In a Rut? Shake it Up!

It's human nature to stick to routines. There are good reasons for it, helping us maintain schdules and accomplish long-term goals. Just getting into a regular running routine is an admirable accomplishment in itself. But eventually the same routine will result in a plateau. For those who want to achieve new goals and challenges, it's necessary to change things up. Even if you do not run races, a rut/plateau can leave you feeling unmotivated. A variety of pace, distance, speed and scenery can keep make you a more well-rounded, healthy runner, interested in running for life.

A popular exercise program that many are familiar with is the Insanity workout. Don't worry, I'm not going to make you do that. It's extremely challenging, and based on the concept of "muscle confusion," in which you're constantly doing different exercises so your body never gets used to a routine. It's based on a pretty established principle that little shocks to the system will more efficiently break down muscle so that you can rebuild and come back stronger.

Most good coaches have a lot of different workouts in their schedules that are done only once a season, mostly during the strengthening and sharpening phase. They present a variety of workouts that keep athletes physically challenged and mentally engaged. This can include long hill workouts, a hard set of 10-16 400 meter repeats, or a fartlek with a group of people taking turns choosing the length of sprints.

One famous workout is the 30-40 workout devised by Coach Bill Dellinger at the University of Oregon in the 70s. It's simple but punishing. Run continuously, alternating 200 splits at 30 and 40 seconds. Without stopping. For as long as you can keep to those splits. Steve Prefontaine famously held the record, doing that workout for five miles. In October 2008, Coach Alberto Salazar (who was a star athlete at Oregon himelf in the late 70s, admitting he could only make it to four miles) had Galen Rupp tackle the workout, who broke Pre's record by completing six miles in 27:57.

Most of us non-elites would barely be able to do two laps at that pace, but you can try a modified version. A few years back I tried a 40-50 workout and made it to about two and a half miles. Others might be challenged by a 45-60. This is just one example, a particularly brutal one, because if done right, you go into an anaerobic state and never fully recover on the "slow" half-lap.

What are one of your favorite once-in-a-season (or lifetime!) workouts you've done to shake things up? Let us know below!

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, fitness, training, routine, unique workouts

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