When you read about the benefits of long runs, tempo runs, hill training, cross-training, post-run strides and so on (and on...) it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you think you should accomplish. If your quest to fit it all in is sapping your running mojo, it’s time to declutter your schedule.
Organisation maven Marie Kondo, whose books include The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, believes happiness comes from letting go of things you store out of obligation, and keeping your favourites. Her ideas can help runners trim the ‘should-dos and focus on what gives them satisfaction’, says ultra runner and coach Art Ives. And that can revive flagging motivation.
The best way to set a goal can be to identify the type of running that lights up your day and then let that dictate your target, says coach Larry Blaylock. Use this guide to choose your next goal and organise your training according to the type of running that brings you joy.
If you love to climb, make your goal a trail race
Choose a trail race that’s shorter than your go-to road distance and start with a weekly trail session. For the first three to six weeks, run on short, rolling hills. Over the next three to six weeks, graduate to hills that are longer (up to two miles) and steeper. Keep the effort level easy: ‘These climbs build strength and stamina,’ says Ives. ‘Speed will follow.’
If you love the burn of tempo pace, make your goal a fast 10-miler
Tempo runs – which should include at least 20 minutes of running at a comfortably hard pace – appeal to runners who love to push themselves. Tempo workouts raise your fatigue threshold – letting you run faster and over longer distances without tiring. That’s key for a strong 10-miler, which requires both speed and endurance. Start week one with one 20-minute tempo session (with a warm-up and cool-down of five-to-10 minutes), and vary the duration of the tempo phase (up to 40 mins) in subsequent weeks.
If you love running with other people, make your goal a full diary
Chatty runs are great for developing base aerobic fitness, says Blaylock. But running buddies can also propel you through hard workouts. Join friends for hills or intervals: if they’re slower, you can up their game; if they’re faster, you can chase them. If you’re chasing, take easy days before and after. Widen your run-social circle, too: join a club run each week.
If you love going long, make your goal to race further
‘I love running longer, because you work so much stress out,’ says Blaylock. Plus, long runs change your perception of limitations. ‘There’s a second energy that you get in the later stages,’ says Ives. Blaylock recommends choosing a race up to 60 per cent longer than you’ve ever gone before – whether that’s a 10K or a 100K. Training for a 10K takes eight weeks; prerequisites for an ultra include several marathon finishes and 21-24 weeks of training.
If you love just running, make your goal to run healthy
You don't have to race to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of running, but you do need to avoid injury-enforced time out. Aim for at least 90 minutes per week of running at your ‘happy pace’. To stay injury-free, do two weekly 15-minute strength-training sessions. Target your core muscles (with moves such as planks and side planks), along with some lower leg and glute work (such as squats and lunges).
If you love to run (and hike and bike and swim), make your goal an obstacle race or triathlon
When runners challenge their bodies in different ways such as swimming and cycling, they unlock heaps of fun and build body strength. Sprint triathlons don’t call for a huge amount of extra training time, and obstacle races develop all-round fitness. Make sure you still run for at least 30 mins three times a week to maintain running-specific adaptations.