Stamina is the physical and mental ability of a person to remain active for a long period of time. Physical stamina or endurance is improved and increased by aerobic and anaerobic exercise that increases the body’s capacity to use oxygen and carbohydrates. Mental stamina is about your ability to focus on an activity for long periods and is associated with concepts like motivation and will power. Improving your stamina is very important as often it marks the difference between achieving your goals or falling by the wayside – irrespective of what you are doing. Increasing your physical and mental stamina will result in less fatigue and lethargy, greater positivity and an increasing sense of achievement and productivity.
How to improve your mental stamina
As long as you have the confidence in your own abilities, you can accomplish almost anything you set your mind on. Of course, you have heard this often but think about it - why is this belief still around? because it’s true. The power of positive thinking is real, and it is imagined. Isn’t that a lovely paradox? Try it for yourself. Replace the constant negative chatter of your mind with confidence-building positive thoughts and watch your mood gear shift from low to high. By doing this constantly, and making it a habit, there is greater chance of you accomplishing your goals – be it completing a marathon or finishing a deadline-bound project.
This is an old, and very effective technique, that’s been used by millions to achieve their goal. An old saying goes, as you think, so it will transpire. If you close your eyes and visualise yourself succeeding at a task, in all likelihood, you will succeed. This strategy is used by most athletes to improve their technique, handle stress and achieve their goals. They visualise breasting the tape with a flourish and it happens. Of course you need to be totally focused and concentrate on the image in your mind. Don’t be a ditherer. Pick the visual of what you most want to achieve every day, be it a goal or an action, and train your mind to focus completely on the it. If you are stressed, visualise a quiet, calm, soothing place and you sitting in it completely immsersed in tranquility. This will bring down your stress levels dramatically.
What happens when you don’t succeed? Sometimes, despite your best attempts, you can fail. It happens to the best of us. It happens despite your best efforts. True survivors handle success and failure with equanimity. Dealing with success is easy but only those who are mentally prepared all the time can face failure and not be defeated by it. When you walk away with lessons well learnt about failure, your attitude to success renews itself.
Meditate and relax
Stress is a constant companion for most of us, especially if we are involved in a goal-oriented task. Meditation and Progressive Muscle Relaxation techniques can help you handle debilitating stress and panic – be it prior to an athletic event or an all-important meeting. Breathing techniques, whereby you breathe into the bottom of your belly, and breathe out consciously, also helps the brain function better.
When you get a good night’s sleep, not only does your mind get much-needed rest, your body also gets the chance to repair itself. Sufficient sleep improves reaction time and split second decision making.
Shake up your routine and challenge your mind by taking up a new activity, reading challenging literature, taking up a new sport and playing games that require you to use your analysis skills. These new activities will strengthen your mental skills and improve your ability to handle new situations.
How to improve your physical stamina
Cardiovascular training improves your stamina and prevents your body from tiring too soon. Cardio exercises include activities like swimming, running, cycling and using machines like the elliptical or rowing machine in the gym. High- Impact group exercise classes such as Les Mills Body Attack, Les Mills Body Combat, RPM, Fitness First’s own TUFF and X-Fit are all high energy classes provided with fun routines and great music to work out to. To see a marked improvement in your fitness levels and stamina, you must perform cardiovascular exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes at least thrice a week. A good way to improve your endurance is to perform the cardio exercise till you are tired and then to push yourself to do the activity for another five minutes without causing exhaustion.
Add a new strenuous activity to your normal activity every couple of weeks to work new muscle groups and build stamina. For instance, add rope jumping or swimming to your usual routine of cycling or running. Increase the toughness of your program by running on the treadmill with a sandbag on your back, adding ankle or wrist weights when going for your jog or hike. If you are looking for bare basics, another easy way which we all should be doing is to add cardio exercises into your daily routine by sacrificing the comfort of an elevator or escalator in favour of the stairs
Sit-ups and crunches help to strengthen your core muscles and this will automatically translate into increased stamina while running or playing any sport.
One of my personal favorite ways to train is Interval training, which involves short bursts of intense activity teamed with exercises of moderate-intensity. So if you are going for a run, you can up the ante and include a 100 meters sprint after every 500 or 1000 meters or a 60 second burst of speed after every three minutes of moderate exercise. This will increase your aerobic capacity, thus improving your ability to work more intensely without experiencing fatigue. TUFF and X-Fit are great group exercise classes that offer this kind of endurance training.
Weight lifting doesn’t just tone and shape your muscles it also improves your stamina and a great way to burn body fat. Strength training helps in increasing your metabolic rate as well as building muscle mass; this process allows the body to burn more calories even at rest. Strength training is recommended 2-3 times a week, this can be done using body weight, training with free weights, resistance machines, or classes such as Body Pump, TUFF and X-Fit. To build stamina start out with a lighter weight than you normally work out with and perform twice your normal repetitions and be consistent with the duration of your weight training every week. It is important to build up your weight as your progress. Muscle mass assists in toning and shaping the body and is very important in improving bone density.
(Next week: Foods to help you build stamina).