No matter how much you love running, there are days when you feel a little unmotivated by your regular run, especially when time (or a lockdown…) restricts you to your usual, local routes, or the weather or the dark means you have to stick to roads. Everyone has those days, so what can you do to add a bit of variety to your everyday runs?
Here is a quick list of the things that stop running become a chore and make it into the highlight of your day.
1 – Run somewhere new
It’s amazing how often people fall into the habit of running the same route day in day out. It can easily become the reason you’re not enjoying your run. You always see the same things and all you think about is how far you have to go and when you’ll be done.
So, change it. Run a different route.
It doesn’t have to be wildly different. Just mix things up a bit. Try turning left at a set point in your route, when you normally turn right. Run to a place you’ve never run to before. It doesn’t have to be anything remarkable, it can just be a road you’ve never run down or a path that your not sure where it leads. Go and explore new places. You can do it on a whim or plot a route before you set off. Whatever you do, mix it up and discover new places to run. It makes running so much more interesting.
2 – Run off-road
If you do most of your running on the road, try hitting the trails for a change. Trail running requires more focus on the terrain under your feet. You need to negotiate your way over things like uneven paths, rocks, roots, mud, holes and fallen trees. This all means the miles and the minutes fly by. Also, off-road means heading out into nature, which is never a bad thing. Plus a road run after a trail run always feels faster!
3 – Go on a walk-run
When you need to get out on a run, but you’re feeling tired and not up for it, tell yourself that you can stop and walk at any point. It takes the pressure off and makes it so much easier to get out and enjoy the run, knowing that you can take a break whenever it suits. And, in reality, you nearly always end up running more than you thought you would anyway (just don’t tell yourself that before you set out!).
4 – Get lost
This one is a good one. It can make the boring run in a city much more interesting while the miles clock up. Or if you’re in the countryside there’s lots to explore if you’re willing to find yourself where you weren’t expecting.
A word of warning. Only do this where you feel safe. Have a phone with you with GPS just in case you get really lost and need to get home and have some cash/card with you if you get exhausted, or share your phone’s location with someone you trust. Also running with someone else is probably a good idea.
Start by setting off trying to run in a fixed direction (e.g. North) then, after a set amount of time, turn around and try to run back again, but this time using a different route. It works a treat if you’re trying to do a long run because you end up so focused on trying to find the right way back to the start, you don’t notice the pain your body’s going through. Be careful though, as the way back can end up taking a lot longer than the way out!
5 – Hit up a good podcast
Podcasts are great for running for 2 main reasons.
The first is when you need to do a dull, repetitive run route. You need something to take your mind of the boredom-inducing plodding, so you listen to a captivating podcast that becomes the sole focus of your thoughts so that the miles just drift by. Desert Island Discs is my guilty pleasure here, I love hearing different people’s life stories. Crime podcasts are also good for running, sometimes I’ve extended my run just to find out what happens next.
The second is when you feel like you don’t have time for a run and that you should be working or doing something else more ‘productive’. Pick a podcast that you think will add real value to your personal development (such as something work-related or something you have been meaning to learn about or even just current affairs). It makes you feel better for being out on a run and if it gets boring, well at least you’re out on that run now and you can switch it off and enjoy!
6 – Run in the dark
The thought of running in the dark when your inside, looking out at the pitch-black gloom, is not very appealing. But in reality, it can be the most interesting, relaxing and exciting way to run. Running along paths with just the narrow beam of light from your headtorch really focuses the mind and makes a run feel like a real adventure. Even running on the city streets in the dark shows the city in a different light (literally), everything looks different, there are fewer people in your way and you have the feeling that you’re the only person in the city out exercising at that time. There’s a beautiful bridge over a river nearby which always looks awesome lit up at night with the reflections in the water.
7 – Find someone to run with
Some people run for solitude (especially after a day at home with the kids!), but, if you’re more of the sociable type, running with people can make a run so much more enjoyable. Even if you can’t get out with someone else in person (covid restrictions or otherwise) why not arrange a running phone call with them. Sounds a little strange but there is even a popular running podcast that does exactly that (Running Commentary). Or connect with friends on Strava (other run tracking apps are available…) so you can encourage each other or create a bit of healthy competition!
When they start up again, remember that if you have no one to run with check out local run clubs, run crews or running meetups near you. Also, park run is great for meeting new people that run at your pace and brings a real sense of community.
8 – Forget about pace and distance
Leave the Garmin at home. Remember the 80:20 rule that states that 80% of your weekly training should be at an easy effort level, with 20% at a harder level. So instead of focusing on the pace or distance covered, just go out and enjoy being on your run, you don’t need to run fast, just get your trainers on and get out the door. No pressure.
9 – Set yourself a challenge
A little competition is a great way to fight boredom. It doesn’t need to be against anyone. Set yourself a challenge and it will give you something to aim for and a sense of accomplishment when you complete it. Set a goal that is challenging enough to push you but not impossible. Here are a few ideas: Try to beat your best time over a set distance; Run as much elevation as you can in a week; Set a target mileage over a month.
10 – Don’t run
Even if you’re in the middle of a training program, it’s OK not to run. If everything is telling you not to run today, do a HIIT workout or pilates video. Cross-training is a great way to mix up your running, it adds something new to your routine and can actually improve your running and reduce the risk of injury.