Following on from my recent Top Tips for New Runners, here are my Top Tips for the next stage. Probably not very scientific but straight from the heart (I mean the trail).
Get into a pattern
The chances are you're already well on the way to having a good pattern going but it is worth consolidating. Aim to run 3 or 4 times a week, each of variable distances. I normally try to have my longest run at weekends and shorter, possibly faster or more intense runs, during the week. How does your routine work? Can you run easier in the mornings or at other times of the day? Myself, mornings are better before breakfast but in reality it is mostly in the evenings nowadays.
Depends where you live and the surrounding terrain but do try to encompass a couple of hills in your run. I hated the thought of trying to run up a hill to start with but actually it readlly does become easier the more you do it. Try to find a hill that takes 1 or 2 minutes. The benefits are increased cardiovascular strength and improved muscle tone. If you live in a flat urban areas, try and find some stairs to run up and down on.
Build the distances
Add 1 mile each week to your long run. This I have found to be a sensible approach as when I tried to do more I was exposing some weaknesses leading to a potential injury. I have had to learn to be patient, to build myself up gradually. Training programs, widely published by Runner's World are helpful.
Following on from running uphill, aim to include some intervals. This means once you are warmed up, perhaps after 15-20 mins, try sprinting to a specific point, maybe about 100m away. Run as fast as you can and then coast or jog to recover, then resume your normal pace before you try it again. Like running up hill, this has some real benefits.
If you haven't already done so, buy a couple of "technical" tops. These are synthetic materials designed to wick sweat and allow there to be a natural coolness. Most effective if it is close fitting. I wear track suit bottoms if the temperature is sub zero, otherwise a pair of shorts. Running in sub zero temperatures challenges me the most - knowing what or how much to wear is difficult. Gloves are needed and normally a hat. It has to be very cold or windy to wear more than a simple base layer. I never run when its hot; even in the summer I run at dawn or dusk for a variety of reasons. These include avoiding the heat, it suits my routine and these are normally the most beautiful times of the day.
Reading this blog might be helpful but there are plenty of others and the Runners World magazine is informative. I have learnt a lot from reading what other people are up to, makes me feel as if I'm not the only person who would ever struggle with something. I like reading inspirational blogs.
Enter a race!
Very worthwhile and so motivating! By nature I have never been interested in sports at all but this has been an exception. By racing I have found I can pitch myself against others, to see how I fare and I have not been disappointed. Once that race entry has been submitted you have a target, something to aim for, something to give you that extra bit of focus. Besides, using it as a way of clocking your own ability against others is good and I'm sure everyone remembers their first race!
Very important to avoid injury and the levels of rest from one person to another must surely vary but in knowing this for myself has been helpful. Certainly after a race or a long run I need to have a rest to allow my body to repair itself. I never mind this as I know I am being built to be a little stronger each time. Not only is it worth factoring in some rest in any given week, please do bear in mind that the may be times when you should rest for longer; perhaps a season or longer. Naturally it wil take much longer to get going again afterwards but you can never escape the fact that rest is important and ignoring the need for it is to our peril. Periods of rest need not be periods of no exercise at all as it could be that retaining fitness can be done in other ways as well - perhaps using a rowing machine, a cross trainer or cycling (which as you know is something's I love).