In athletics, stamina can be conceived as a combination of speed and endurance. It defines the ability to perform at high intensity over relatively long periods of time. Stamina is a must for a fast 10k and half-marathon, whereas 5k races emphasize speed, and marathons emphasize endurance. Developing high levels of stamina requires good physical and mental health, proper physiological training and rest, and tolerable environments. All these factors contribute to varying levels of stamina.
Illness Reduces Stamina
Good physical and mental health are enablers. Disablers include respiratory ailments, heart disease, weak muscles, brittle bones and mental illness. Asthma thwarts breathing and oxygen uptake, heart disease compromises circulation, osteoporosis threatens bones' ability to withstand impact forces, weak muscles prevent intense training, and mental illness can interfere with the concentration required to train hard. When your body and mind struggle to maintain ordinary function, extraordinary functions, such as stamina, suffer. Even medications, particularly blood pressure medicine, can induce extreme fatigue, chest pain and irregular heartbeat, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
Improving Stamina With Intervals
Athletes who lack proper training or who lack rest will probably also lack stamina. Effort and recovery dictate an athlete's stamina, and those whose maximum efforts are balanced with solid rest and recovery will greatly enhance their stamina. For runners, stamina training must combine distance with speed, according to physiological studies such as the one detailed by "Running Research News." The Norwegian study, carried out by researchers from Agder University College's Department of Health and Sport, illustrates the benefits of interval training, where short, very intense efforts are interspersed with brief rest periods. Without intervals, runners fail to optimally stress their neuromuscular and respiratory systems, and they fail to recover adequately between efforts. Stress forces the body to over-reach, and rest periods, including sleep, allow the body to compensate for that stress and to grow stronger.
Extremes in elevation, humidity and temperature threaten your body's ability to cope normally, and stamina is an early victim to normal function because of its reliance on basic metabolic processes such as oxygen uptake, sweat evaporation and heat generation. Athletes who shift from low to high elevations may find it difficult to perform within the first week, becoming quickly fatigued during workouts until their bodies adjust to the higher altitudes' lower oxygen levels. The body compensates by producing more red blood cells, an uncomfortable transition but one that significantly enhances stamina upon returning to lower elevations, according to Peak Running Performance. Hot, humid environments reduce sweat evaporation, and when your cooling function fails, internal body temperature climbs and training intensity falls. Without intensity, your interval training suffers, and so will your stamina.
Optimizing Conditions for Stamina
Review your exercise habits, medications and surroundings. You may not always be able to improve all conditions, but if you haven't tried interval training, try it. If you are on medication, seek advice about its effect on physical activity. And if oppressive heat and humidity makes exercise too difficult, try moving your workouts indoors or into cool water. Stamina is worth improving, for it allows for enjoyable and rewarding activities, both on the athletic fields and in the workplace.