Running tips: Mix up your exercise routine and don’t be afraid to try new things

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN - Credit: Archant

Like any form of exercise, to keep motivated you need to inject some variety into your regime.

Running is no different. It's very difficult to stay inspired if you continuously pound the same stretch of pavement or enter the same running events.

This winter, to add an extra challenge to my training, I've been trying something different.

For the first time since school, I've had a go at cross country.

For years, I've avoided multi-terrain events worried that it would be too difficult, I wouldn't be fit enough to finish, I'd injure myself or worse, I'd fall.

Memories of thick muddy tracks and freezing weather from my school days did nothing to increase my enthusiasm, however – second time around – it has been a much more enjoyable experience than I remember.

One of the events I recently tried was the Norfolk Cross Country Championships held in Thetford.

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Myself and other runners from Diss Athletics Club decided we'd give it a go.

There was no way I'd finish anywhere near the front of the pack but what an opportunity to compete with some of the best runners from across the county.

It was a challenging run.

After getting used to the varying terrain of grass, heath and dirt track, there were mole hills to negotiate, tree roots to jump over, twists, turns and dips in the path – it felt like a rollercoaster.

But although exhausted, I crossed the finish line with a huge sense of achievement and with an even bigger smile on my face.

Since then I've been taking part in as many cross country races as possible, not just because I find them enjoyable, but because I've seen improvements in my road running too.

The additional strength, stamina and mental fitness and balance required to take on a cross country course has suddenly made the pavement feel as smooth and forgiving as a professional athletics track.

Your challenge does not have to be cross country, it could be any athletic discipline.

Find something that interests you, drags you from your comfort zone and helps refresh your exercise routine.

Steph Callen is a member of Diss and District Athletics Club.