Shake Up Your Running Program: 4 Great Ways To Eliminate Boredom

One of my favourite ways to spice up my running is to try out new gadgets and gear; runners are notorious for splashing out on the latest running tech. ;-)

Now before you start thinking that this is all about punting my latest gadgets – it’s not – today we are going to look at other ways to sprinkle a little spice into our workouts.

Ok so we all know that doing the same thing ad nauseam is the quickest way to end your relationship with running or leave you feeling stale after another boring loop around your neighbourhood. So what can you do to liven things up?

Adding interval training, hill running and running form drills to your running schedule are great ways to mix things up. But let’s be honest here, doing 5x 100m sprints with a short recovery in between or 8x 1 minute hill running with recovery in between is basically swapping one kind of boredom for another.

What you want to do is really add some va va voom to your running program. Because I’m training for a big race happening early next year I’ve made it my mission to find different ways to train that will take my breath away and hopefully you will find something here that shakes you up too!

The Burning Hills

This workout is from which is a brilliant resource for any runner. It’s a wicked twist on the boring old hill repeats because it is made up of varying sprint distances that are target specific.

I call it ‘The Burning Hills’ because it burns the crap out of your muscles; this workout leaves you buzzing with endorphins so it’s worth the hard work!

Gabi’s Pyramid Run

This interval training program will add never before experienced ZING to your running program and it’s not for the faint hearted! It goes like this…

11 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
21 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
31 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
41 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
51 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
61 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
71 min Recovery Pace2 min High Intensity
81 min Recovery Pace2 min High Intensity
91 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
101 min Recovery Pace1.5 min High Intensity
111 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
121 min Recovery Pace1 min High Intensity
131 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity
141 min Recovery Pace30 sec High Intensity

Before you even begin to attempt this interval training pyramid be sure to warm up for a minimum of 20 minutes, this is high intensity interval training so your muscles need to be really warmed up and well lubricated – anything less and you’ll risk injury.

When you get to 7 and 8 you are at the apex of the pyramid and from there the workout tapers back down to where you began.

Lean forward slightlyLight feetShorten the strideRecovery Pace – 5/6 out of 10High Intensity – 8 out of 10

The Dreadmill

I can honestly say I hate a treadmill! I know there are those of you who will gasp at my blatant dislike but actually it’s my lack of skill on the damn thing that makes me hate it, so don’t be put off by my lack of enthusiasm.

Seriously, the first time I got on one I almost did a face plant within the first 15 minutes and it wasn’t long before my second attempt at knocking out my already not so straight teeth!

If I was any good at running on a treadmill and not an accident waiting to happen; these workouts would be top of my list.

If you do use a dread… err… I mean treadmill or if you are thinking of incorporating it into your training check out this article on ways to make treadmill training part of a successful running program.

Know the Drill

Since an Achilles tendon injury that had me sidelined and seeing a physiotherapist I have been very interested in running form and how to improve mine. Check out my article on running form for some great ideas on running form drills.

I think strength drills specific to distance runners is equally important. On I found a video demonstrating easy and effective drills to strengthen medial and lateral muscles.

I practiced these drills two days ago and although I felt a bit like a duck while doing them, I can feel that I’ve worked the muscles and that’s what really matters.

Spicing up your running program can be done simply by changing a few basic workouts to create something special that fits in perfectly with what you require. The most important things are; Finding different twists on everyday training to keep things interestingPaying attention to often neglected aspects of running like running form and strength Experimenting and find what works for you, it’s easy to modify training to suite your ability and fitness Keeping things simple, a workout doesn’t have to be complicated to be interesting Having fun!

I hope you enjoyed this article, please feel free to give your opinion by commenting and if you have an exciting twist on a workout that you do, please share it with us.

How To Use Your Most Important Training Gear And It’s NOT Your Running Shoes

Most of the time when I write a post here on Top Running Tips I bang on about why you should start running, how to stay motivated and all the amazing benefits that running has to offer.

Today I want to have a look at a different aspect of running that is often ignored by beginners to running but that ultimately has a lasting impact on your running – well that’s unless you can learn to run on water!

Why The Ground Beneath Your Feet Is The Wind Beneath Your Wings

Runners experience the impact of up to three times their body weight with each foot strike while running. So it’s safe to say that the harder the running surface, the greater the impact on the body. Now think about the children’s folk song; “Dem Bones” that we were taught to sing in nursery school. It’s pretty much like a chain reaction that could cause problems with feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips and lower back.

It’s Not All About Gear

Yes that’s right, it’s not all about wicking material, GPS watches, heart rate monitors and running shoes. Think about it for a second; as a runner, your most important piece of equipment is the surface on which you run.

Just like a body builder uses weights to cause micro-tears in his muscles which ultimately cause his muscles to grow bigger so as runner’s we use the surface we run on to train our bodies to run faster, longer and better. Ok, so the explanation is a little over-simplified but you get what I’m saying…

If a body builder while training his arms only works a certain muscle group and ignores other groups the ultimate result will be an imbalance. The same principal applies to running…

Unfortunately when an injury occurs, the first thing we want to blame is our shoes – after all, aren’t shoes the only piece of equipment you need to participate in running? But your shoes are not always the problem, especially if you are not varying the surfaces you run on.

Are You Breaking Ground Or Breaking Your Body

Ask 10 running experts what the ideal surface for running is and I’ll bet you get 10 different answers. Our bodies quite easily adapt to the stresses we put them under when train even if the ground beneath our feet is not ideal. When we vary the surfaces that we run on the benefit is twofold;Using different surfaces are a natural way to work out the different muscles, especially in the lower legs.We can prevent or at least minimize many of the overuse injuries that runners of any skill can suffer from.

I’m one of those runners who has been plagued by injury in the past and in a way I guess it’s made me more aware of how the running surfaces I use impact on my body. Because I travel a lot for work I have the benefit of being able to vary my running surfaces. Here are some of the most common ones and how they will impact your running.

What’s Beneath Your Feet?


Grass running is considered one of the ideal surfaces for running because of the soft cushioning it provides; the impact on joints is much less. Parks, rugby fields, football pitches and golf courses are some of the most level grass surfaces you’ll find.

Although grass makes for softer running and low impact it actually makes your muscles work harder building strength that you will notice when you return to harder surfaces. Because of the reduced impact grass is ideal for speed work but can be slippery when wet – so be warned!

Running on grass may cause issues like plantar fasciitis if your feet and ankles are not strong and flexible also you might find that your legs become tired more quickly. If you suffer from allergies, running on grass might make your symptoms flare up.


Trail running is a very general term for running on anything from cinders to worn out routes through fields and soft peat-covered trails offered up by Mother Nature. These kinds of trails are by far the most natural surfaces to run on.

As with grass running, trail running is really easy on the legs and low impact on the body overall. The scenery that often goes with a trail run is usually the kind that will make you eager to return and few things come close to breathing fresh air deep into your lungs under a canopy of tall woodland trees.

Watch out for sneaky tree roots and rocks which could be hazardous! These routes can become quite slippery with wet mud when it’s been raining so be careful not to twist an ankle. Other than that it’s pretty much a mixed bag and one of the most comforting surfaces to run on.


Ok, I admit, I’m useless at running on a treadmill – that’s why I like to call them dreadmills. I almost did a face plant – not once but twice – within the first 15 minutes of being on one, so now I brave the weather outside no matter what it looks like.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t enjoy the advantages of using a treadmill. They are perfect for when the weather is really bad and it beats making a lame excuse and not running at all!

You can really get all geeky with the vitals the machines offer so leave your Garmin at home it’s all laid out in front of you on the treadmill.

The hardness of the surfaces differs from machine to machine but the smooth surface is really easy on the legs and body. Keeping a constant pace is as easy as adjusting the settings so a treadmill is top class for a speed work out and you don’t have to contend with red traffic lights, dogs or the wind.

Things to watch out for are falling flat on your face and the prospect of sweating profusely because of the lack of a natural breeze.

Synthetic Tracks

Almost all running tracks are made from synthetic material like polyurethane. Most sports centres have one and some local parks too. These surfaces are very useful for speed work and interval training, because the track is exactly 400m it’s easy to keep track of distance.

Because of its elliptical shape of the track having to endure the curves at either end will make longer runs a little more challenging both mentally (almost like a hamster wheel) and physically (extra strain on ankles, knees and hips).


The majority of roads are made up of asphalt which is a mixture of gravel, rocks and tar. If you are a city dweller like me asphalt is a difficult surface to avoid, it’s not the softest but it’s a lot more forgiving than concrete.

Asphalt is a fast surface and it’s pretty straight forward to run on if it’s well maintained with few potholes. One thing you’ll have to deal with is cambered surfaces.

A cambered surface is used to ensure proper drainage so the surface is curved allowing water to run off the sides. Continuous running on a cambered surface throws the body off kilter. As a rule, vary which side of the road you run on to avoid causing injury from running on a cambered surface.


Pavements are primarily made up of concrete and so are a very small percentage of roads. Again it’s the city dwellers that know all too well the hard and unforgiving surface of a concrete pavement. Not to mention having to side step raised kerbs and other pedestrians, all of which can lead to injury.

Ok, so there’s not much good to say about running on concrete but for a lot of us it’s where we do the majority of our running. However, if you get an opportunity opt for a softer surface.


Ok, so I don’t live in a country where there is a lot of snow, well actually looking at the past two winters here in Britain I’m not so sure anymore! Like with smoke and fire; where there’s snow there’s bound to be ice and the worst kind is black ice (cue – jaws sound track…)

No seriously ice is deadly dangerous to run on and although the snow will change your favourite route into a beautiful winter wonderland the ice is not far behind.

If you’re anything like me; stubborn as a mule and insist on running even in the snow and ice get yourself a pair of Yaktrax Pro Traction Device. They easily slip over your running shoes and give you the grip you need. I was like a fish out of water running on snow and ice until I got a pair of these.

Your Body Will Love You!

If you spend some time working out your running routes and get some of those creative juices flowing, you’ll soon find out that it’s really easy to vary the surfaces you run on – even if you live in an urban environment.
You’ll enjoy the change of scenery and your body will love you for it too!

Ok, now it’s your turn… What surfaces do you run on most? How do you vary your running route to make sure that you’re not over doing it on one particular surface?

Running Backwards: How It Will Improve Your Running And How To Get Started

Just the other day while I was taking part in the Asics Fleet Pre-London Half Marathon I saw something that I’d never witnessed before.

At around the 6th km I saw a runner running backwards. I could see he was in some kind of pain and immediately thought that the act of running backwards was somehow relieving the pain.

About two days ago I came across a book written by Chris Cooper called, Long May You Run where one of the subjects he explores is the benefit of running backwards. This was an interesting coincidence and naturally my curiosity had was piqued so I decided to do some investigation.

The History Of Running Backwards

It turns out that running backwards or as it’s better known today; reverse running or retro running has been practised for thousands of years. In my research I have not been able to pinpoint whether it was originally the Japanese or the Chinese that pioneered this alternative form of running but one thing is clear – the physical benefit it provides.

You might or might not be surprised to know that retro running is well recognised across Europe and the UK, there’s even a movie about it, The Reverse Runner, filmed in Australia – imagine that! All of this is interesting but what we really want to know is; what are the benefits it provides us forward runners as a combined part of our weekly running routine?

That’s what I set out to discover…

The Benefits

Killer Cardio, Burns More Calories

Retro running will offer a powerful cardio workout for two main reasons; firstly, you are engaging more muscle groups and also large muscle groups like the quads. Secondly, in essence your cadence is increased because your feet hit the ground more quickly than regular running meaning you are expending more energy. Both of these will lead to the burning of more calories.

Restoring Balance

During running we use the same groups of muscles over and over this means that those muscle groups have an enormous amount of continuous stress placed on them causing over-use injuries. This should not put you off running but rather encourage you to include some retro running into your training.

Through backward running you will be reducing the strain of normal running by working the friction of the tissues in the opposite way. It seems more and more that this counter action is essential in restoring and maintaining a natural balance in the muscles of the lower body.

A Cure For Chronic Injury

With more than half of all runners being struck with running related injuries each year finding ways to naturally reduce the risk of injury is important for the sport and for all runners. Because retro running restores natural balance it explains why it is considered to be an excellent way to reduce the risk of forward running injury.

Natural Rehabilitation

The most common injury among recreational runners is knee injury and some studies have cited that 1 in 5 runners suffer from some kind of knee injury. Retro running is a perfect alternative to running forward because it virtually eliminates impact at the knee joint while healing is taking place. It also strengthens the quads and knee joint over time.

But retro running is not only good for knee injuries; lower back pain, groin and hamstring strains as well as shin splints will respond well to the reduced impact offered by running backwards.

Develop Your Senses And Balance

Retro running is not a natural way of motion and while running backwards you are unable to rely entirely on your sense of sight. Over time this will mean your sense of hearing will improve and you will also learn to make use of your peripheral vision. Besides your sense improving, you will also experience better balance and your ability to sense your movement will improve.

A Natural Core Workout

We all know that to be an efficient runner you need to have good core strength and stability and let’s face it, doing core workouts are not always fun or even high on the list of things to do. But in reality doing it pays huge dividends in the end. With retro running the load is taken off the lower back and instead creates a natural workout for your core area.

Less Slouching And Improved Posture

As a runner I often find myself slouching and dropping my head during running when I am fatigued. With Retro running you will run with a more erect posture because your back is partially extended. Over time muscle memory will cause you to keep a firm posture without slouching when running forward.

A Psychological Boost

Running backwards is a change from the usual and in many ways this could be just what you need on your next long run to break the monotony and add some excitement to your run. Retro running can be especially fun for a laugh when you are out running in a group or with friends.

Things To Look Out For And How To Get Started

Pick A Safe Venue

Using a running track is ideal because there are painted lines so there’s less worry for you going off course. Running tracks are also free of the usual kind of debris.You can also try running on the beach or a sports field with soft grass, running uphill on a soft grassy surface is also a low risk option because when you fall (and in the beginning you will) you will have a shorter distance to the ground and less possibility of injury.No matter where you decide to do your retro running always walk the course first to make sure there are no obstacles.

Find A Buddy

Running with a friend is easier when you’re going forward and it’s no different when you’re running backwards.A friend can assist in keeping you on track and help you to avoid obstacles. You can make turns to run backwards – it’s exactly the same as any other running session.

Start Slowly

Adding any new running sessions to your training requires that you start off slowly and retro running is no exception.Practicing to run 50m backwards is enough to start with and once you have mastered that you can slowly increase the distance ensuring that you master it before increasing again.

As you can see there are multiple benefits to retro running and adding a session or two to your weekly running routine will reduce stress on your body and help to correct poor form and create muscle memory to facilitate good biomechanics.

Since discovering this two days ago I have been practising retro running in the back yard on the grass and have noticed there is absolutely no strain on my shins – which I have been resting since my half marathon. I haven’t been wearing my HRM because I’m too lazy but I have found that doing a few laps surprisingly does get my heart rate up much quicker that I thought it would.