June 23, 2020

You won’t find many arguments against the benefits of jogging and running. Participating regularly in physical exercise like a jogging program will improve your cardiovascular fitness so your lungs and heart will be healthier, and can help you to burn body fat and lose weight. There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that being a jogger is good for your mental health as well. Anyone who has ever experienced the feeling of a clear mind at the end of their morning run will agree!

To experience these benefits it’s important to run regularly. But unfortunately, all too many people lace up their new kicks with good intentions, only to find their running shoes gathering dust in the back of the closet after a few weeks or months. One solution to this problem is adding variety to your routine. Here are three ways to go about it.

#1 — Put a Race on Your Calendar

While trotting around the same old loop in your neighborhood or running on the treadmill will help keep you fit, it’s easy to fall into a rut and let your motivation drain away. One great way to shake things up is to enter a race!

You don’t have to be a speed demon to enjoy racing. You may be surprised how many people you’ll meet at a race who aren’t concerned with their time but do it for the camaraderie, the fun of running somewhere different, and the satisfaction of achieving a goal. Here are a few tips for getting started.

  • Pick something short. There’s plenty of time to train for a long-distance marathon in your future. Start with a local 5K (3.1 miles) run to get a taste of the experience, then go longer if you want. Or, even just shoot for a certain time, such as a 7 minute mile. 
  • Have a plan. One of the fun things about racing is the journey you’ll take to get to the starting line. Structure your training by using a training plan (you’ll find plenty of basic plans online and in running magazines), or look for a local training group associated with the race.
  • Dress for success. Ditch those sweaty t-shirts and old gym shorts when you’re toeing the line at your race and treat yourself to some new, comfortable togs for running. Athleisure brands like Willy California make shorts, shirts, and outerwear that work great and look great too. 

#2 — Spice Up Your Routine With Speed and Hills

One fundamental rule of sports is that if you do one thing, you’ll get good at it. But that’s not necessarily a good thing when you're jogging. When you run at the same fast or slow pace and the same effort level all the time, your development as a runner will be stunted (and you’ll get bored!) So, it’s smart to mix in some different types of workouts into your running routine. Two of the best are hills and speed workouts. 

Hill workouts

Running up hills builds strength in your legs and glutes. Not only does that make you a stronger runner, but it will also help prevent injuries. Try these three hill workouts once a week and you’ll find your regular runs feel easier. For each workout, be sure to warm up by running 5-10 minutes at an easy jogging pace before you start the hills.  

  • Hill repeats. Find a gentle hill that will take you about 60 to 90 seconds to run up. Run up the slope at a faster than normal pace, jogging back down easily. Repeat 4 to 8 times. The key is to run just as fast on the last repeat as the first, so use a stopwatch and don’t go out too fast. 
  • Skips. Find a short, not too steep hill and skip up. Really! The skipping motion builds leg strength and improves flexibility. If your neighbors stare at you tell them you’re doing plyometrics!
  • Downhill strides. You don’t have to go uphill to get health benefits from the hills. Find a gentle slope and run down it 4 to 5 times at a moderate pace. While running down, lean forward and lengthen your stride. This will help you develop a longer and more fluid running style. 

Speed workouts

If you want to be a faster runner, you need to do speed workouts. If you don’t care about being faster, you should still do speed workouts, since they’ll make your stride more efficient and improve your endurance. You’ll run further with less effort — sounds like a winning combination! Try these speed workouts and you’ll notice a difference in your running. But don’t overdo it. Once a week is plenty.

  • Hit the track. Heading to your local high school oval and putting in some quality time is one of the best ways to get faster. If you’re a beginner, run 400 meters (1 lap) at a faster than normal pace. Walk a lap and then run another lap, trying to keep the same pace. To begin, repeat this four times. As you get stronger, you can add more laps, or increase the distance. 
  • Fartlek. Before you start snickering, know that fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish. To do fartlek, just pick up your pace during your run and hold it for 60 to 90 seconds. Then go back to your normal pace for about two minutes. Repeat 4-8 times during your run. 

#3 — Add Cross-training to Your Routine

Man does not live by bread alone, and if all you do is jog, you’ll risk becoming as stale as a day-old loaf. Participating in other sports and another form of exercise will keep things fresh and allow your body to recover from your regular jogging routine. You’ll stay sharp and avoid injury, and you may be surprised at how these sports help with your running too!

  • Swimming. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise for the entire body and it doesn’t put much stress on your joints. The lung capacity you build from swimming will help your running too. 
  • Bicycling. Hopping on your bike once a week is a great way to stay fresh while still working your legs and lungs. 
  • Weight training. Leg and glute exercises will improve your leg strength for running, while upper body workouts will improve your core strength. This helps your posture and form when you run.  
  • Walking and hiking. One of the simplest forms of physical activity that there is, and one of the best for you. Add some vigorous walks and hikes to your regimen, or mix in some walking breaks with your run as well. 

Keep Your Running Fresh

Bottom line, jogging is a great exercise for the body and mind, but it’s only effective if you’re doing it. By mixing up your routine, keeping it fresh, and trying new things, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it. These three ways of mixing up your jogging routine should keep you running strong for years to come.