by Laura Ouimet in Training Tips, image by Sebastian Mary

The Benefits of Diversified Training

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We started a tradition at my house many years ago of pizza night every Friday night.  Sounds great, right?

The only problem was that it was the same pizza from the same place every single Friday night. And, don’t get me started on the leftovers!  It didn’t happen right away, but eventually I stopped looking forward to Friday pizza night.   Then it got worse.  I started dreading having pizza night at all.  I even stopped eating pizza on these nights and I ordered a salad instead. Finally, I stopped going to pizza night all together.  It took years before I would even eat pizza again. Imagine that!

Any form of repetition can cause someone to burn out. This remains true for running, biking, swimming, or any form of exercise. It can be easy for someone to get caught in a repetitious pattern, as many people are drawn to activities that are convenient. Running can be especially repetitive, you need to figure out how to switch up the routine to keep yourself interested and excited. You may have a scenic three-mile loop right outside your front door, it easy to maintain your running schedule, so you run it all the time.  Or, maybe you hate to run outdoors and you own a treadmill that you run on for an hour each day.

So, listen up runners, I’m speaking to you: Do you automatically roll out of bed, lace up the shoes and head out for the obligatory three-mile loop or jump on the treadmill?  Are you still as enamored with it as the first time you ran it?  I bet not.  Has your running routine become a chore or a necessary evil?   You have the power to get out of your repetitious rut and mix up the run.

As a runner, not only should you try new locations, but you should also try new surfaces and incorporate new techniques.

Better yet, throw in some cross-training as well to switch up your techniques.  I know, you are a runner, so you just run. Why would you take a spin class, hot yoga, or strength train at a gym?  This goes back to the old saying:  variety is the spice of life.  Varying your fitness routine is essential to become a well-rounded runner.  Here are four reasons why you should diversify your training and how to add a little ginger to your jog.

Achieve Results

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   In most cases this would be true; however, I am going to throw a monkey wrench in Einstein’s theory here. Even if you are just looking to maintain your current fitness level, you can’t do it with the same old routine.  Your body becomes efficient at your chosen exercise routine when it is repeated over and over. Your muscle memory decreases the amount of effort necessary and expanded, thus decreasing your calorie burn.  So, in this case, doing the same thing over and over again eventually will not have the same result!

You must switch up the training by adding something new and cranking up the intensity:

  • Go a little farther or a little faster on your run, or do both.
  • Make one of your runs a tempo run.  Add-in some intervals or hill repeats.
  • Pick one run a week and make that run longer, building by no more than 10% from week to week.

By adding any one or all three of these tips to your running routine, you will achieve new and improved results.

Muscle Activation

Running on different surfaces, or cycling, or even working out on the elliptical machine at your gym will activate a variety of new and different muscles. If your body is use to running on the treadmill, increase the incline or take a run through your local park. If you are a trail runner, try mountain biking.  When you start to vary your terrain, add inclines and descents, cross-train, or even run in different shoes you increase your strength and activate muscles you may not be currently using.  For example, swimming is a great full body workout with impact.

Believe it or not, upper body and core strength are important for a runner and swimming is a good way to help you achieve an all over strength gain.  You can also incorporate strength or resistance training into your daily routine.  This will make you stronger, fatigue less quickly and become more toned.  After a strength training session, your body burns a lot of calories and needs additional energy to repair the muscle tissue just broken down, therefore, you will increase your metabolism.

Fight Boredom – Stay Motivated

This step doesn’t require much explanation.   Doing the same fitness routine over and over can get mighty tedious.  Diversifying your training will increase overall fitness level and will motivated you to run as well.

Reduce Injury

Running can lead to over-use injuries because of the repetitive nature of the sport and the impact of activity level on leg muscles and joints.  Instead of engaging in running   multiple times during the week, hop on a bike or hit the pool.  You’ll still get the aerobic workout, but you will be employing new muscles with less impact.

Now that you know why and how to diversify your training routine, stay committed!  The best way to do this is to sign up for a race and initiate the process today.  If you’ve never entered a race, sign up for one.  If you run races throughout the year, register for one that is a little bit different from your usual type. Switch up your race running by signing up for a Thanksgiving Day run like the Dana Point Turkey Trot, or perhaps a trail race, triathlon, or even a marathon?

Good luck and keep on running!

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