LEAN Ambassador Sarah Donohue's blog
Many people I see in the gym time and time again are doing the same thing over and over. It could be that they have copied someone else’s routine or they have got the workout from a book/internet or simply because they have been shown what to do on those machines or with those weights. Either way your workouts must have variation or you will never see a difference. Here I quickly stop myself to say that all workouts are beneficial regardless and its great to see people exercise no matter what they do!
Lets first look at cardio and my next blog will focus on weights. Many people go in the gym and only do cardio, running for example. I see the same girls running at the same speed for the same length of time every time I go into the gym. So it becomes methodical, your body expects it.
What are you achieving? Your speed remains the same so you aren’t developing, your incline remains the same so the intensity isn’t developing, your heart and lungs are also working at the same capacity so they aren’t developing. You are in fact stale and over the months you won’t actually be getting any fitter or faster and your endurance won’t be improving. Have you noticed that this same run you have done for the last 6 months doesn’t feel any different? Let me tell you how to change all of this.
Of course you can choose to work inside or outside that’s your chose. Remember that a treadmill is easier as it propels you but outside can be more damaging on the joints long term due to hard surfaces but running on a mixture of surfaces is beneficial and helps with stability. Let’s look at outdoor running which you can of course mimic on a treadmill with your speed and inclines.
So you want to start running faster but never seem to advance? Well to advance you need to get the fast-twitch fibres working and for that you need sprint bursts. Having sprint bursts over time will see your natural running pace quicken. Go for a short run at your normal pace. Stop and rest for around 30 seconds (I would suggest a slow walk) then sprint for 100m at around 80-90% your maximum speed and then take another rest (slow walk) for 30 seconds.
You can then jog for a few minutes and repeat this around 4-6 times or you can simply repeat the short sprints alone with 30 second rests in between. Don’t let this become an every day occurrence, the next time you run maybe shorten the sprint and shorten the rest time and repeat or lengthen both of them. Mix it up. This is interval training and if you do this, I promise you will see a difference quickly. On a treadmill you should be able to pre-programme this and even add in incline sprints!
Then you have your endurance runners. I don’t really have a technical way of describing this, but I do have a more simple way for the layman. If you want to run longer but are struggling then this is because of your current pace. Your body is used to burning out at a certain speed for a certain distance. Forget your distance for now. Think about endurance. Distance isn’t important until you get your endurance up and then distance is no obstacle for you.
The way I see it is that when you are training or running for endurance, you should be able to hold a conversation at the same time during 1 or 2 of your runs each week. You may sooner not want to, but if you can then your pace is a good for increasing endurance over time and you will be able to feel your endurance building up. Look at the majority of marathon runners who are raising money for charity. They don’t look like athletes but they can still run 26.2 miles and come in all ages shapes and sizes. Many of them are chatting on the way around the course. I’m sure they could all run a little faster but endurance is about getting around a course and finishing.
Varying workouts is all about development and of course retaining your interest in training, and that can be development of your aerobic capacity, your heart and lung function or your muscle development or everything. It’s about understanding the body and what it requires and why it requires it. All exercise is good but for progression you must mix it up. The more you add variation the more muscle fibres are used in so many different ways.
Remember with running to get a good pair of running shoes and run correctly and women must wear a good sports bra. Always carry water for rehydration, don’t run endurance without having eaten at some point during the day. Don’t use pre-workouts and when its winter, women especially don’t run in dark parks make sure it’s in a well lit area and tell someone where you are going if you are being out a considerable length of time!
Sarah Donohue is LEAN Nutrition's head ambassador. With experience as former body double to Angelina Jolie and as a former stuntwoman in the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Sarah understands the importance of nutrition and caring for your body to achieve results.