Annie Emmerson is a former international triathlete, runner and duathlete (running and cycling). She retired in 2006 ranked as the world #1 duathlete. Annie now works as a sports presenter and commentator for the BBC and coaches a range of athletes in running, swimming and cycling. Read Annie's top tips for improving your running
MIX UP YOUR ROUTE
The beauty of running is that the equipment you need is minimal; shorts, T-shirt, trainers and a desire to run. The other thing I love is that you can access so many places you wouldn’t normally go. Like many things in life, we can get stuck in the habit of doing the same things over and over - and running routes are no different. I like to vary where I run because it gives my training variety and makes it more fun. Plus, a change of surfaces is also important for keeping you strong and stable through the ankles and lower legs.
So next time you head out on that five-mile loop, think about changing routes and adding in a towpath or off-road run (if you’re going somewhere new, take your running buddy with you). You might find running round a new place so distracting that you can manage to run further than usual!
FIND A RUNNING PARTNER
Although solo running has its plus points, finding a fitness partner can help your running come on leaps and bounds. If you struggle to motivate yourself to get out the door, you’re much less likely to miss a session if you’ve arranged to meet up with a fellow running buddy. Try and pick a runner who is as good as you or slightly better as this will help to motivate and push you further.
Many of the athletes I’ve trained have said that they can always go that little bit further when they have a running partner to train with, so take note and search for that special someone!
CHANGE OF PACE
We’re probably all guilty of sticking to one pace in our training, which, ultimately, can lead to our progress plateauing. I’ve trained a lot of athletes of all ages and abilities and always make sure that there’s a really good mix of easy recovery runs, tempo runs and faster/shorter sprint sessions, and at different times of the year I’ll also throw in some hill rep intervals.
If you’re running four times a week, the sessions could be broken down into: a long run; a recovery run; one sprint session or hill rep session; and a tempo run. To see an improvement, you need to sometimes run above your target race pace and at other times run quite a lot slower. By varying your pace you’ll get a more out of your sessions and with increased variety, your training will become a lot more enjoyable.
Adding in another sport to your fitness routine, such as swimming, can really help boost your times. Swimming is a great conditioning sport and can really push your lungs and heart to the limits without hurting your legs. For the entire time that I ran and swam side by side in training, I never got injured.
Swimming can also be used as a great recovery session, so on the days when your legs are just too tired to run or you feel they need a rest, try a few lengths in the pool to help your body recuperate. Swimming is also a fantastic upper-body workout and strengthens your core muscles.
USE A TREADMILL
I’m a really big fan of the treadmill; over the years I’ve run thousands of miles on them as they can really help improve speed, pace and technique with little impact on your legs. The low impact will really help your recovery, particularly from speed work-outs!
Running on a treadmill is also the perfect antidote to the chill and darkness of the winter months. If you lack the motivation to go out on a dark evening, turn to the running machine to continue improving your fitness.