Build endurance and stamina safely during your workouts even in the warmest temperatures

While there’s no question that warmer temperatures can pose significant challenges when it comes to training safely and effectively, it is possible not only to crush your current workouts during warmer temperatures, but to also increase your endurance and stamina to reach your goals and ensure optimal performance.

 

What is the difference between endurance and stamina?

The words “endurance” and “stamina” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.  

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, endurance is “the ability to keep doing something difficult, unpleasant, or painful for a long time.” It includes cardiovascular as well as muscular endurance–both components of physical fitness.  Stamina is the physical and/or mental strength to do something that might be difficult, unpleasant or painful for a long time.  Unlike endurance, therefore, stamina has a mental element.  

Why is it important to cultivate both endurance and stamina as part of your workout plan?

You’ve likely been there.  Those last 10 kilometers of the race; sure, your body is stressed–your muscles taxed and your heart and lungs reaching capacity, but it’s that voice inside your head that’s creating the most suffering with rounds of “You’re not going to make it.”  “You should have trained harder.”  “What were you thinking?” 

Those who’ve trained their minds as well as their bodies to sustain the rigors of long-distance running–particularly on race days–are able to push through resistance.

How do I increase my endurance and stamina for hot weather training?

  •  Be consistent

Being consistent with your running schedule will help you build endurance.  While running at least three to four times a week is generally recommended, fitness levels will determine how often and how long you run.  If you are a more experienced runner, increasing your running volume, making sure you build in recovery time, is optimal. Houston Marathon Ambassador Sara Hudgens suggests building up to 32 to 40 kilometers per week at least a month before you begin your training program. Many programs consider a first long run to be anywhere from six to sixteen miles depending on your fitness level, and whether you are participating in a half marathon or a full marathon.  

  • Run early or late in the day

If possible, it’s advisable to run before sunrise or during sunset, when the temperatures are more moderate and you’re less likely to suffer from dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke

If you must train in the heat, check out the Environment Canada Weather  or the U.S. National Weather Service sites for the current temperature and humidity levels. Dial your pace back by at least one minute per 1.5 kilometers if the temperature is above 21 degrees celsius (70 degrees fahrenheit) , while the relative humidity is above 40Avoid running outside if the heat is above 37 degrees celsius (99 degrees fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 70%; running in such conditions is extremely dangerous.

Recent research has explored the ideal ambient temperatures for running marathons.  One such study, done on world record and world class performances at the Berlin Marathon shows that in elite marathon runners, the ideal temperatures seem to be around 10–12°C (50-54 degrees fahrenheit), both in men and women; however, even temperatures as low as around 8°C (46 degrees fahrenheit) can lead to fast marathon times. The closer you can get to these ideal temperatures during your training, the safer and more efficient your run will be, allowing you to build optimal endurance.

  • Breathe for optimal endurance

Dr. George Dallam, a professor of exercise science and health promotion at CSU-Pueblo and a former USA Triathlon National Team coach, studies the benefits of nose breathing for runners, and what constitutes proper breathing while running.  He has concluded that there is “a nearly epidemic rate of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in endurance athletes” and that the best breathing technique for running is through the nose.

In a 2018 experiment, Dallam tested recreational runners after they had trained for at least six months using only nose breathing. Blood gas readings showed higher carbon dioxide and better body oxygenation. The participants’ breathing was 22% more efficient; it was slower, as the muscles around the lungs were working less. This could make all the difference during endurance running.  For more about Dallam’s work including the benefits of nasal breathing and tips on how to get started with nasal breathing, click here.  

  • Gradually increase your distance

Increase your weekly distance by no more than 10 percent per week. Increasing endurance workouts will help prevent injury and allow your body to adapt.

  • Diversify your running portfolio  

Fartleks, interval training, HIIT, and tempo running are all exercises that can improve running endurance. 

  •  Eat and drink for endurance

If you’re not eating a balanced diet, your endurance and stamina will suffer. The essentials include carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Carbohydrates should make up about 60% to 65% of total calorie intake for most runners.  Our Eload 100% Carbohydrate Energy Formula, which can be added to water or made into a sports gel, is perfect for maximizing the delivery of quick and long lasting energy to your muscles so you can avoid “hitting the wall” (aka “bonking”) during training or on race day. Good pre and post run choices for these sources of energy include fruit, starchy vegetables, whole grain breads or pastas, and steamed or boiled rice. 
  • Protein is essential for runners as it helps build and repair muscles that are broken down during training, and facilitates faster recovery. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that endurance runners aim for between 0.55 to 0.64 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Good choices for these sources include poultry, lean meats, tofu, beans, eggs and fish. 
  • Consuming healthy fats full of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) may deliver huge health benefits for your heart, brain, lungs, and circulation. They also help ensure optimal energy and reduce injury risk.  According to Angie Asche, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition, 20 to 30 percent of your total daily calories should come from healthy fats and The National Institutes of Health recommends 500 mg to 1,600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily (1,100 mg for females ages 18 and up and 1,600 mg for adult males). Some good sources of healthy fats include eggs, olive oil, seeds (hemp, chia, pumpkin, ground flax), fish (salmon, albacore tuna, Atlantic herring, mussels), nuts/nut butters (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts), peanut butter (peanuts are technically a legume), avocados and tahini.
  • While they don’t provide energy, some vitamins and minerals are essential for runners.  Vitamin C and E, as well as calcium, iron, sodium and other electrolytes, such as those found in eload™Recovery Formula Sports Drink are particularly important in ensuring optimal endurance and performance levels.
  • Staying hydrated is critical for runners, not only to maximize physical performance and endurance, but also to regulate body temperature, protect body organs, tissues and the spinal cord, carry nutrients and oxygen to cells, lubricate joints, flush out waste products safeguarding the kidneys and liver, improve brain function and mood, and facilitate nutrient absorption and digestion. 
  •  Practice Plyometrics
  • Plyometrics enable muscles to reach maximal force in the shortest amount of time. Most people think of plyometrics as explosive exercises that minimize the time spent on the ground (think squat jumps, single leg jumps on stairs, and high knees).
  • Plyometrics can be beneficial in several ways:
    • The most efficient runners spend the least amount of time on the ground.  Plyometrics train runners to launch from one foot strike to the next with more stored energy, increasing their speed.
    • Stretching muscle fibers prior to contracting them triggers the hypertrophic process, in which muscles increase in size, get stronger and become more flexible. In turn, this strength increases endurance and also explosive power.
    • They improve your running mechanics and efficiency and, because of the decreased load on the joints, may help reduce the risk of injury.
  •  Manage your stress and your nervous system capacity

While the words “endurance” and “stamina” are typically associated with the physical body, stress has a significant impact on our physical, mental and psychological well-being.  In his book When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, Dr. Gabor Maté outlines the undeniable connection between stress and diseases including auto-immune diseases, cancer, heart disease and ALS.  As many of us can attest to, stress also impacts exercise (including endurance and stamina), sleep, eating habits, relationship dynamics and self-worth, all of which are tied to health, well-being and goal-attainment.

 

In our fast paced, stressful world, our sympathetic nervous systems are more often than not switched on, activating our fight, flight, freeze and fawn mode.  When we feel unsafe–emotionally, psychologically, relationally or physically, stress hormones are released in the body to help us get away from the perceived threat. 

 

In order to switch off your sympathetic nervous system and switch on your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system, you need to find ways to regulate. Some effective ways to flip this switch include exercising, spending time in nature, limiting phone time, getting adequate sleep, listening to calming music, spending time with people and pets you love, engaging in creative pursuits, doing yoga and meditating. In fact, a 2020 study found that a five-week mindfulness program enhanced the mindfulness level, endurance performance, and multiple cognitive functions, including executive functions, of university athletes.

 

Actively and proactively regulating your nervous system will help you manage stress, including the stress of long-distance running.  In turn, this will ward off a host of physical, psychological, emotional or relational problems that will interfere with your levels of endurance and stamina while training and competing.

 

  • Consciously build your mental stamina

A 2010 paper by Professor Samuele Marcora and Walter Staiano, challenged the assumption that physical exhaustion was the key factor in limiting exercise performance. In their study, a group of cyclists were still able to produce short periods of higher intensity effort even after reaching a point of physical exhaustion.

Their research showed that our exercise tolerance is a balance between how hard we find an activity (our rate of perceived exertion or RPE) versus how motivated we are for that activity.  Other studies by Marcora have explored factors that influence our RPE, or ‘running tolerance.’ One study showed that when athletes engaged in mentally fatiguing tasks before training, their performance was reduced owing to a higher perception of effort, while another found that athletes who had subliminally been shown images of happy faces experienced lower RPE in a subsequent workout, resulting in improved performance.

Here are some tips to improve your stamina and mental strength:

Smile: Smiling regularly during your run may help to lower your RPE, as it sends a signal to the brain that you are safe and all is well.

Offer affirmative words and phrases: Positive self-talk can run interference with your inner critic, helping to lower RPE. Consider using these when doing Fartleks, interval training, and tempo running, repeating encouraging words or phrases during each rep.

Positive priming: Establishing a routine before your runs will help get you into an optimal mood state for your run. Five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching paired with your favorite workout tunes will prime your body and mind for optimal performance.

Train in variable weather conditions: Does the rain, snow or wind keep you inside?  Expand your “comfort zone” by training in sub-optimal conditions so you are mentally prepared for anything.

Chunk your long runs:  When preparing for your longest run of the week, break it into sections.  Focus on three, five or 10 kilometers at a time. Become your own best coach; congratulate and praise yourself when you reach these smaller goals and offer words of encouragement to achieve the next installment of your run.

The bottom line

Increasing your endurance and stamina during warmer months is critical for optimal performance and well-being.  Fortunately, with a little knowledge and some focused intention and follow through, doing so is more attainable than ever.