An Amway River Bank Run race photograph is shown with runners at the starting line.
As in past 5Ks, 10Ks and 25Ks, an established—yet interesting—training regimen is critical as we get back in the game in 2021. (Chris Clark | Spectrum Health Beat)

At last, we are off to the races.

We once again look forward to running in a favorite race—whether it’s a 5K or a marathon.

As the events draw near, runners, walkers, wheelchair racers and hand cyclists fill the streets, training for race day.

But even with the motivation of a special event looming, you might sometimes find yourself in a training rut.

Adding variety to your routine can prevent boredom—and improve the effectiveness of your exercise, advises Matthew Axtman, DO, a Spectrum Health sports medicine specialist and the medical lead for the 2021 Amway River Bank Run.

Dr. Axtman’s top 5 tips to shake up your training plan:

1. Buddy up

You may find that you like to exercise on your own, which allows you to go at your own pace and distance. But this can lead to stagnant training.

Research has shown that exercising with others will push you to increase your distance and speed and can also make your workout more enjoyable.

2. Get a new view

Try altering your course by exploring a new trail with different scenery and terrain. You can even reverse your course. Or train at a different time of day.

This can give you a fresh outlook on training and is one of the easily modifiable aspects of exercise.

3. Focus on strength training

This cannot be stressed enough.

Cross training to incorporate strength training is one of the most effective ways to improve your overall endurance and stamina.

You do not have to go to the gym and lift weights for hours on end. Adding some light weights, squats and push-ups, for example, can easily become a part of your routine.

Targeting weak muscle groups that can plague walkers and runners also can improve muscular imbalances and prevent injuries.

4. Make the leap

A great way to modify your exercise is by adding plyometrics, otherwise known as jump training.

Plyometrics can increase your heart rate more effectively and can burn more calories. You may get some looks from others around you if you add in some of these exercises, but they can significantly improve your training.

Skipping is one of the exercises. It is an effective way to increase your endurance, strength and speed. Plus, it may take you back to your childhood.

One way to start is to skip alternatively on both legs 20 times every five minutes. Make sure that you are light on your feet and gently landing on the balls of your feet to prevent injury.

You could also add squat jumps every few minutes: Squat at your knees while touching the floor and then jump as high as you can before landing softly on the balls of your feet. Try doing this 10 times every five minutes.

Another exercise that we all hate but will target not only the legs but also the arms is the burpee.

If you have not done burpees before, you will learn that they are a full-body workout. Try doing 30 seconds to a minute of burpees every 5-10 minutes during your walk or run.

5. Wear a weighted vest

A more aggressive approach to improving your workout includes a weighted vest.

These vests, which are relatively inexpensive online, allow for adding or subtracting weight.

Studies have shown that weighted vests can increase workout speed and endurance. Your body becomes used to the added weight and force, which builds strength and cardiovascular endurance by allowing the heart to work more efficiently.

You will want to make sure that you start off with light weights and low mileage and increase based on your conditioning and tolerance.