Running and walking are probably the easiest ways to start exercising. You can do them pretty much anywhere at anytime, and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Plus, there’s no learning curve — you’ve known how to run since you were a toddler (well, most likely).
But, unlike a boot camp or Spinning class with an encouraging instructor and thumping playlist, putting one foot in front of the other mile after mile can get kind of boring after a few runs.
The solution is simple: Mix it up! “I’ve been running for 30 years,” says Lora Erickson, a running and triathlon coach and blogger at BlondeRunner.com. “And if you do the same route at the same pace all the time, it can be boring.”
Try these suggestions from running coaches and everyday runners like you to spice up your running routine, which will help you stick with it. As a bonus, many of these will also help you get faster.
1. Run Backward
Not literally. (That’s just asking for injury.) Erickson recommends running your usual route in reverse. “It’s like a whole new route,” she says. You’ll notice new signs, businesses and natural wonders that you’ve never seen before — simply because you’re looking at them from a different angle.
2. Vary the Pace
Do fartleks, suggests John Honerkamp, head coach for New York Road Runners. “Fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play,” and it simply means varying your pace throughout a run. A fartlek run doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated. Simply pick a light pole, tree or landmark and run to it. Don’t go all-out, but keep a good pace that’s brisker than your normal jog. Recover by jogging or walking at your usual speed. Once you feel ready again, pick a new point and off you go!
3. Don’t Just Run
“There’s a little playground over the river about a mile from my apartment,” says Boston-based runner Cassie Shortsleeve. “I’ll run there, stop, take out my ear buds and play the music on speaker, and do a little body-weight workout there. Then I’ll run back home.” This can also work if you run to a park, run at a track (run one lap, do 10 burpees, run another lap, do 10 push-ups, etc.) or have any pit stop that gives you space to do some strength moves.
4. Run to a New Destination
Whether it’s a smoothie shop for a post-workout protein shake, a bookstore you’ve been meaning to check out or a cafe to meet a friend for brunch, running to a fun location is more motivating, says Kit Fox, a runner in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He suggests searching for a destination on Yelp and filtering by distance. If you can run 2.5 miles in 30 minutes, find a place about that far away and then plan out a safe running route.
Even better, run without a destination with this idea from Erickson: First, decide how long you want to run for. Then for the first half of your run, turn down any road that looks good, paying attention to where you turn. At the halfway time point, turn around and follow the same route back home. (Alternatively, carry your smartphone with you and GPS the fastest way home.) You’ll discover new neighborhoods and places to check out that you never knew existed.
6. Don’t Let Red Lights Stop You
You can also use Erickson’s trick (with a twist) in a city, Fox says. Decide how long you want to run, then don’t stop. Anytime you come to a red light, make a turn so you can keep running. After your time is up, take public transit home. “It’s fun to see where you end up,” Fox says.
7. Turn a Run Into a Meeting
Rather than sitting in a conference room to discuss a project, join your co-worker for a run or walk to go over things. “It’s not only productive since you’re getting stuff done, it also keeps you accountable,” Honerkamp says. Or do like Sari Soffer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and simply run with a friend. “If we haven’t talked in a few days we can fill each other in, and it makes the run go by faster,” she says.
8. Jam Out
Create a playlist of tunes with different tempos: fast, slower, fast, slower. Sprint each time a fast song comes on, and then recover during the slower song. Instant interval training! You can also build upon this, says Erickson, who calls this a “jam run.” So maybe for the next run you push your pace for two songs and recover for three. As a bonus, studies show that running to music can enhance your performance and help you run faster, especially in the beginning of your run.
9. Play Leapfrog
This is great for a group of five to eight people, Erickson says. Run in a single-file line at a pace that’s about a five on a scale of one (easy) to 10 (all-out). Every 100 meters (if you’re using a track) or two light poles, the person in the back sprints to the front of the line. Keep this up, rotating through your entire group. “It’s really challenging as you sprint, and it’s also great for team building or friendship building because you need to stay together,” Erickson explains.
10. Make Time Fly on the Treadmill
“If I run on the treadmill, I’ll put on music and tell myself, ‘I won’t look at the console until six songs have played,’” Fox says. “I’m never confident how much time has passed by when I go to glance at the display, but it’s usually longer than I think.” Pick how many songs you can last without looking, throw a towel over the console, and then make yourself resist the urge to peek at the timer.
What Do YOU Think?
How do you make your runs more enjoyable? Do you have any ideas you'd like to share with fellow readers? What is one of your favorite runs, and what makes it so special? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!