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Better stamina, stronger you

Cardiovascular activities alone can't boost stamina levels. You need the right mix of strength training with cardio to improve your enduranc

travel Updated: Jul 19, 2010 09:47 IST

Most people dread workouts
because of the
immense discomfort
they feel while exercising.
This is an indication
that your body isn't ready to take the
load you're putting on it, and you need
to slow down until you can increase
your stamina levels. Pushing yourself
to the limit is not always the best
way to get results. Understanding
your body and its fitness level is of
prime importance, so you can build
your stamina and strength slowly.


What is stamina?
Stamina is a measure of how long you can sustain a stressful activity. Gauging your stamina helps determine your overall physical fitness to battle disease, fatigue and illness. "Most people perceive stamina as lung power," says Daniel Vaz, coach of the Nike Run Club in Mumbai. "But in reality, good stamina means a stronger heart. It means that your heart is now pumping in more blood with every beat, which is technically known as hypertrophy. This means the heart is working lesser time to do more work, and hence you are more comfortable with the same workout and you feel healthier," explains Vaz.

To build your stamina, it's essential to practice strength training alongside aerobic activities like jogging and brisk walking to strengthen your joints and muscles. Opt for an indoor workout (in a gym) if you are just starting out. Jogging outdoors is not an option for those who are working out after months, or experience low stamina levels.

Want AIR?
"Cardiovascular activities challenge the aerobic energy system of your body; the more you do, the better your body is able to transport oxygen from your lungs to your muscles where it's needed to burn energy," says Heath Matthews, senior sports physiotherapist at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Sports Medicine Centre.

Matthews recommends you do cardiovascular workouts that last 30 to 60 minutes, four times a week, and alternate days of strength training. "Start the strength training with low weights, nothing above 50 per cent of your body weight, and include high repetitions -- sets of 12 to 20 per exercise," he adds.

"Once you are comfortable with this workout, and your stamina increases gradually, avoid increasing the load of workout by more than 10 per cent with each cycle," advises Matthews.

You can even mix the two -- cardio and strength training -- in every workout for three days of the week, suggests Vaz. Start gently on the treadmill, move on to a brisk walk, and then a jog, and then bring it down once again when the heart rate starts climbing. Follow this alternating routine for about 20 minutes and follow it up with 30 minutes of strength training.

The strength training should focus on different parts of the body on different days. The legs, back and chest are the largest muscles and must be treated in isolation on each day. Work out your abs on all days, and mix your chest workout with arms, and back with shoulders. On the fourth day, use a cross trainer machine like the elliptical machine or the stair climber.

Am i overdoing it?
Checking your heart rate during exercise is the best way to know if you're overexerting yourself. If you're running, stop and measure your pulse rate for 30 seconds. Keep walking as you do this. Multiply the figure by two to get your heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.

"In a low intensity workout, your heart rate should not go beyond 50-65 per cent of the maximum. A medium workout is 65 to 80 per cent range, and an intensive workout goes even above that," says Matthews.

Take a day off
It's important that you give your body a day of rest between workouts in order for it to recover. Each time you work out, your muscles undergo minute tear, or micro trauma. Hence, the body needs a day of rest so it can heal itself.

It also helps you stay on the path. "The drop out rate becomes very high if you ask someone to work out six days a week. Three days of workout on alternate days will ensure that people stay motivated for a long time," says Vaz.

Eat right for better stamina
Nutritionist Naini Setalvad says that water is essential for improving stamina. "Most people reach out for food when they're fatigued. But staying hydrated also gives you strength to go on."

When it comes to foods that can provide you energy, she says to opt for items that have a low glycaemic index -- these will provide you energy for a longer time, and not necessarily foods that are high in protein.

Foods with a low glycaemic index are:
All vegetables Greens like barley (Roman gladiators use to ear barley bread before going into the battlefield) All pulses Moorgiri rice Nuts like pistachios Dry fruits like prunes and apricots Foods like ghee and olive oil that have more Omega3, are more satisfying.