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Different types of run training

“Variety is the spice of life” is a phrase we’ve all heard many times and it’s just as appropriate in the running world and in our training as it is elsewhere..

Mixing up where (and how) you run gives you variety, and with that comes a whole load of benefits.. Let’s dig in..

Road (and paths, of course!) 

It’s where most runners, or at least recreational runners get their miles, it’s convenient being able to leave the front door, be straight into your run, and do a loop or out and back.

Not forgetting, the run commute, missing the traffic and navigating the roads and streets from the place of work to home where a warm shower awaits is a great way to save time and bag some miles (plus save money on travel)!

Roads are generally well lit all year round, obstacles are limited and they’re accessible to most.

But there are some down sides to the tarmac..  The repetitive gait cycle on tarmac can often expose weak elements in the biomechanics of a runner and lead to injury, and then there can be safety concerns, particularly where there are no footpaths and there is a danger of fast traffic such as in country lanes.

Also, always running roadside beside moving traffic does increase exposure to exhaust fumes and other pollutants. 

Cross country/trail

How many runners first “experience” of running was around a field or woods whilst being yelled at by a school teacher!? I’m sure that put plenty of people off ever wanting to lace up again!

But running across fields, trails and open land requires a variety of different techniques to running. Pace is generally less of a focus and attention turns to the type of terrain you’re on.  

Running on soft ground requires you to lift your knees higher, your foot strike will be varied on every step meaning you work muscles differently. You will develop ankle strength on technical terrain like rocks or tree roots, but this does mean trip hazards and therefore you need to concentrate on your footing and balance.

Slowing your runs downs is beneficial to developing your aerobic base and many people find that running “off-road” helps them to slow down because there are many other things to focus on.

We shouldn’t forget that being out in the fields and woods means the sounds and sights of nature, fresh air, no traffic noise or pollutants. It’s an excellent tonic for physical and mental wellbeing.


The track isn’t just for wannabe Olympians.  Pushing your pace to increase your cardio impact, has huge benefits and the softer, responsive running surface is much more forgiving than tarmac.

The track is fantastic for sessions where measured intervals such as 400’s, 800’s and 1600’s are key to your workout. An often overlooked benefit of the track is that there are generally plenty of other runners about for support and motivation. All runners can benefit their training with the inclusion of speed work and the track shouldn’t be dismissed. 

Tracks are usually quite easy to find with many schools/colleges, some parks, and sports clubs offering public access.


As I’ve said before in other blog’s, the treadmill is a fantastic training tool for all runners and can often be the difference between being able to run or missing a run. 

Bad weather, childcare/caring responsibilities, being unable to leave the house, safety concerns and more, can often be reasons why we miss a run. 

Having access to a treadmill can bridge that gap. Treadmills allow you to control paces and incline, they’re convenient and partnering up with apps such as Zwift can introduce gamification or team/group challenges, or simply churn out some miles whilst catching up on your favourite TV can also help pass the time if you need that distraction.

My key point is that if you want to improve as a runner, your training needs to include variety! Your mind and body are designed to adapt and settle to a routine, so if you continue to run and train the same way your progress will plateau. 

Mixing it up and introducing variety keeps your body working and developing, and you may also discover a new side to running that you have never tried before!


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