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Spring is the perfect time to run. Warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt but not so warm that you’re dripping with sweat a few minutes in. There’s no better time to add variety to your training.
Why change things up, especially since you’re just finding your groove after spending the last six months battling winter’s elements? Too often runners are guilty of more of the same: The same distance. The same pace. The same route. But too much of the same leads to boredom, stalled progress and lacklustre results. To help spice up your running routine, here are four workouts that will not only keep things fresh, they’ll restore any loss of speed caused by taking it easy during the winter.
Incorporate one new workout a week into your routine rather than trying them all in the next few days. Sprinkle these new runs among your regular workouts, saving them for days when you need extra motivation. Stay on the conservative side the first time, then play with your speed, distance and number of intervals. The idea is to have fun while exploring new limits. So pull on your running shoes, slather on the sunscreen and get moving.
The Swedish word for “speed play,” fartleks are untimed intervals that use landmarks instead of a watch to mark the start and finish of the interval. It’s perfect for when you’re feeling peppy but don’t want to get bogged down setting up the interval feature on your smartwatch or phone. Spot a landmark like a stop sign, light post, park or house and pick up the pace until you make it there. Slow down to a more comfortable pace for a minute or so and then start looking for your next landmark. Don’t worry about making all fartleks the same distance. That’s the beauty of these loosey-goosey intervals: make ‘em short, make ‘em long, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you can maintain your elevated pace until reaching your predetermined landmark. Start with four fartleks sometime after the first 10 or 15 minutes of your run, then return to your normal pace. Work up to six or eight fartleks, adjusting the length of each fartlek to your mood and energy level.
Tempo runs have a sustained bout of speed in the middle of the run. This lengthy mid-run interval can be anywhere from five to 40 minutes, depending on your planned distance, with a moderate to easy pace leading into and out of the tempo portion of the workout. As for what kind of speed to maintain, a good tempo run is done at around 80 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate, or slightly slower than “race pace,” which corresponds with the pace of your goal time. If you’re trying to break a 30-minute 5K, run your tempo somewhere just over six minutes per kilometre (try 6:05 or 6:10 per km to start).
As the tempo interval becomes easier, keep the pace the same but go longer. Once you’re keeping stride with your new run goal, go ahead and pick up the pace another notch. The idea is to help you tolerate high-intensity efforts, so you should always feel like you’re pushing your pace into that uncomfortable zone. If the whole thing feels too intimidating, keep the tempo intervals short to start and slowly lengthen them as your body gets better at tolerating higher levels of effort.
Most runners will do anything to avoid hills, but they are the perfect opportunity to build running-specific lower body power. Plan a route with multiple hills or one big hill that you can do on repeat. Sprint to the top. Go ahead and lean slightly into the hill, flexing forward from the ankles, not the hips, and lift the knees higher while increasing your turnover. Walk back down and repeat the uphill sprint four times, trying to maintain the same speed each time you take on the hill. If you’ve planned a route with multiple hills, instead of one big one, attack each one with the same amount of vigour as the first.
Long slow distance
Find a comfortable, cruising pace and settle in. That’s what long slow distance runs are all about. That and improving endurance. To get an idea what kind of speed we’re talking about, keep a conversational pace — meaning you can run with a buddy and chat. To be more precise, add 60 seconds on to your race or goal pace (using the same 30-minute, five-km example as above, a LSD run would be at 6:30/km), which should feel nice and easy.
The best time is during a weekend when you can start stretching out your runs to longer distances. Add an extra one to two kilometres or five to 10 minutes to your runs every other weekend until you reach your goal distance, making sure you maintain that comfortable cruising pace from start to finish.