I’m not much into new year’s resolutions – they usually involve over-promising and under-delivering with the knock-on being a nasty case of self flagellation. Trying out new things, on the other hand, is a safe way to dip your toes in the exciting waters of new experience without all the pressure. Runners are notorious creatures of habit and often reluctant to try out new approaches to training. Here are a few ideas to mix into your running life in 2013.
Personal strength training
Not excited about getting into the gym? Working with a personal trainer can make the experience of strength training for running much more approachable, enjoyable and effective.
The good news is that because you’ll be working at a higher intensity; one session per week should be enough to give your running ability a boost. Strength training is very effective – even among groups of highly-trained distance runners there is usually an increase of 5% or more in running economy or performance gain when strength training is introduced into runners’ training programs. Just be sure your PT is targeting the right muscles and movement patterns.
I’m not the most enthusiastic swimmer in the world. My thinking is there’s a good reason why humans are the most successful land-dwelling mammals, we’re runners not swimmers! Nonetheless swimming is great recovery from the rigours of running and a beneficial form of exercise in its own right. An easy 20 minutes of your favourite stroke will loosen the muscles and get you primed for your next run; and if you attack your swimming with a reasonable level of volume and intensity, you’ll find the spin-off benefit of deeper, stronger breathing patterns carrying over into your running.
This measure takes a little planning and effort so you might not be able to implement it every day, but a couple of times per week consider driving or catching public transport to a destination run. This might be as simple as skipping the usual 20 minutes of hard surfaces you usually encounter on the way to the park or some other natural running surface. Running from the same starting point over and over again can be monotonous, whereas a short drive to a cracking route and a softer surface can dramatically change how you feel about and respond to running.
New shoe brand and model
If you’re anything like most runners you probably stick to the same brand and shoe model each time you replace your worn-out pair. Much as it’ll pain the salespeople whose numbers are inflated by overly loyal consumers; think about getting a different brand and shoe model into the mix. The psychological and physical stimulus can be a nice change-up for the body and mind. Moreover, you should try and match the shoe you’re wearing to the purpose and surface of your run. Nearly every brand makes a few good models so don’t be afraid to try a different shoe.
Ease into the run
It’s a bit of a trap for busy businesspeople trying to maximise their running time (especially at lunch breaks) to launch into your full running pace the moment you step out of the office. This is a really bad idea: not only to you deprive your body the opportunity to properly warm up; you also miss the chance to tune into a good rhythm. Good runners start very slow – just above walking pace – and don’t hit their stride until they are well into the run. If you run with others who don’t follow this pattern you are risking injury and reducing your overall enjoyment of running.
Try to change their approach, or run alone if you need to. There’s also a great deal of sense in beginning and ending your runs with walking, especially if a five- or 10-minute walk gets you off hard surfaces and into the park.
Running technique drills
Silly walking and running technique drills do look a bit ridiculous, but they are worth practising a couple of times per week. They can form part of an active warm-up and cool-down to keep your body working through a good range of motion. In terms of running technique, they afford you the opportunity to practise small components of good running form. Almost anyone can do the walking variants of the classic A-March and B-March running drills to improve general co-ordination. Running drills can be the last little piece of glue that helps bond together strength training and specific running sessions.
Make sure you try out some new training techniques during 2013 and, most importantly, keep enjoying your running experience.