Have you increased your running fitness during lockdown, knocked out a comfortable 5k, and then hit a boredom wall and grinded to a halt? We hear you! Suddenly, after lots of hard work, you find yourself losing interest and motivation, despite being enthusiastic about running merely days ago. 

It can be hard to find the time and enthusiasm to get out and exercise when the sun isn’t shining, so why not spend some time now working on your approach to fitness and upping your running game for the summer? Adding a little focus to your performance makes things a bit more interesting, and you’ll be buzzing when you start seeing (and feeling) the improvements.

Cat Benger, a triathlon coach and personal trainer at GetMeFit, has shared with us the knowledge that she has acquired from years of fine-tuning her own and her athletes’ performance at ABCpure. Add these strategies to your training plan and you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time. 

  1. Start strength training

Incorporate some strength and conditioning movements into your routine. Strength and conditioning has a plethora of benefits – it strengthens your muscles and joints, and can help maintain bone density. It will also provide you with the opportunity to work on your proprioception (effectiveness of your sensory receptors and nervous system) plus your balance and coordination, all of which tend to decline as we age. I also find that my athletes who do a lot of running tend to have very tight hamstrings and weak glutes. This is something that can be worked on during strength and conditioning sessions and it makes a big difference to both performance and injury prevention. Simple yet effective exercises can be done at home without any equipment. Try doing squats, lunges, planks and glute bridges, or going one of my two weekly Zoom classes for triathletes on GetMeFit.

2. Mix and match 

Cross training in disciplines such as swimming and cycling is another great way to enhance your running. Doing other activities like these will improve your overall strength, not to mention even out any muscular imbalances as well as reduce your risk of injury and improve your endurance. 

3. Up your mileage 

Ramping up your running mileage is often an effective way to increase your fitness, but care should be taken not to increase the distance of your long (and overall) running distance too abruptly. A sensible and safe guideline to apply to your long run, and therefore overall running mileage, is to increase it by 10-20 per cent each week. It’s worth sitting down to map out a plan, using these mileage calculations over six-week blocks, to ensure you stay on course and don’t end up on the injury bench.

4. Run more often

The number of times you run per week can also be lifted. So if you have run regularly twice a week, you could think about adding in a short third run. But again, add this in gradually and think about your overall training volume – rather than running for consecutive days, try to spread it out so that you cross-train or have a rest day after a run.

5. Play with pace

It’s not uncommon to complete runs at a steady, conversational pace. This type of running is important and should always feature in a run training plan, but not all your running needs to be done at one pace (unless of course you’ve been advised to keep things “steady eddy”). You might do your longer, endurance run at a steady state, and these longer runs will help to develop aerobic, muscle and mental endurance in preparation for sustaining form and pace. However, why not push yourself to find a pace that’s somewhere between your sprinting and endurance speed? This type of run is referred to as a tempo run and is best described as “above comfortable”. When running in this zone, physical adaptations are occurring and it’s building your physical and mental toughness. Keep it short and achievable and you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.

6. Go for goal

Many people thrive on having a specific event to work towards, whether it be an organised [virtual or IRL] run or a DIY version. In the absence of arranged events, setting a personal goal such as running a fast 5k can help with focus, commitment and motivation. And of course, once you’ve achieved your goal or completed your event, you get the chance to celebrate and review your performance – something which should not be over-looked.

7. Find a friend 

If you are lacking a little motivation and running mojo has escaped you, making arrangements to run with others (when restrictions allow) is a great way to ensure you put your trainers on and head out. It’s sociable and allows you to spend time with like-minded people. If your friends can’t be persuaded, then join a running club as they usually accommodate all levels and welcome new members.