What is Stamina?
There are countless articles on the web that talk about various ways in which you can improve your running stamina. We have compiled some of our favorites and have adapted them to be used with the Training Mask to get maximum benefit. First, it is extremely helpful to define what stamina is:
Stamina is the fusion of strength and endurance over the course of a workout session (time interval).
This is different than pure endurance which is the ability to sustain any effort for an extended time frame. Stamina is what most athletes and runners lust after. It’s the ability to maintain power and speed for longer. There are countless components to running. If we analyze the foundation of running, we can boil the major leverage points into four key areas:
- Cardiovascular Potential
- Respiratory Efficiency
- Mode of Training
That’s pretty much it. If you scoured the google mega-verse you could find a lot of topics. Almost all of them fall into one of these four categories. Sadly, what you will also find is that there is a wealth of information on mode of training/technique, a scant amount on cardiovascular influence, and an even smaller proportion on breathing. Ironically, when we really keep the gas pedal to the floor while we run, the thing that slows us down the most is how hard we are breathing. Once we get into that red zone, it feels like no amount of breathing will ease the discomfort…so our intensity slips. This happens to even the best runners, regardless of utilizing impeccable technique while performing the most advanced running interval training protocol. Those elite runners would feel the same discomfort you do if they pushed intensity hard enough, for long enough.
The Missing Link.
So, what’s the answer? Run harder? Run longer? A new workout? Changing stride length? All those things would help, but it is inevitable that if you go hard for long enough, your stamina will give way, and you will slow down. Next, we need to factor in cardiovascular output. Would that make a difference? Indeed it would, but the only way to train the heart is indirectly. Cardiovascular output improves as it comes along for the ride in your workouts.
Finally, we come to breathing. The role player behind the scenes that helps Jordan win championships but gets little press. All of us can identify with that suffocating feeling we get after running as hard as we can. The time has come for us to address this issue unswervingly, and while we can’t work our heart directly, we can strengthen our breathing muscles directly (in addition to focusing on breathing technique).
Nose – Mouth Breathing Progression:
It is well documented in the scientific literature that breathing through the nose with your tongue resting just behind you front teeth, is the best bay to activate the diaphragm (our strongest breathing muscle). Unfortunately, breathing through your nose while you are running hard can be a challenge. Included below, is a progression to maximize breathing technique while you run so that you are breathing through your nose, which will keep your diaphragm engaged longer. Breathing tempo is also of paramount importance. Inhalations should be shorter in duration than exhalations. This will insure adequate air turnover on each breath, and deter you from resorting to shallow breathing. A good rule of thumb is 4 seconds in and 6 seconds out. An easy way to accomplish this without counting is to time footfalls to breaths. A ratio of twice as many footfalls when you exhale, versus inhale, is a good place to start.
a) Run at a brisk pace while you breathe through your nose as long as you can.
b) Once you reach a point where you feel like you are not getting enough air, changeover to inhaling through the nose, and out through the mouth.
c) If that method is too hard to maintain for the whole workout, regress back to pure mouth breathing for the remainder of the session while trying to maintain breathing tempo.
Adding in the Mask: (Every other session)
a) Stay at the 3X resistance setting until you can complete a full workout breathing in through your nose using the prescribed breathing tempo.
b) It’s a good idea to only move up in small increments until your accustomed to using the Training Mask on a regular basis. (for example, once you complete the 3X progression, move to the 6X, do not go straight to 12X)
c) Once you make it to the 9X resistance level, your next workout will be focused on getting your best time for that workout. Try to maintain the breathing technique you have been practicing, but it is not the sole focus of the time trial workout.