Getting bored of your usual running routines? Endless hours on the tarmac not doing it for you anymore? Let me guess, you’ve already googled ‘how to stay motivated’ and you’re already on page 5 for ideas? Before you throw in the towel let me give a word of wisdom: try a new way to run! Here are 3 new running disciplines to keep your running fever alive.
Not only is hill sprinting a break from your usual style of running but it’s also a very effective form of exercise.
What are Hillsprints?
I’d guess it’s fairly self-explanatory. Hill Sprint is a running exercise that involves, you guessed it, sprinting uphill. It prioritises short, high-intensity bursts of effort that will give your legs a thrashing like never before. Hill sprints are great for athletes that wanting to develop their explosive leg power.
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Why is it so good?
Hill sprints are a great idea to add to your runs because it works to fatigue your muscles, as running does, but also provides an extra whack on when you shift through the gears going uphill. Its three main benefits are increasing leg strength, neuromuscular development and cardiovascular development.
As previously mentioned your leg strength and power will drastically improve. This is because you’re adding the resistance of gravity to your workout. Think about it as just curling more weight in your bicep curl.
Neuromuscular development is the connection between your brain and muscles. Hill Sprints is one method to help increase the speed that your brain sends signals to the muscles to active them. Having a strong neuromuscular signal also allows your body to activate a greater percentage of muscles fibres and produces more powerful contractions.
The cardiovascular benefits can be a little complicated. Hill sprinting stimulates an increase in stroke volume (SV). Stroke volume refers to the volume of blood pumped out of the left ventricle per beat. This is important because the left ventricle is the last passage blood passes through the heart before it’s circulated back around the body. This oxygenated blood then nourishes our working muscles so a higher SV results in a more efficient cardiovascular system and hopefully, easier runs!
How do I do it?
There are two ways to try this new style of running: sprints or what I call circular.
Sprints are as simple as finding a hill, I’ll loosely use the term ‘you’d like’, to run up. Once you’ve made it to the top, your rest is walking back down the bottom to do it again. This form is more tailored to those specifically looking to work on high-intensity, explosive training.
Circular hill sprints training is just finding a hilly route. Pick your usual run and sprint up every incline. Give it 100%. Working it into your workout like this is a great way to work on your recovery rate.
Barefoot Beach running
We’ve seen it in the movies. The Hoff majestically running down the beachfront to save a damsel in distress, but has anyone ever told you how hard beach runs are? Unfortunately, this new style of running is not as easy as it appears on the big screen.
What is beach running?
Well, it’s running … on a beach … barefoot.
Why is it so good?
Running barefoot on the beach has so many positive effects on the body. It allows your feet to fall naturally rather than being restricted by your trainers. This will make your runs much easier on your ankles and knees and hopefully speed up your recovery process. It will also strengthen these joints. As a result, they will become more durable with your usual time on the road and reduce the likelihood of injury.
It’s also said that running on sand burns more calories. Active.com reports you burning 1.6 extra calories per mile as opposed to the tarmac.
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How do I do it?
Barefoot certainly has its pro’s but it also has its issues. Beaches are naturally, and unnaturally, littered. That can be sharp shells or broken glass so you’ll need to be careful with every step you take.
Check the tides before you go because it makes a big difference. If you go at low tide, run near the water’s edge. The sand will be firmer but also provide a bit of give underfoot. It’s much more forgiving on the body and you shouldn’t’ be slipping and sliding everywhere.
Running at high tide means however you’ll be running on much looser sand. You can end up having your Bambi moments. It’s even easier on the legs and joints but much harder to power through because it’s not solid underfoot.
For your first few runs, I’d try running on damp sand on a low tide. As you get used to working on the sand, you could slowly make your way up the beach to the looser stuff to make it slightly harder.
A personal favourite of mine.
It’s seriously hard. You’re battling against the elements and terrain but you rewarded with some of the most beautiful surroundings on offer. Fell running isn’t exactly something everyone can crack on and do but it can be something to look forward to. Like preparing for a race, you can plan a weekend of Fell running and it’ll give you a boost of motivation in the anticipation of your trip.
What is Fell running?
Fell running, sometimes called hill running but not to be mixed up with mountain running, is running up bloody big hills and over awkward terrain. It’s a style of off-road running through highland areas. The reason I find it most enjoyable is because you often need to possess a decent understanding of mountain navigation. This just adds another dynamic to your run that can’t be replicated with any other style of training.
Why is it so good?
Talk about running being a release from everyday life, Fell running takes that to the next level. You can isolate yourself from the outside world by submerging yourself in the wilderness.
The physical challenges of Fell running are similar to those we’ve already discussed with hill sprints and beach running. However, Fell running provides you with a more diverse set of challenges that can help develop your running IQ. The lessons you learn on the hills are certainly transferable to flat races.
How do you do it?
With extreme caution and preparation. You’re challenging yourself in where can be a very dangerous environment.
It’s important you have the right gear. Proper Fell/Trail shoes are a must and your trusty map and compass. To get yourself going don’t run with an ego. The elements will provide a surprisingly tricky challenge. 5 miles on the road is very different in the hills so ease into it.
There is a massive online community for Fell runners so I would 100% recommend joining a club or looking at a forum before you head out onto the trail.