Running with Variety

  • Vary Your Gear
  • Vary Your Terrain
  • Vary Your Routes
  • Vary Your Company
  • Vary Your Sounds

Planning on doing lots of running over a fifty day period? Worried about getting a bit bored?

Worry not. Here are some top tips for introducing variety into your routine.

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Vary Your Gear

It may be worthwhile investing in a second pair of running shoes. There are two main benefits to this. First, since each make and model of shoe will vary slightly you avoid subjecting your feet and lower legs to exactly the same stresses and strains every time you run. Second, letting your shoes rest for a day or two between sessions lets them dry out.

Particularly handy if you've been running in the rain or through puddles.

Vary Your Terrain

Don't just stick to the roads, hit the trails and running track as well. Trails offer a chance to check out some beautiful scenery and varied terrain while a running track provides a consistent environment with no roads to cross or dogs to chase you, and it makes it so much easier to carry out structured sessions. 1 kilometre is 2.5 laps of a standard running track and 5k is 12.5 laps.

Vary Your Routes

There are lots of sites that have routes suggested by other runners. Check out MapMyRun and WalkJogRun. Experiment with different routes and get to know a new area.

A top tool for planning distances is Map Pedometer.

Vary Your Company

Running solo is a great chance to catch up with your thoughts, but group runs have a remarkable way of making the time fly by. Why not get some friends to sign up for a challenge with you?

Lots of running clubs have regular group runs and most of them are more inclusive than you might think. They're also a great source of knowledge. British Athletics has a search page.

RunTogether in England and JogScotland in Scotland offer loads of groups runs for a wide range of abilities.

parkruns are free timed 5k runs on Saturday morning. They have a good mix of runners from complete beginners to the super-speedy. There's also a 2k option for kids on Sundays with junior parkrun.

And if you fancy a spot of volunteering while running why not see if there is a GoodGym in your local area.

Vary Your Sounds

Lots of people listen to music or podcasts when running, but it's nice to enjoy the sounds of your own thoughts sometimes. Give it a go.

Vary Your Training

One way to run 1k or 5k every day is to just go out and run it, and there's nothing wrong with that, but in addition to avoiding tedium, variety in your sessions will improve your all-round fitness and conditioning and you'll be a better runner as a result.

Here are some suggestions:

Royal Flush

A Royal Flush involves splitting your run into several segments and running each faster than the last.

Breaking the run up into five segments works well. So, for a 5k that works out neatly as kilometre per section. For 1k runners it's best to measure a 200m length (the track is ideal for this). If you're running for half an hour then increasing the pace every five minutes will provide a fair challenge.

But beware of starting too quickly! You don't want to be close to flat out with two sections left.

The brave can break the run up into ten sections, but be warned that this can be pretty tough with very fine pace increments required.

Strides

Strides are "short relaxed sprints". They're great for warming up and just getting the legs turning over a bit more quickly. Try running for about ten seconds at 80-90% of your top speed while maintaining good form.

Strides are also a great way to break up runs. 5k runners could do one every kilometre or every 5 minutes. 1k runners could do one every 400 metres.

There's a comprehensive guide to strides here.

Fartlek

"Fartlek" is Swedish for "speed play".

Head out on your run and experiment running at different speeds, just making it up as you go along. You could decide to work hard up a particular hill before jogging down the other side, then sprinting to a lampost before jogging as slowly as you can to the next one and then running moderately quickly to the end of the street before a few minutes taking it easy.

You're in control!

On/Off

This is a more-structured session.

You spend a little time jogging then a little time running hard. 100 metres jog/100 metres fast can work well for 1k runners (don't worry about exact distances unless you're on a track and can measure it).

5k runners and those running by time may find using duration more appropriate. One-minute hard/three-minutes easy is a good split.

Gear Grinder

Measure a loop of about 400 metres and split it into four sections.

Now identify four running "gears". Gear one should be a jog and gear four should be running pretty fast. Gears two and three will be somewhere in between.

Run round the loop, spending the time in each section in a different gear. Then repeat until you've completed your desired distance. The simplest method is to work through the gears, starting in gear one for the first section, moving up into gear two for the next section and so on. But any variation will do. And there's nothing wrong with the odd recovery lap.

There are a few more ideas for sessions here, including some options for those with GPS watches and heart rate monitors.

A Final Warning...

When you introduce anything new to your training it can take its toll, so proceed cautiously and make sure you stay strong for your entire 50-day challenge.

Good luck!

Simon Loughran,
UK Athletics Coach and head coach at runbundle.com

Simon Loughran. Running Coach & Founder of Runbundle

About 5x50

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