A Running Start to 2012

Easy Ways to Spice Up Your Running Routine

Change up your terrain. Are you a road junkie? One day a week, trade the pavement for a dirt trail through the woods. Feeling a little hamster-esque on the treadmill? Try a gravel path. Or hop off the sidewalk when you pass your local high school and snag a few laps on the track. Varying your running terrain not only relieves mental fatigue caused by monotony, but it also engages different muscle groups, increasing your overall strength and fitness level. Another plus? By switching from a hard surface (such as asphalt) to a softer one (like dirt), you can reduce impact stress on your legs and maximize recovery.
 
Make your favorite coffee shop your start line. Starbucks. Kaldi's. Even iHop. The world is chockfull of start and finish lines! Run from your favorite coffee or breakfast house and make your daily run a fun "mini" event. (After all, to a runner, a post-run coffee is the proverbial carrot on a stick.) Bring some dry, warm clothes to change into post-run and revel in the steaming coffee and good food. 

Use your run as a time to rediscover music
. When was the last time you listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon straight through? Have you ever listened to it straight through? When you're running, you are your own captive audience. Rediscover classic bands. Fall in love with new ones. Appreciate the scope of your favorite movie soundtrack. Defy the single-driven world and embrace the lost art of the full-length album! 
 
Do strides one or two days a week. Strides (or strideouts) are short and sweet post-run or mid-run sprints that improve leg speed, flexibility, coordination, and running economy. Strides are usually about 100-meters long and are best run on a soft surface such as grass or a track. To run a strideout, start at a comfortable pace and slowly increase your speed until you are running at maximum effort (about the halfway point). Hold this pace for about 4 seconds and then slowly decrease your speed all the way back down. Each "stride" should take about 20 seconds. Do this 6 to 8 times. Strides are about muscle memory, not aerobic fitness, so take all the time you need to catch your breath between each one. 
 
Get a running buddy. Or two. Or three. A running buddy will (a) make a run more lively and fun, (b) help you push yourself further than you ever thought you could go, (c) act as a default accountability meter, (d) help you reach your goals, (e) share her last GU with you, (f) listen to your story about the surprising gastrointestinal effects of Cajun stir-fry, or (g) all of the above. That's right. G. Enough said. 

Experiment with new mid-run and post-run nutritionals.
 Have you been eyeing those new Honey Stinger Waffles? What about GU Chomps? If you're in the early stages of spring marathon training or if training is just around the corner, now is the time to experiment with energy gels and recovery snacks. Taste new flavors. Try new brands. Learn about the different benefits each of the products have to offer. It's like a science experiment. Only more fun. And tastier. 

Read for inspiration.
 From professional athletes to Not-So-Average Joes, there is an abundance of books out there about incredible runners and triathletes who have overcome daunting odds to reach the finish line. Their stories will inspire you, motivate you, and remind you why you fell in love with the sport in the first place.  

Choose a motto for this training season.
 Why are you training? What are your goals? Find a quote, saying, or verse that motivates you and commit it to memory. Not only will it help you focus your training, but it just might give you that extra push during those tough workouts.

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