Running outside is a heck of a lot more interesting than running on a treadmill, but it’s not always as easy as stepping out your front door and hitting the pavement. Here’s how to find (or make) the perfect route near your house.
Whether you’re running, walking or cycling, finding a good route can make your exercise experience a lot more pleasurable. I recently moved away from a giant public park where I used to jog into an area that didn’t seem to have any good routes. A little bit of searching later, and I ended up putting together a few routes I’m really happy with. Here’s what I used.
Decide What You Want in a Running Route
What you’re looking for in a running route is really about personal preference. Some people prefer running on trails, while others prefer pavement. It’s really a grab bag, and as the New York Times points out, science is still undecided on which — if either — is “better” for you.
Runner’s World suggests, hill training is great for training for strength, but not everyone needs a route with a 50 per cent incline. It’s really up to you and what you want from your workout and the path you’re running on.
So, first things first: decide what you want in a running route. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably best with very few inclines or elevation changes. If you prefer trails to pavement, you’ll probably need to look for options in public parks or outside of a city.
Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for, it’s time to find (or make) some solid routes.
Search Out Other People’s Routes in Your Area
Depending on where you are, you might be able to benefit from other people’s hard work when you’re looking for a new running route. You have a few really solid options to search through.
I had the best luck searching for new routes with MapMyRun. You can search through lots of crowdsourced routes based on your location, then find filter by distance, ascent and more. If you’re looking for a dirt path, you can type in keywords so you’re not always pounding the pavement. You’ll also find ratings and notes so you don’t accidentally go running through a bad neighbourhood or terrifying underpass.
To do this in MapMyRun, just head to the Routes page and enter your address. You should see a list of different user-created routes in your area. You can filter by length, climb, date created and more. Click on a route, and you’ll get a full list of elevation changes, notes and more.
In my case, I found a 8km loop that follows a trail right outside my door that I didn’t realise was there (and that also includes dinosaurs along the way). Once you pick a route, you can save it directly to one of the MapMyRun mobile apps if you use one, print it out, or just make some mental notes of your new path and hit the streets.
MapMyRun certainly isn’t your only option for looking through other people’s routes. Runner’s World’s Route Finder or Strava are all also fantastic options for looking for other people’s routes in your area. Likewise, you can always share your own routes if you want to help out your neighbours.
Map Out Your Own Route
If your crowdsourced efforts don’t turn anything up, or you just want to craft a route that comes right from your house, then you can make your own route using a few different free tools.
First off, most smartphone running apps allow you to create a route in the app. Apps like Runkeeper, RunningMap and MapMyRun typically even show you elevation details so you can spot big hills and reroute yourself accordingly.
To make your own map, just click your starting point and start tracing where you want to go. You’ll see the distance add up on the screen so you can easily see how far you’ll be going. If you’re not really sure where to start from your house because you don’t have any obvious hiking or jogging paths near you, it’s helpful to head over to Google Maps, type in a couple of close addresses, and then give yourself biking directions. Biking directions tend to keep you off of main roads and guide you toward specific paths. Take this info and use it to make your own running route.
Give It a Test Walk
All the mapping programs in the world can’t prepare you for what you’ll actually run into. My first attempt at the route I picked from MapMyRun had me running on the side of train tracks. Needless to say, that wasn’t a pleasant experience.
So, I repeated the above steps to find a new route, clicked through it on Google Street View, and then still decided to go ahead and walk the whole distance. Along my walk I kept a GPS program going so I could track the actual distance and any changes I made to the route.
This is obviously optional depending on how well you know the city you’re in, but in my case I was in a whole new city and wasn’t sure how certain things — like bridge crossings or trail routes — actually worked, so it proved helpful to walk it out first so I didn’t have the stress of running and being confused at once.
A really good route is more important that you think. It keeps your exercise interesting, fun, and gets you outside, which we know is beneficial. In my experience, it makes or breaks whether or not I enjoy running.