Endurance: How To Transform Your Workout and Life

Key Points

  • Endurance allows you to perform challenging or uncomfortable activities for sustained periods. 

  • Planks, mountain climbers, pushups, burpees, and running are among the top ways to build endurance.

  • Altering your lifestyle habits improves your stamina.

Tired of getting winded after climbing a flight of stairs? Want the ability to go longer and harder during your workouts? If so, improving your endurance is key.

Endurance builds your athleticism, enhances your performance, and makes you feel stronger altogether. Keep reading to learn the specific exercises, strategies, and lifestyle changes you need to raise your endurance.  

What Is Endurance?

Endurance is the acquired ability to do something hard, unpleasant, or painful for extended periods. It demands physical effort, mental strength, and an underlying hunger for improvement. 

Age, physical limitations, injuries, health conditions, and varying fitness levels affect the level of endurance individuals have. However, one element rings true for all: Endurance is something you earn — something you work for — and it doesn’t come easy.

Benefits of Endurance Training

Building your endurance benefits so much more than your gym life. It also enhances your overall quality of life. Improved mental health, confidence, and energy are at the top of the list, but it doesn’t stop there. 

Here are even more advantages of endurance training:

  • Fights depression

  • Reduces anxiety

  • Supports a stronger immune system

  • Decreases risk of heart disease

  • Amps up your metabolism

  • Helps you overcome fatigue

  • Gives you a better night’s sleep

  • Boosts your mood and memory

Types of Endurance

Endurance comes in two forms: cardiovascular and muscular.

Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to support you through intense, rhythmic exercises. It also determines the amount of stress your body can handle while performing activities like running, cycling, or swimming.

On the other hand, muscular endurance is the ability of your muscles to execute repetitive movements while working against resistance such as dumbbells, a lift machine, or your body weight. Strong muscular endurance keeps you from tiring out too quickly both during workouts and while carrying out daily tasks. 

This doesn’t just mean more reps at the gym. Healthy endurance also provides more energy to style your hair in the mornings, carry heavy laundry baskets up and down the stairs, and go out of your way for the people you love — without craving a nap afterward.

Endurance Versus Stamina

Endurance and stamina are often used interchangeably but have subtle differences that are worth pointing out. While endurance is the capacity to work hard, stamina is the result of working hard. 

In other words, stamina stems from getting stronger, healthier, and fitter over time. When this happens, you’re able to push yourself more. Stamina is the very thing that determines your level of endurance!

How Do You Build Endurance?

Whether you’re a beginner, returning from a break or injury, training for a marathon, or trying to hit a personal record, building endurance is a difficult journey. Thankfully, difficult doesn’t mean impossible.

Most importantly, focus on what you're able to do in your current condition. While it’s tempting to jump the gun and immediately run the full five, 10, or 15 miles, this is dangerous and only ends up setting you back. 

Shortcutting your endurance is like taking a major test without studying. Not only are you guaranteed to fail, but your body also undergoes intense panic, shock, and stress. 

Instead, adapt your endurance training plan to match your present physical capabilities. Make gradual improvements weekly by lifting heavier weights and increasing the number of reps you complete as well as the distance, speed, intensity, and duration of your workouts. 

Make consistency a top priority as you develop your endurance. By working out at least four to five times per week, you maximize your strength, growth, performance, and ability to have fun. Need help with motivation? Exercise partners are supportive and hold you accountable!

To avoid the dreaded “plateau” –a period when you stop seeing or feeling results – add variety to your routine by switching back and forth between cardio and strength training. Do activities you genuinely enjoy so you’re more inclined to exercise regularly. While inconsistent attendance leads to a slow decline in your endurance, consistent activity prevents your muscles from getting tight, fixes low endurance, and protects you from injury.

Don’t be afraid of a challenge, but avoid pushing yourself too hard. If your muscles feel strained or sore to the point of pain, back off the intensity or rest until you recover.

To make endurance exercises more enjoyable, listen to music for a surge of energy, joy, and motivation. Upbeat songs, EDM remixes, and rap music get your adrenaline pumping!

Always fuel your body with nutritious foods, plenty of water, and electrolytes. Avoid fried foods, soda, and high-fiber options as they disrupt your digestive system and make you feel sluggish. Need an extra energy boost? Pre-workout supplements are a game changer and healthier than downing an energy drink.

Plan your pre-workout meals accordingly. Prefer to eat 30 minutes to an hour before exercising? Stick with a protein bar, banana, or bowl of fruit for quick energy. If you like to fuel up two to four hours before, opt for lean meat with veggies, egg whites with whole-grain toast, or a cup of homemade oatmeal. 

To gain endurance, rest and recovery are a must. When you exercise, your muscles tear, stretch, and break down. While you recharge, your muscles repair themselves and come back stronger. Overtraining only achieves one thing: escalating your risk of injury. 

On rest days, go for long walks to keep your momentum in full swing and to promote better recovery for sore muscles. Regardless of your fitness level, this is ideal because it’s low-impact yet maintains your cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Seeking more of a challenge? Use hills and stairs to your advantage. The incline element stimulates your legs and lungs without overexerting your body. 

Lastly, take care of your health by getting regular checkups and bloodwork to ensure everything is running smoothly on the inside. If you continue to struggle with low endurance after making these changes, consult with a medical professional.

What Causes Poor Endurance?

A variety of issues lead to poor endurance, but every endurance drainer springs from the same root problem: lifestyle choices that compromise or endanger your health.

Lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, dehydration, malnutrition, and alcohol consumption cause extreme fatigue and exhaustion. They also provoke a long list of other health conditions such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic infections, and a weakened immune system.

Iron deficiency also contributes to low endurance. It restricts the amount of oxygen transported to your muscles and creates lactic-acid buildup, causing you to tire out quickly.

Stress and anxiety hinder your endurance and often go completely undetected. When they become severe, your cortisol levels skyrocket. This impairs your ability to metabolize fats and carbohydrates and overwhelms your adrenal system. The result? You suffer from sleepiness, insomnia, junk food cravings, and a heavy reliance on caffeine to get through the day. 

If you’re training outdoors, be aware that elevation, humidity, and temperature have a huge impact on your endurance. Hot outside? Your increased body temperature leads to lowered muscular endurance. 

Running on higher ground? Greater altitudes generate lower atmospheric pressure (thinner air), making it harder for you to breathe while you exercise. It’s a great tool to improve your oxygen intake over time but is not recommended for people with sleep, lung, or heart problems. 

Asthma, weak muscles, and low bone density make it harder to improve your endurance. Poor endurance also results from taking certain medications such as antidepressants, sleeping pills, antihistamines, or drugs that treat diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Five Endurance Exercises

The best workouts exhaust both your cardiovascular and muscular endurance as well as challenge your core strength. 

Allen Conrad, a chiropractic doctor and certified strength and conditioning specialist, says, “It’s important to work on strengthening your core, as this will help improve your endurance in any activity you perform.”

Complete these beginner endurance exercises at home with no equipment needed: 


Planks are a lot harder than they look but are extremely gratifying. They test you mentally and physically and improve your posture by strengthening your spine and abdominal muscles. The longer you hold a plank, the more your abs twitch and burn as you work to stabilize your core.

Planks are an isometric exercise, meaning your muscles don’t move but are still engaged. Isometrics offer a special kind of intensity that generates muscle, strength, balance, and flexibility over time. 

Before you high plank, find soft flooring or lay down a workout mat. Starting on your hands and knees, place your hands directly in line with your shoulders on the ground. From there, lift your knees away from the floor and straighten out your legs. Space your feet shoulder-width apart and create a straight line from your neck down to your heels. 

Pull your belly button inward and squeeze your glutes to protect your lower back. Relax your shoulders, straighten out your neck, and don’t forget to breathe! 

Fortunately, your breath is the one thing you don’t have to hold. 

Remain in the plank position for at least 30 seconds while you jam out to your favorite song. For gradual improvement, go 10 seconds longer than you did last time. Before you know it, one-minute planks will be in your wheelhouse.

Challenge: Drop down to your elbows in a low plank for an intensified ab-burner!

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are basically high planks on steroids. They fire up your arms, shoulders, back, core, and legs. Talk about a quintuple threat!

Beginning from the plank position, lift one foot off the ground and drive your knee up towards your chest then repeat with the other leg. Move each leg slowly and progressively increase your speed to spike your heart rate and burn more calories. 

Remember the high knees exercise you did in middle school gym class? The difference here is that you perform it in a plank position rather than standing up. 


Looking to tone your arms, sculpt your core, and improve your endurance? Say hello to push-ups: your new best friend. It’s a love-hate relationship, but the results are worth it.

To start, set up in a high plank position. Align your hands with your shoulders and evenly space out your fingers. For a regular push-up, activate your core and lower your chest to the ground by bending your elbows. Keep your elbows tucked in and let them graze your sides as your body approaches the floor. 

To finish, lift your entire body back up by pressing your palms into the ground. Keep your legs straight and arms extended once you reach the top.

Challenge: Keep your feet pressed firmly together before executing your push-up. The closer your legs are, the more core strength you need for stability.

Modification: Have a condition or injury that prevents you from doing a normal push-up? No worries! Simply drop your knees to the floor instead of keeping them lifted.


For cardio lovers, burpees offer an intense total-body workout and give you a massive adrenaline rush. They target your shoulders, arms, abs, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, improve heart health, and effectively burn body fat

Start with a push-up and you’re halfway there! Next, hop to your feet and stay low in a squat position. Your feet are shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, your weight is primarily in your heels, and your hands hover in front of your chest. 

From there, throw your arms down, drive up through your legs, and push off of your toes. These motions create momentum for an explosive jump squat. Complete your burpee by returning to the plank position. Repeat this to your heart’s desire! 


Whether you prefer the treadmill or scenic outdoor routes, running is a great way to elevate your heart rate and strengthen your respiratory system. It naturally increases your endurance so your body doesn’t have to work as hard to perform at the same intensity level next time. 

Need inspirational cues to achieve that coveted runner’s high? Jog along to a running app

Power Up Your Endurance!

Improving your endurance takes time, patience, and determination. It doesn’t just prepare you to get the most out of your workouts, it also helps you get the most out of life. 

Better endurance gives you so much to look forward to: a healthier body, more confidence, enhanced energy, and the intoxicating gratification of proving your doubts, fears, and weaknesses wrong. Endurance demands effort, but strength is born in the struggle.

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