Variability a Runners Best Friend

Running is short on variability which means finding ways of introducing it, is key to injury prevention. Interval running, barefoot running, tempo running, park running, road running, beach running, bike ‘running’, yoga applications, plyometrics and conditioning exercises are some of the ways I attempt to maximise variability during a week of running. This blog comes from a training week in Gran Canaria. I’ve written previously on the benefits of strength and conditioning (circuits, weights) for strength and variability in training. This piece focuses more on the low-tech subtleties that can give your run week variability – wherever you are.

Morning Routine

Every morning, I kicked off with 17-minutes of the NTC yoga app.

On day 1, this was followed by a gentle ‘Kenyan’ shuffle for 3-km down the road to the park where I would do 8 x 1-km with 3-minutes float in between. Before the session, there is time to add variability. I do this via 12-squats, 12-lunges, 2-sets of quick footed skips, 3 x 5 frog jumps (bounds), 3 x 10 ankle hops and 4 x 30-second efforts. All of this doesn’t take long, adds variability, maintains conditioning and healthy movement patterns. The session itself varied between 5:45 minute-miles and 8:00 minute-miles which is a form of variability in itself. This was a bit slower than I normally would expect, but it is important to run to feel – the subject of my last blog. To conclude, a 15-minute swim in the hotel pool was the perfect way to cool off and loosen the legs.

After Lunch

After lunch each day was a very low-tech conditioning session that required an aerobics step and any form of free weights (5 – 20-kg; worth doing even without the weights). I completed 3-sets of single squats using a 5kg plate. This is a useful conditioning exercise that develops the all-important hip muscles and challenges single leg balance (correct technique is essential). This was followed by 3-sets of eccentric calf exercises to develop strength of the calf and achilles tendon (but also to avoid any recurrence of achilles tendon problems).

Adding Variability within Running

Day 2 was an easy 8-mile run. Another opportunity to add variability. I did so by running on the beach whilst barefoot. Surface, footwear and stride mechanics have now all been altered by this simple change (do not start at 8-miles barefoot, try 15-minutes).

On day 3, I was tempted to do one of those runs that includes pace variation that I wrote about in the previous blog e.g. 3 sets of 10 x 30 secs on, 30 secs off. However, that would have risked increasing weekly mileage from 48 to 60 in one go. Through years of failure, I have learned my lesson on that one. It just so happens, that session is perfectly suited to the bike (as I have written about before) and so that is what I did – more variability added and a break for the musculoskeletal system.

Day 4 and fresh from my bike session, I did a 6-km tempo run which added up to 15-km in total with warm up and cool down. I use the same dynamic exercises and plyometrics to warm up for this effort as I did for the session on day 1.

Day 5 was the long run (15-miles) which was again performed barefoot on the beach.

Day 6 was a rest day and Day 7 was an 8-mile run with 15 x 1 minute included in the middle before departure back home.

Variability is a runner’s best friend.