By Marina Aagaard, MFE
Do you run and run without progressing? Then read on for some great tips for smarter running in answer to this typical question:
“I have now been running for three years 4-5 miles twice every week. But still I do not see any improvement?”
“Do you want to improve or maintain your current form? To maintain a certain level of fitness with one type of program (with little change) is an o.k. goal. If you want to progress, however, you must apply some changes to your program.”
Running is super for cardiovascular fitness, but if your runs are the same every time, your body gets used to it and stops improving because of lack of variety, which stimulates improvement.
If you want to progress, you must change your running and push your body (a bit):
If you have time and energy, add an extra run a week – mostly you need three times a week for greater improvement. Or run a longer run or a more intense run, of same or shorter duration, on one of your running days.
The most time efficient and effective method is to increase intensity, e.g. run faster or run up hills or steps (if available) on your usual route.
You can run with regular intensity changes, systematic interval training, or let your mood or the landscape guide you, so-called fartlek (swedish for ‘speed play’).
You can vary your interval runs with different speeds and interval durations.
After a period with interval running, systematic or fartlek, you will feel the improvement and observe, that your running time gets better.
Systematic interval run
After the first 10-15 minutes of running you can play with short sprints, high-speed running, for 10-60 sec., followed by easy jogging for twice as long, e.g. 30 sec. : 60 sec.
A sprint and a jog, a ‘work interval’ and a ‘recovery interval’ is a repetition. Repeat this e.g. 8-12 times.
After the first 10-15 minutes of running, race from one lamppost to the next and then jog to the next. Or, whenever you see a hill or some stairs take a quick run up and down, and then jog until the heart rate drops and you feel ready for a new ‘detour’.
Choose different (new) routes for even more variation.
Note, that stronger muscles also improve your running markedly. Just a couple of times of fitness strength training per week, e.g. 2 x ½ hour, 6-8 exercises for the major muscles of the hips and legs, lower back and abs and upper body, will increase your strength and energy level. You will feel a difference in your running after just 1½-2 months of strength training.