One thing that draws people to running is the ease of going out your door to a well-known route, banging it out and being done. But those same ease and familiarity factors can also lead to tedium. It becomes predictable and you feel mentally uninspired. What’s also interesting is that your body has likely gotten habituated too. The same route may no longer challenge your body to adapt. In other words, you’ve hit a strength or weight-loss plateau.
Here are some things I do to insert running into daily life and to change things up. These things can take a bit more time and planning, so they aren’t necessarily something you’ll do every run or when you’re most strapped for time. But when you see an opportunity, try them out. There’s a nice upside for your mind and body.
- Run in a different neighborhood. Drive, bike or bus your way to another part of town and run through less familiar territory. You’ll find your senses much more engaged, time passes faster, it’s just more fun. I don’t recommend completely unfamiliar neighborhoods since you don’t want the stress of getting lost, or to find yourself on too-busy streets or encountering too-steep terrain. Choose an area that you can envision somewhat then use a mapping website to make your route in detail. Gmap Pedometer is the mapping site I use. It also lets you see distances. http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/
- Run point-to-point. There’s something very satisfying about this. It’s the experience of running as transportation. David and I did this a couple of weeks ago when we needed to drop off his car for service. It was only 3 miles back to our house, but I mapped a more winding route that took us closer to 5 miles and through some interesting side streets.
- Literally run an errand. No, it doesn’t work for just any errand. You wouldn’t go get groceries or take a box to FedEx, but you could take a few envelopes to mail, return a library book, or check on a sick friend.
- Enlist friends to run segments with you. This works well if you’re training for a half marathon or longer distance and you have friends who run shorter distances. Appoint these excellent conversationalists to meet you at specific times and places along your route to run a few miles and then hand you off to the next runner friend. You may need to coordinate your pacing a bit. Let them know if you have a target pace that you’d like help keeping and fit them in accordingly. Having someone meet you (or even just cheer you) toward the end of a long training run can make all the difference.
Tell me what you do to mix it up. Have fun out there.