Training on Different Surfaces

Most runners log their miles on neighborhood streets - and with our beautiful area, who wouldn't? While you can't beat the convenience of "hitting the road" right outside of your front door, this shouldn't be your only training ground. Training on different surfaces, such as grass, sand, trails, and even in water, can help you avoid injury and improve your performance! As gorgeous as your street may be, these surfaces will provide a nice change of scenery in addition to changing up your workout and effort. Here's how to adapt your workout to different surfaces:

GrassThe soft surface produces less pressure on your feet than the streets, and is great for runners looking to minimize injury risk while increasing either mileage or intensity. Use the grass for speed work, like intervals and repeats. Try this: On a well-groomed surface like a football field, after warming up, run three minutes, two minutes, then one minute hard with a one-minute rest interval. The intensity should be such that you can speak just a couple of words at a time. Start with two sets and progress to five sets.

Sand: A sandy surface helps strengthen the muscles in your feet, legs, hips, and core. Hit the beach for your easy runs.

Trails: Avoiding the obstacles that nature throws at you on the trail will put your leg muscles through varied movements than running on the road. Trail running can help you get the most benefits from hill repeats. Find a trail with inclines of a low to moderate grade. Run at a conversational pace for half to two-thirds the distance of your average easy run. Each week, pick up the pace until you're running the uphills comfortably hard—an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Water: Because water is thicker than air, when you move through water your muscles have to push at every point through your stride—unlike on land, where they would get a breather when they're airborne. Hop in the pool or head to the beach for some alternating intervals: Warm up in chest- to shoulder-deep water with 10 minutes of easy aqua-jogging. Then do the following sequence: two to three minutes at a hard effort (you should be able to speak only in brief phrases), 30 seconds all-out, then three minutes jogging. Repeat three times and add one set every two weeks. Moving the repeats to shallower water (waist-deep) will increase the impact and really work the muscles in your lower legs.

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