Restrictions or no restrictions, we all feel a little cabin fever by the beginning of March, right? It’s been cold, often grey and rainy, and a lot of us feel like we’ve been trapped indoors forever. Even if we’ve been good about our running, we need a change of scenery.
If you’ve made it this far sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, GREAT! And here’s more good news: COVID cases are easing across North Carolina, and restrictions are being lifted. Spring is just around the corner and temperatures are getting warmer. If you feel like you’ve been “stuck in second gear” for too long (thanks, Friends), we have a few ways to spice up your running routine.
We asked one of Charlotte’s best-known runners & triathletes to give us a few ways to switch things up as we head into spring. Kelly Fillnow, of Fillnow Coaching, has been running long enough to know your pain. She gave us some good ideas to get you out of your training rut.
1. Be Flexible
Like we said, try a change of scenery now that more is open — and warmer!
“If you run four days a week, be flexible with it,” says Fillnow. “Be adaptable based on the circumstances.” So if one day is cold and rainy (It’s not May yet!), do something other than running that day. If you’re even more organized, check the forecast and arrange days accordingly. But mostly, don’t be afraid to change it up if you’re not feeling it on a particular day — just do something.
2. Don’t Run Every Day
Fillnow advises against running 7 days a week. Your legs need some rest! Ride a bike or walk with a friend.
“Do something that adds a social component to your activity, especially if you have a friend that’s not a runner,” says Fillnow. Walk the greenway, ride a bike, take a class, do an exercise video together — all good choices! If you’ve never tried a Zumba or cardio funk class, find one! They will add some great rhythm to your step.
“It’s good to have something fun in the schedule to look forward to,” Fillnow reminds us. Heck yeah, it is! Sometimes we need a lift to keep us motivated.
3. Hit the Trail
Like a great cross-fit experience that will get your blood pumping? A hike or trail run changes up the routine enough to give your legs and heart a good workout, without the same relentless pounding on your joints.
“There are so many beautiful trails around, it’s a great way to stay fit and cross-train for running with aerobic benefit,” says Fillnow. And now is a GREAT time of year to check them out, because you’ll immerse yourself in North Carolina’s natural beauty and still be able to feel your toes when you’re done.
Want to know some great trails around our region? We wrote about some local ones here:https://runcharlotte.com/trail-running/ . Here are a few tips to get you started: https://runcharlotte.com/hitting-the-trail-with-ease/
4. Get Stronger
Your muscles need more than running to be strong and fast, so don’t forget to do your strength work! If you can go to a gym to lift, great. If not, we also introduced you to some bodyweight exercises last month that you can do at home: https://runcharlotte.com/exercise-for-runners/
And while we’ve had to rely on our computer screens and YouTube quite a bit for social distancing to do our core workouts, they are still a great resource. Yoga is a favorite, but try some pilates, too. There are a lot to choose from. And don’t forget your glutes! They need to be part of a strong, balanced muscular system for runners.
“Runners overwork their glutes,” says Fillnow, “and don’t use them properly.” So wait, you overwork them but you should work them more? It’s about balance, says Fillnow. Strong glutes help you run more efficiently because they’re in balance with the rest of your body.
We know pool time has been really hard to find this year. Most pools have required a reservation, the Aquatic Center has been closed a lot, and neighborhood pools are closed for winter (but hey, May isn’t far away!) Even local swim teams are scrambling for space.
But if you have access to a pool or club, throw in an hour of swimming once or twice a week. It’s a great recovery workout that balances work across your entire body without the joint stress, and it’s great for your heart too. Warning: You’ll be more tired than you expected, and will probably want to eat a bowl of ice cream. It’s okay, you’ve earned it!
The most important thing to remember when you feel like you’re in a rut is that motivation can wane depending on how you’re feeling on any given day. Good habits come from focusing on your goals and going after them even when it’s tough to find your “get up and go.”
“You’re not motivated to brush your teeth every day, you just do it,” says Fillnow. “Don’t just focus on being motivated, but on habit formation.” And go for it!