Shake Up Your Running Routine

Has your training hit a plateau? A fresh approach will boost your fitness and speed


Posted: 27 April 2011
by Liz Plosser

Runners thrive on consistency, but don't let routine turn into a rut. "Following the same route every morning or recycling a trusty training plan will not necessarily produce PBs," says performance coach Kim Ingleby (kimingleby.co.uk). "Going outside your comfort zone takes physical and mental energy, but the joy of hitting your fitness goals or getting faster makes it worthwhile."

Image credit: David Plunkert

Old Routine: Always run the same workouts

Fresh Approach: Mix it up

"The body adapts to a routine within three to four weeks," says David Allison, a running coach based in Arizona, US. So stick to a basic mix of speedwork, tempo runs and long runs, but make some weekly tweaks and adjust these workouts.

"For example, if you ran four one-mile repeats at 10K pace this week, do more 1000m repeats at a similar pace next time," says Allison.

Old Routine: Run, and run, and run some more

Fresh Approach: Take some breaks

"Training can sap your physical and mental resources, and put stress on your support systems: your spouse, kids and job," says coach Adam Zucco (trainingbible.com).

"If you never allow time to rejuvenate, it becomes hard to make fitness gains." So take at least two breaks a year - ranging from a week to a month - after a big race or when you feel worn out and grouchy (these are both signs of burnout). During this 'time off', run how and when you feel like it, cutting back on intensity.

Old Routine: Go as fast as you can

Fresh Approach: Run like a snail

"You get fit by recovering from workouts," says Zucco. "If you continue to place strain on your system, you won't improve." In other words, you reap the benefits of your next quality workout only if you recuperate properly from the previous one.

After a race or tough workout, do one or two days of easy running, slipping into a near-glacial pace. You can make this easier for yourself by finding a slower-than-you running buddy.

Old Routine: Walk the hard parts

Fresh Approach: Power through

"Most people experience self-doubt when they pass their perceived limits, and this is a natural reaction designed to conserve energy," says sports psychologist Dr Barbara Walker of the Center for Human Performance in Ohio, US.

But you can conquer tough moments with fast-finish workouts: run three to 16 200-400m repeats at a consistent pace, "but in the final rep, run to the limit of your ability", says Walker. "This will teach you to overcome discomfort."  

Old Routine: Train hard, then quit running altogether

Fresh Approach: Cultivate consistency

Beginners and returning runners set themselves up for failure by doing too much too soon. Instead, start with slow, short distances and plenty of cross-training. Avoid overdoing it by increasing your mileage by no more than 10 per cent each week; every fifth week drop your mileage by 10-20 per cent to recover.

Get Your Fix

The Problem: You had a bad race and signed up for a revenge race right away. 
Fast Fix: Chill. Marathoners need one to two months to recover and to determine what went wrong; 5K runners can return within two weeks.

The Problem:
You always run inside on the treadmill - except on race day.
Fast Fix: Run outside at least once a week to get used to dealing with wind resistance, changes in terrain and a different sense of pacing.

The Problem:
You never cross-train, lift weights or stretch.
Fast Fix: Do one of these three things once a week to increase strength and flexibility, and correct muscular imbalances.

The Problem:
You never race, so you run at the same (slow) pace all the time.
Fast Fix: Reap more cardio benefits by picking up the pace in some of your runs. Do eight to 10 surges lasting 15-30 seconds.


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Discuss this article

And remind yourself of the simple joys of a run by doing a bit of exploring: http://ditchthetreadmill.net/2011/05/05/holidays-on-foot/
Posted: 07/05/2011 at 08:28

I find it really hard to steer away from my regular routine because I fear that if I don't run the route I know to be 8miles, I will do another route, struggle and not be able to complete as much, and therefore feel like I have failed.

I work long days with a lot of travel and schedule my runs so I know I can fit those big runs in twice during the working week and smaller runs (with my doggy) in-between.

 I find it harder to run at weekends as I consider this my true 'Time off'

I wonder if anyone else is the same?


Posted: 05/07/2011 at 14:36

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