Regardless whether it’s a bike, run or swim, an athlete typically wants two things to improve: the distance they can cover and at what pace. Almost anyone with a base level of fitness can finish a marathon if they keep to a walking pace, but that won’t win any prizes. On the other hand, even if someone is really fast, what’s it worth if they can’t keep it up long enough to get anywhere? Both speed and stamina are crucial components of athletic performance.
Running Faster and Farther
It’s common sense—the best way to become a better long-distance runner is to practice long-distance running. However, is this the best way to also reduce the time it takes to run a 10k or even a marathon?
According to a study published in Strength and Conditioning Research, endurance training resulted in runners that were able to run longer, but not significantly faster.
A research paper in the December 2014 Journal of Human Kinetics examines using sprint interval training (SIT) to improve long-distance running times. The conclusion was that SIT was more effective than just endurance training to improve speed and stamina.
To do SIT training, vary the speed at intervals during a run. Try maintaining 60 to 80 percent of the maximum heart rate for 5 or 10 minutes and then do a sprint at intervals during the run. By reducing the time spent running at a normal pace, the average run time will become faster.
Read more: The 8 best stretches to do before running
Faster Bike Rides
Bicycle riding depends on legs that can pump pedals fast for a long time. If endless hours spent in the saddle haven’t made you any faster, then it’s time to think out of the box.
According to a study in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 25 weeks of heavy strength training improved stamina and endurance in young, elite cyclists. A strength program to develop stamina and speed as a cyclist could be:
Alternating lunges holding dumbbells: Start standing, hands holding dumbbells at your sides, feet hip-width apart. Step backward with one leg and dip down until the knee lightly touches the floor. Push up with the front leg until standing again. Repeat for the other leg Use a weight that allows the completion of five sets of six to 10 reps and rest for at least 30 seconds between sets.
Barbell squats: For safety, use a squat rack and spotter. Begin squatting by approaching the squat rack and, placing the shoulders underneath the barbell, straighten up under the weight and lift it off the rack. Step backward about a foot and slowly descend into a squat no deeper than thighs parallel to the floor. Ascend back to a standing position
For cycling stamina and speed try doing five or six sets with a weight that allows you to perform eight to 10 reps with about a minute break between sets.
Swimming Faster in Long-Distance
A research article in Journal of Sports Science and Medicine concluded that dry land strength-training significantly improved swim times compared to swim practice alone. What exercises are good to develop stamina and speed for swimmers?
Alternating dumbbell presses: This movement powerfully trains the shoulder muscles with an alternating motion similar to swimming.
HOW TO DO IT: Start standing or seated with dumbbells held at shoulder height with both hands facing forward. Begin by extending one arm overhead until the elbow is straight. Next bring the weight down in a controlled fashion. Repeat the movement with the other arm. Do five sets with a weight that allows eight to 10 reps on each side.
Pull-ups: All swim strokes are essentially pulling motions, and the body weight pull-up is one of the best ways to develop pulling speed and stamina.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin by grasping the bar with both hands facing forward and then hang supporting the entire body off the floor. Pull the chin up to the bar without swinging or kicking the legs. Slowly descend to the starting position. A good routine could be five to eight sets of 10 or more reps using only body weight.
Read more: 10 exercises to help you conquer the pull-up