The mild autumn weather is great for running and it’s tempting to use this as an excuse to skip the weights room. But as you pile on the miles, your need for strength training grows. Years of study show that strengthening the muscles and ligaments adds stability and power to a runner’s stride, and it can mean the difference between staying on the road and being sidelined by an injury.
That doesn’t mean you have to stay inside on a beautiful day. Outdoor circuit workouts, or sessions that alternate running and resistance exercises, are a perfect way to log more miles and build strength. And they’re more than just a good change of scenery. "Running-strength intervals force your body to adapt to something new, which will improve your overall fitness," says Eric Von Frohlich, a coach and personal trainer who leads outdoor group circuit sessions.
Exercising on grass or earth without using machines "strengthens your kinesthetic awareness and your proprioception," according to Tina Vindum, the founder of Outdoor Fitness in Marin, California. In other words, you’re training your neuromuscular system, which improves balance and your body’s ability to respond to its environment. Plus, you really earn your postworkout ice cream. "Interval workouts burn calories like lighter fluid," says Vindum.
Head to a park, the playground or even the beach to do the workouts, and experiment with running on various surfaces (sand, grass, earth).
Running outside, building strength and blasting calories on sunny autumn days – now, doesn’t that sound better than the gym?
CORE POWER (30 mins)
Do these exercises slowly, favouring form over repetitions or time.
Warm-up Run for 10 minutes; do four 30-second strides during the last five minutes.
Run the first running segment, then finish with five minutes of easy running.
LOWER-BODY BLAST (45 mins)
Find a moderately steep hill (6-8 per cent gradient) for this session.
Warm-up Run easy for five minutes. On a flat surface, do five of the following gently: walking lunge, single-leg squat (each leg). Finish with two minutes of easy running.
Sumo Squat Stand with your feet together, your right side facing a hill. Take a large step uphill and lower into a modified squat (see picture right). Press down through your left arch, then quickly bring your left foot to meet your right. Continue moving uphill in this way for 60 seconds; run downhill for recovery. Repeat the exercise with the other leg leading.
Quadruped Back Extension Start on all fours. Extend your left arm and right leg, parallel to the floor. Keep your back and neck straight, stomach pulled in, and extend your arm and leg. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then change sides. Do two sets with a 10- to 20-second rest between.
Repeat the hill exercise sequence (minus the warm-up), then run easy for five to 10 minutes.
FULL-BODY BLITZ (60 mins)
Head to a playground for this workout.
Warm-up Run easy for six minutes, then do the carioca step. Cross your left foot in front of your right, then your right foot steps right, your left foot crosses behind you, and so on. Do this for 20 seconds on each side, twice.
Press-Ups Do three sets of 10 to 15.
Tempo Run Run at a RPE of eight for six minutes, walk for 20 seconds.
Inverted Rows Find a bar two or three feet high. Lie on your back and grab the bar, palms facing you (see picture left). Keep your body straight as you pull up to the bar. Do three sets of 10-15.
Speedwork Run at RPE of seven then nine then seven, one minute each, walk 20 seconds.
Reverse Crunches Lie on your back with thighs at 90 degrees and legs bent. Use your abs to curl your knees to your chest (see picture below). Do three sets of 15-30.
Tempo Run Same as first tempo segment.
Sprint 30 seconds, recover 30 seconds, three times for three minutes.
Travelling Lunge See description in 'Lower-Body Blast' (above) but do them on a flat surface for 60 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat.
Tempo Run Same as first tempo segment.
Prone Cobra Lie face-down on the grass, arms in front of you, palms down. Draw your bellybutton in and lift your chest up. Hold for five seconds, rest for five seconds; do two sets of 10.
Finish with an easy five- to 10-minute run.