Running is just about the best form of exercise (if your knees and back can take it) for so many reasons. It's cheap, you can do it anywhere, it burns major calories, and tones your thighs and bum beautifully. But sticking to the straight and narrow on all your runs can mean you're selling yourself short. To make your runs more effective, you need to mix it up. Vary your workout with one of these techniques the next time you lace up your sneaks.
- Mix up your terrain: Doing so offers varying degrees of shock absorption for your joints and feet, so changing up your exercise terrain strengthens the muscles around your hips, knees, and ankles in different ways. Instead of sticking to the treadmill all the time, try to alternate your workouts between pavement, grass, dirt trails, sand, track, and your beloved treadmill.
- Don't fear hills: Whether you're on a treadmill or the open road, add incline to your workouts. Running uphill will burn more calories, strengthen your leg muscles even more, and build your endurance. Then when you run on flat surfaces, you'll be faster and able to run longer distances. Seriously! You will feel like you're flying.
- Vary your steps: Many runners suffer from repetitive stress injuries because they run the same way all the time. You can help prevent pain by varying your steps throughout your run. Try shortening or lengthening your stride, running with high knees, running in a zigzag pattern, skipping, or running sideways. You may get some funny looks if you're outside, but you can smile knowing you're avoiding injury.