Did you know that the more you can vary your training, the better a runner you’ll be?
Irrespective of what you’re training for, every runner should incorporate runs of varying pace and distance into their weekly routine to improve running form and safeguard against injury. If you’re stuck in a rut of running the same route at the same pace over and over again, have a look at these simple tips.
Practise running faster
I would advise incorporating some “speed” work at least once a week. Running quicker than your natural go-to pace will force your body to improve its running form, and will also train your body to be fitter and faster. Think about it – if I asked you now to run at your normal pace, I bet in the majority of you, we would see your shoulders hunched, your pelvis collapsed, and your legs shuffling. If I asked you to run at a quicker pace to normal, I guarantee you would raise your head, use your arms, engage your core muscles, and lift your knees. Practising even short bursts of speed work regularly will help you become a more efficient runner, irrespective of whether you are training to get faster or not, which will help prevent injury in the long term. Even a few strides at the end of every run is a good habit to get into; strides are short bursts of faster running with exaggerated good technique. They teach you to run more efficiently and naturally. The faster you run, the easier you will also find it to get into a good breathing rhythm, as your body works harder to expel used air, and gets more efficient.
If speedwork is new to you, here’s a great session that is really simple to do:
10 minute warm up
10 x (1 min effort; 2 mins recovery slow run or walk)
10 minute cool down
Run more trail
Why would you want to run more trail if you only ever take part in road events? Well, running continuously on road at the same pace can be extremely bad for our joints. The only variation we get is the occasional pause for traffic, to leap a kerb, or a dog(!), or to avoid street furniture. Trail running is fantastic cross training for any runner. Running on uneven ground activates all the tiny proprioceptors to keep you balanced. On trail, your stride length is constantly changing, and there are many tiny adjustments in pace, so your brain is engaged in keeping you upright as every foot landing offers a potential hazard, especially on rocky or slippery ground. Trail running is a full body and mind workout and you will be a stronger and more balanced runner for it. If you have never run on a trail before, ease yourself in gently, perhaps around a local park on grass, until eventually you build up confidence to truly go off road.
Trail running of course also has the added benefit of getting you outside in nature, discovering new beauty spots, enjoying the peace and quiet, and all the added benefits for mental health which that brings.
Run up more hills
I am a huge advocate of hill training, which I like to call speedwork in disguise. Running up hills uses a different combination of muscles to running on the flat (again we’re preventing injury by making you a more balanced runner) and is great training for building power and strength because it is essentially resistance training. Because you’ll also be up on your toes and using your arms to drive yourself uphill, it’s also great for encouraging good running technique to improve efficiency in your form. What’s not to like?
Try this: after a 15-20 minute warm up, run uphill at full intensity for 10 seconds at a time then jog back downhill. Start with 10 reps, and gradually build up. Cool down for 10 minutes afterwards and don’t forget to stretch.
Change your shoes regularly
It’s tempting to stick to one pair of shoes that fit you like slippers, but this is a fast track to injury.. Changing up your weekly running schedule to incorporate different types of running encourages you to mix up your footwear. Even swapping between a trail pair and a road pair with a trail run once a week will significantly reduce your chances of picking up an overuse injury. Personally, I own a few pairs of trail shoes depending on terrain, a road shoe for long distance that I know are comfortable, a pair of lighter road shoes for racing, and a mid distance shoe that I use on road for tempo runs.
I hope you find these tips useful.
For advice on training, or for a bespoke training plan, please get in touch.