Mixing it up.
It can become so easy just to run on the roads that we may find ourselves becoming complacent. It’s the simplest option, you don’t have to think too hard about a route, and it can seem a lot easier than going off road. It is however, so important to mix up the terrain you run on. Not only does it make some runs a bit more exciting than others, but it is important to give your legs a break every now and then from pounding on the roads, especially when doing sessions.
Sometimes it isn’t a case of making your run more exciting by going off road, but doing it because it’s better for your legs. It may seem extremely dull at times, but it is so important to run on the grass, and not just on the road and track. When you think about the pounding your legs take with every stride on the road you can see why it may be worthwhile to switch to the grass every now and then. Whilst you don’t need to only run off road, incorporating different terrains for training can be very beneficial. I used to be a sucker for only running on the roads. It was convenient, and I didn’t have to think about where I was going, but was it really the best thing for me?
Post-injury, I can definitely say it wasn’t. The roads aren’t forgiving, and whilst it is important to continue to run on them as we do race on them in the end, it is vital to give your legs a break from them regularly. Since my injury, I now do nearly half of my training on the grass. Yes, it can be extremely dull running countless times round a few football pitches, but if you switch your mind off to what you are doing, and enjoy the softness of the ground, you soon come to enjoy it. Sometimes I find I enjoy my runs on the grass more than those on the road. I have no roads to cross, no cars to be aware of, and my brain completely switches off to any worry that I am not doing my legs any good.
Running on different terrains can also be really beneficial for strengthening your ankles. When running on slightly uneven ground, or soft ground, you are having to work harder to stabilize, as well as push off the ground. Therefore, without even realising you are working on your mobility at the same time. Following my injury, I found I had very weak ankles, which needed to change before I started racing cross country again. Of course, I incorporated ankle strengthening exercises into my training, but doing my sessions off road also helped with this. Once I had built up my confidence that I wasn’t going to twist my ankle or break something else, I was able to push myself just as hard, if not harder than I was on the road.
This isn’t to say we should switch all our training to the grass, as the road and the track are vital to our training, but even just doing one run a week on the grass can make a massive difference and give your legs a break.
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I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!