Variety is the spice of life, right?
Adding a little variety into our life AND into our training program not only keeps things interesting, it can improve your performance and prevent injury.
Running is basically movement in one plane of motion. We essentially rely on the same muscles and the same repetitive movement patterns with every stride. Over time, this makes runners prone to injury.
Reducing the amount of repetitions of the same stress is the goal with variety training. You can start by simply making small changes that are easily incorporated into your daily runs and your overall training regime.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
Run on Different Terrain
How your foot hits the ground when you run on a smooth concrete surface is very different then when running on a trail in the woods. This variation in foot strike reduces the amount of repetition and stress to your tissues as you are asking different muscles, joints, ligaments, etc, to help you out. You are not always creating the same stress to the same tissues over and over again. These small changes to your foot strike pattern reduces injury and improves your strength.
Change Your Pace
Many runners run the same pace on the same route on the same terrain. When you change your pace, your mechanics or running form changes. Your range of motion and your foot strike varies with every stride. Changing your pace will create micro changes to how your body moves while running, reducing repetition to the same tissues.
It is a great idea to switch b/t 2-3 different pairs of shoes throughout your training plan. Since every type of shoe varies in the amount of arch support, heel height, cushion, etc, it changes how your foot interacts with the ground. It varies your stride, mechanics and how your foot hits the ground which reduces the repetition of running.
I encourage you to add a little variety and note how your body feels!
One of my favorite ways to add variety is to change my pace by listening to music. I find myself picking it up a bit when the beat changes. Try a playlist that has a ton of variation. Sounds a bit like interval training, right?