Stamina vs. Endurance discussions often involve two errors.
- The first is using these terms interchangeably.
- The second is on how to improve each.
Stamina is the capability of sustaining prolonged stressful effort. For runners stamina is the ability to handle a specific pace (stressful effort) over a specific distance. Endurance is the ability to exert yourself for a long period of time. For runners endurance is the ability to run long distances.
So, someone who can run 50 miles has greater endurance than someone who can run a marathon. So you can see that these terms are also relative.
But, both require stamina – the specific pace chosen for that race – regardless of distance. An 800 meter runner needs stamina to finish the last 200 in his race.
A novice runner capable of only running 5K has limited endurance and most likely stamina as well. More often than not a novice runner lacks both. An Olympic level 5K runner has great stamina to maintain almost four-minute miles for 3.1 miles. However, he most likely suffers from lack of endurance to run a successful marathon on his 5K training plan.
You could simplistically look at it this way. If you can currently complete the distance you wish to race and you would like to run that specific distance faster – you lack stamina. If you cannot currently complete the distance (as is often the case for new marathoners) then you lack the endurance to do so.
If all you talk about is “finishing” some race then you want to be sure you have sufficient endurance. Once you start talking about running a distance in a specific time, or not finishing slower than XX:XX then you have introduced the element of stamina and pace of workouts becomes more important. The concept of “goal pacing” now comes into play. (If you are just running to finish then you are only aiming to endure the distance at whatever pace happens.)
How do you improve endurance?
So, endurance is addressed by progressively adding miles to your training weeks as well as lengthening your long runs. If you do that, you will improve your endurance. But, remember, this is not infinite and more miles yields more injuries. At some point, smarter training and varied paces are what will improve your running.
How do you improve stamina?
This is a more complex question. It is first and foremost event specific. Stamina will be addressed with different paces for an 800 meter runner or miler or 5k runner or 10K runner or half-marathoner or marathoner. The goal pacing is neuro-muscular specific training. You will become more efficient at the pace you train at.
What is missing for most runners is progressively larger portions of their training done @ their goal pace for that goal race. So, you first have to know your prime race distance and your target time. You then replicate that pace if smaller increments (from goal pacing miles on the roads for marathoners to 200 meter repeats at goal pace for milers).
Another good workout to enhance stamina is to run workouts that the last miles (or track reps if you are of the middle distance track ilk) are your fastest miles. It increases your ability to run hard (mentally and physically) while fatigued.
As your season training plan progresses your total percentage of goal paced miles must increase. That ultimately conditions you to put it all together on the big “marathon” day (or days for track runners).
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