Follow these tips to keep your runs interesting and fun.
The French author Madame de Staël once wrote, “one must choose in life between boredom and suffering.” As runners, we are all accustomed to dealing with pushing pain thresholds, yet it’s inevitable that we’ll face periods of boredom during our workouts, and so de Staël’s quote isn’t necessary applicable to us. The very nature of what we do requires some amount of suffering and yet we occasionally have to weather those runs where we just want to hurry up and get home.
If you’re finding yourself in this unfortunate position, first try to get to the heart of matter. Do some introspection by asking yourself the following questions: Why are you bored? Are you bored with your route? Are you bored with your pace? Are you bored with your routine? Are you bored because you’re burned out? Why is running suddenly a chore?
Here are five things for you to try the next time you’re searching for answers to these questions.
1. Call a friend and make a ‘run date’
The next time you find yourself bored on a run, look around. Are you alone? Odds are that you are. Fix that by seeking out some companionship — especially for your longer runs where the monotony of the miles can take their toll on your motivation. Pick an engaging run partner — someone who’s company you enjoy.
2. Mix up your training plan and don’t be afraid to experiment
Most of us do our hard workouts and our long runs on the same days of the week. This “if it’s Tuesday, I’m on the track” routine can get old after a while, so why not change it up? Sit down with your training plan and find a way to gradually alter it. For example, instead of doing Tuesday/Thursday as your hard days and Saturday as your long run, consider a Wednesday/Friday routine for the faster-paced workouts and a Sunday long run. Another way to mix things up is to alter your routes. Explore. Go run a new set of trails or check out that neighborhood you’ve never been to. If you run the same course on your recovery days, try running it backwards. Go to running websites like MapMyRun.com and find routes in your area that other runners have created.
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3. Inject a little bit of speed during your slower days
Most running boredom manifests itself on our recovery days when we are heading out at slower-than-usual paces. The next time you find yourself struggling this way, consider drastically altering your pace for a short period of time. Set your watch on a 30-second countdown and inject a quick surge, which should be run as fast as possible. This short shot of adrenaline will help ward off the blues, and one or two mid-run, 30-second surges shouldn’t take away from your recovery goals for that day. Another way to inject some variation in your run is to sprint up every hill you encounter along the way.
4. Make up ‘fun’ workouts and plan some rewards
Just because your training schedule calls for something, that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Get creative! For example, if you’re supposed to run 6 x 400m on a track, go measure out a 400m stretch of road or trail and do your quarters in a different locale. Another workout that you can try to combat boredom is the progression run. Plan for this run (typically 5-8 miles in length) on one of your harder days. Start out the progression run at your recovery pace and with each mile that passes, increase your pace by 15-30-seconds per mile until you are at your 5K goal pace in the last mile. These types of runs require concentration and discipline. Also, come up with some rewards that you’ll receive if you meet the specific training objectives of the day. Treat yourself to a nice dinner with the family that night or that new album you’ve wanted to buy. Little things like this can go a long way.
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5. Cross train
Occasionally, running boredom can best be cured by not running at all. If you’re feeling burned out, get your heart rate up by doing something else such as swimming. Or you could take a mountain bike out on some single-track trails and find new and exciting running routes. Use your recovery days to cross train on an elliptical machine. And if you’re really feeling burned out, don’t be afraid to simply take a zero. Sometimes a little break from the roads and trails is a good way to mentally recharge.