Varying your routine will challenge your body to work harder, which means you'll burn more calories and tone more muscle while becoming a better runner, says Dagny Scott Barrios, former Olympic contender and author of Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running. Use these workouts to find out what you're capable of.
Swedish for "speed play," fartleks aren't those super-hard, all-out, sprint-for- 30-seconds-and-then-recover type of workouts; they're meant to be fun (remember, it's speed play). To do them, simply vary your pace based on guidelines that you make up. For example, after a warm-up, pick a tree in the distance and run fast (not all out) until you get there. Jog again until you pick out something else-a yellow house or traffic light-and run fast to it. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes, then run normally for 5 to 10 minutes and cool down. Work up to doing it for 20 to 30 minutes or longer once a week.
- Stride Drills
Most people think running is all about putting one foot in front of the other quickly; but there is technique involved- it encompasses your stride, posture, arm swing, and even how you carry your head-and simply going fast or far (or both) won't help you improve it. These drills (do them once a week) will help create a more efficient and powerful stride. After warming up, do each of the following for 30 to 60 seconds: Run while lifting your knees as high as you can. Next, exaggerate your running stride so that you bound as far as you can with each step (you'll go slower than your normal pace). Finish by running with tiny baby steps (one foot directly in front of the other). Repeat the series two or three times, then run normally for as long as you want and cool down (or just do these drills on their own).
- Long Runs
Building your endurance is just as important as improving your speed and technique. Being able to hoof it for 45 minutes to an hour or more once a week will help you burn more fat and calories and make each outing more enjoyable because you're not constantly gasping for breath. Depending on your current level, "long" may mean 30 minutes-or 90. Just start with the longest duration you're currently capable of completing and gradually build from there by adding 5 minutes each week.