Gowtham Suresh has hit a runner’s block. The Coimbatore-based marathoner is training for India’s first half Iron Man triathlon to be held in Goa this October. Despite having run even ultras such as the one at Malnad, he felt like he had plateaued, and had to find ways to get back on the road regularly again.
Much like Gowtham, many of us — especially beginners — have faced the monotony of a daily run. So we got fitness experts and ultra runners to give us advice on how to break the monotony.
“Running is probably the only workout where you can keep transitioning in terms of technique,” says fitness trainer Deepti Akki, managing director at the training academy F45 Chennai. “If on Monday you are going for an endurance run, Tuesday, you can add HIIT (high-intensity interval training) to your run. You can sprint for a minute, jog for two minutes, and then sprint again. This will get your heart rate going from high to normal and high again. It increases your fat burn,” she says. It is important that you decide what you want out of your run on that day, agrees Gowtham, adding that you need to set your targets and compare daily results.
Vikram Menon runner and co-founder of obstacle course racing company Wild Warrior, feels that a change of environment helps him keeping the monotony away. “Depending on which city you are in, try and explore the different topography. Run a beach route on some days, then try a hillock, then the parks, then the roads, and so on,” he says.
Gowtham has also tried switching running groups. “You’re around new people, you get new information,” he says. However, if you like running alone, “you could download an app like Strava, where you can keep track of your workouts, follow friends, receive and give kudos to activities, and get some inspiration from professional athletes and seasoned runners,” says ultra marathoner Pratheep Jagannathan.
In introducing the element of freshness, little changes to your running equipment or gear go a long way. “Sometimes when I need the motivation, I wear a new headband, or new socks, or just the least used running shoes of the three pairs I own,” says Gowtham.
Or you could forego shoes, and try running barefoot sometimes — as long as you know the route is free of sharp objects. Try running on fresh grass, or up the temple steps, for example. “Running barefoot is really good for blood circulation in the feet, and for the pressure points that normally are not activated when you wear shoes,” says Deepti.
Some choose to run with ankle weights, however Deepti says it is inadvisable to do so without professional guidance, or if you aren’t a seasoned runner. “While running, even over the course of a kilometre, your posture changes, your spine isn’t straight. So these weights can cause a negative impact. If you slip and fall, you may even twist your ankle,” she says.
Another thing you can do is to pepper your run with various obstacles. “At every 500 metres, stop for a workout: run, do 20 burpees, run, do 25 squats and so on,” says Deepti. “You can also go for strength training before or after the run.” It’s essential that the run be accompanied by stretches with holds, and exercises that strengthen your hip flexors, the muscle group impacted when you run.
Cross-training is another essential part of running regularly. Mix it up with cycling or swimming. “Running is an impact sport, and so it is essential that you give your joints a break. It helps you stay injury-free,” says Vikram. You can either run and cycle on the same day, or just swim on your off days. Adds Gowtham, “It’s essential to do some form of exercise every day, because it is the staying idle that makes you feel lethargic, and next thing you know, two days of break turn into 10.”