Focus on Fitness: Spice up your running

Holly Harris
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Imagine watching your favorite TV show over and over again for days on end. After a few weeks, the entertainment value would diminish, and you’d start to dread what was once a great show. That is what many of us do with our running.

Most runners log nearly all of their runs at the same general distance and intensity, usually around 60% to 70% of their max effort.

Doing the same workout, day-in-day-out, is a recipe for boredom and plateaus. This is true in all aspects of training, and it is the kind of mistake that keeps you from reaching your full potential.

You need variety. As a runner, you should vary your training routine for two reasons: to prevent the boredom that comes with completing the same session repeatedly and to prevent or postpone reaching a plateau in running performance.

Whether you are training for a marathon (Steamboat Marathon, Half and 10K are three months away) or just looking to step up your running game since spring is on the horizon, now is a good time to revamp your running program so that it includes the following:

Recovery runs: Short sessions done at an easy pace that follow a high intensity session. Needed if you are running more than three times a week. About 20- to 40-minute sessions; pace is 90 to 120 seconds slower per mile than current 5K pace.

Tempo runs: Sustained sessions at a controlled but challenging pace for 45 minutes or longer. These runs increase the lactate threshold, so you will be able to sustain a faster pace for longer. Pace is comfortably hard, about 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K pace.

Interval runs: Great for working on speed. Interval runs increase your endurance, boots agility and stride rate. About 90% to 98% of maximum effort in the interval.

Hill runs: Repeated short or long bursts of intense effort up a hill. Build power and strength, improve pain tolerance, and build proper form. Pace will be difficult to sustain; focus on taking short strides and keeping good form.

Fartlek runs: Combines fast running intervals with low to moderate effort. Intervals vary in distance, duration and speed. Pick a landmark, run as hard as you can to it, then recover (walk or jog) to the next landmark. Sight your next target and do it again. Repeat for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Long runs: Just what it sounds like; sustained running effort at an easy and steady pace. Develops endurance, improves form, increases lung power and gets your body ready for any distance. Do not increase your long run length-duration, distance or both by more than 10 to 15% per week. Perform long runs at about one minute slower than race pace or around 90 to 120 seconds per mile slower than current 10K speed, heart rate within 65% to 75% of maximum.

Strength training: Incorporating two to three sessions of 20 to 30 minutes of strength training a week can help maintain lean muscle mass, reduce injury, increase pace time, improve endurance and reduce fatigue. Training programs that involve bodyweight exercises, functional training and plyometrics are best suited for improved running performance.

Recovery: Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, eat quality food, stretch, foam roll and do yoga. Recovery, like training, looks different for everyone, but it is an important part to your performance. It is the consistency of doing it all that will make the difference.

Your running program should be designed to keep you engaged, improving and minimizing injury, getting you in the best shape of your life. What are you waiting for? Take action now and get out there.

Holly Harris is the fitness director at Old Town Hot Springs and has been a health and wellness specialist, personal trainer, massage therapist and medical aesthetician for over 20 years.

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