to achieve endurance, no matter what endeavor you're working toward increasing your endurance for. Practice may not make perfect, but it goes a long way in increasing endurance levels.
What Is Endurance?
Endurance is an ability that is most often acquired after extensive training – it's not necessarily something that someone is just “gifted” at. It is most often a combination of physiological and psychological factors that allow us to continue doing what we are doing for as long as we desire.
Some of these factors include fatigue – for example, if you didn't sleep well the night before or are simply worn out, you may have a harder time following through with certain activities that require an extensive amount of output or stamina. Fitness level is also a predictor of endurance; how physically fit a person is, coupled with their level of training will impact their endurance ability.
If you are constantly challenging yourself mentally and physically day-in and day-out for weeks, months, and years at a time you are building endurance.
Genetics is another factor, as our bodies have different types of muscle fibers that can influence our physical capabilities, explains Roger E. Adams, PhD, CISSN, doctor of nutrition and owner of eat right fitness. While research shows you can gradually alter the amount of these fibers you have, it also emphasizes the role of genetics in dictating one’s muscle makeup.
How You Can Improve Your Endurance
Through endurance training, you can work to improve your ability to carry out a certain activity for longer periods of time. Here are some expert-approved tips for how to improve your endurance.
Participate in Interval Training
Interval training, which often goes by the name high-intensity interval training, involves increasing the intensity of your workout for a short period of time. If running is your workout of choice, you may intentionally push your pace harder than normal for 20-second intervals and then follow those intervals with a slower recovery pace for about a minute.
This not only boosts your endurance over time but also comes with a slew of other benefits including improvement of insulin sensitivity.
Add a Few More Reps to Each Set
No matter the type of exercise you’re performing, one way to enhance your endurance is to add one more rep, one more mile, or 5 more minutes to each week’s, or month’s, fitness schedule. Slowly, your body will begin to adapt to that level of exercise and it will become your norm.
Rest Less Between Your Sets
While resting in between certain types of physical activity can be beneficial, it can also lower your heart rate and your endurance threshold, explains Hosbein. He recommends taking less rest between your workout sets so that your rate stays elevated and your endurance increases with each workout.
Increase Your Core Strength
No matter your workout of choice, be it running, swimming, cycling or weight lifting, it’s also important to focus on strengthening your core, as this will help improve your endurance in any activity you perform.
Endurance vs Stamina
Endurance is often confused with the term stamina. However, the two are very different. According to Adams, stamina often refers to the amount of time a person can perform a certain activity at maximum capacity or without getting tired. Endurance, on the other hand, revolves around one’s ability to perform a certain activity, it does not take into consideration performing at maximum capacity the way that stamina does.