With summer officially behind us, autumn brings milder temperatures and plenty of fun runs. Unless you're a running tragic, though, the thought of pounding the pavement for 45 minutes per day, every day, is pretty daunting.
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Varied running sessions are fun sessions, and if you're having fun it's far easier to get faster, stronger, and healthier. Here are a few ways to mix up your program, increase your health and wellbeing, and become a running star.
Couch To 5K Program
If you're new to the running game, well done for getting involved – it's never too late. There are options galore to get started. At 30 minutes per day for three days per week, the Couch to 5k Program turns you into a runner in nine weeks. Download the C25k app, lace up your shoes and get moving.
Treadmills are less strenuous than outdoor running because the running belt does some of the work for you, requiring less mechanical work to run. If indoor running on a treadmill at the gym works for you, make sure to increase the workload so you're not cheating. To emulate outdoor running, put the treadmill setting at an incline of 1.0, and it will feel a lot more like you're pushing the (real) pavement.
Soft sand running
Jogging on the beach entails serious effort. Belgian researchers concluded sand running requires 1.6 times more effort than running on a hard surface due to increased mechanical work and a decrease in the efficiency of positive work performed by muscles and tendons. After a sand run, you'll certainly feel the difference in your calves, quads, glutes, and even your core. And there's nothing more rewarding than a post-run swim in the ocean.
Stair running and hill running
I (along with my training clients) love, yet hate, my 500-stair challenge. Up and down 500 stairs, timed each week, and do your best to improve upon the week before. The stairs suck, but they build strength and cardio health.
Hill running resembles the stairs, as the body has to work extra hard to move upward against gravity. Hips, legs, ankles and feet all have to coordinate to ascend the body, and science shows hill running provides results. For trained marathon runners, a Swedish study revealed hill running twice per week over 12 weeks resulted in a 3 per cent improvement in running economy – that's a massive result for top-tier athletes.
Mix in intervals to get a lean, strong sprinter's body, rather than the emaciated body of a marathon winner. After a nice warm-up, run 'the pyramids': sprint 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 600m, 400m, and 200m, with designated rests in between each interval. This is a serious workout.
Core and ankle stability is key when you hit the trails, as every step is potentially an uneven one. The bonus is this: there's no running style that will engage your mind like hitting the trails; there's a mind-foot connection present in every stride. Amongst the trees and the sun, hitting the trails is a superb mental and physical experience.
Bodyweight exercise while running
Spice up a 45-minute run with rounds of 150 jump ropes, 15 squats, 15 push-ups, and 15 sit-ups. Every six minutes or so, stop and perform this circuit, and by the end you'll have completed more than 1000 skips and 100 squats, push-ups and sit-ups. It's a simple way to turn a vanilla jog into a full-body weights and cardio session.
Enter a race
You've done your sprints, sand hill running and longer jogs. You're an all-rounder, ready to tackle a race. Why? Because it's a healthy, superb thing to do with a loved one, mates, or co-workers. Chasing down and bettering a PB (personal best) breeds accomplishment, and a beer after crossing that finish line tastes as sweet as any ever will.
Happy (varied) and healthy running.
What do you do to mix up your running sessions?