Running is one of the best cardio workouts, but it can also be repetitive and boring. Whether you're an experienced runner, new to running or looking for a reason to start running, these tips can get you on your feet.
Run WITHOUT Any Gadgets
A lot of us run with some form of technology, whether it's a music player, smartphone or fitness tracker. As surprising as it sounds, going for a run without anything on you can be invigorating and freeing. With the constant feedback you get from trackers, it can stress you out because your mind is focused on the data. Jen A. Miller at Runner's World explains how taking a tech time out can free the mind and let you focus on the pure joy of running:
Checking your pace, distance, and heart rate every few minutes means you're focusing more on numbers than on your body's cues. Not only might you tend to ignore the feedback your body is sending, but you are also diminishing one of the best benefits of running: mental peace. "Wearing technology while running intrudes on the mind's attempt to give itself over to the body," says Ben Agger, Ph.D., director of the University of Texas at Arlington Center for Theory and author of Body Problems: Running and Living Long in a Fast-Food Society.
If you're just starting out, Amanda at Runners Feed suggests avoiding GPS and other fitness tracking gadgets altogether. Seeing that your running time is a lot longer than you thought it would be can be discouraging. It can be hard to get over the beginner's hump, but it's best to prevent anything that would stop you dead in your tracks. Having some music is OK, but if you're jogging with a partner it's not a bad time to strike up a conversation (and maybe even do a little motivational trash talk).
Run with a Prop
It might sound silly, but adding in a sporty prop can change your daily jog. Jessica Smith at Shape suggests adding a frisbee into the mix. Head to a park or field, toss the frisbee in front of you, and take off running to try and catch it. You'll get some great sprints in and after a couple tosses you'll start to get your sweat on. You can also use a basketball or soccer ball in a similar fashion. Dribble a basketball as you run along the sidewalk or local court, and kick the soccer ball ahead of you in an open field.
Switch Up Your Route or Go Trail Running
A lot of runners get fatigued from running the same route every day. Switch up your route and go somewhere you haven't run before. You might find a great path or even discover some cool places nearby that you normally miss driving. Finding a new running route can be tough, and there are a lot of things to consider. Do you want to run up hills? Do you want to avoid busy streets? If you need some help, we can help you craft the perfect running route.
Two things. First, reduced risk of injury: The soft, ever-varying surface of the trail lessens the likelihood of an overuse injury, strengthens core muscles, and ultimately makes for more comfortable long runs than asphalt. Second, a rush that road running just can't give you. It should come as no surprise that soaking in the essence of the forest results in a quantifiably-greater endorphin release than does breathing in roadside fumes.
If you have the time to do it, hit the trail and grab some fresh air.
Compete With Your Friends or Family
A great way to get motivated is competition, so find a buddy to go running with. It's best if you can run along side them, but if you're only option is an online friend, that works too. Online fitness trackers like Strava, Endomondo, Runtastic and RunKeeper can be used to track stats and compare with others, and there are a ton of apps out there you can use track and compete too. A little competition is healthy and you can also set up one on one races for motivation.
Set a Solid Goal by Signing Up for a Race
We know that vague, undefined goals are harder to accomplish. So set yourself a running goal that has a clearly defined finish line and deadline. It doesn't have to be a full marathon, but any kind of organised running event is ideal. You know the distance to prepare for and how long you have to prepare for it. Mentally, this makes your runs feel like they are productive stepping stones and the piece of a much larger goal. For a nudge in the right direction, the Couch to 5k program has a training schedule laid out for you and a mobile app you can use on the go.
If you don't want to do an organised event, you can set your own long term goals. Pick a day and plan to run to destination of your choice. The key is to have a defined goal so your runs don't feel like mindless exercise.
Use Your Imagination
Create a fun reason in your head for why you're running. Nobody has to know about it, but you. Imagine you're training to be a superhero, or convince yourself that you're just practising zombie apocalypse rule number one: cardio. After all, you're not going to last long if you can't escape the undead's grasp. Is it a bit silly? Sure, but just because you're an adult, that doesn't mean you can't come up with adventurous reasons to run. If your imagination needs a little help, the Zombies, Run! app is pretty motivational, and app The Walk makes your exercise part of a story.
Keep an Updated Playlist and Surprise Yourself
If you are going to run with music, keep a fresh workout playlist. Nothing kills your drive more than thinking about listening to the same trance tunes every time. For an extra push of motivation, the Fit Radio app gives you high-energy playlists engineered by professional DJs and saves you the time of looking up new stuff to run to. It's amazing how a steady infusion of new tracks can save you from dread.
You can also play a little game with your mind. As you go about your music discovery, take a new song you absolutely love and add it to your workout playlist. Then avoid listening to it until your next run. You'll be excited to head out next time and while you run you'll anticipate the song. Once that sweet new tune of yours comes on, use it as motivation and pick up the pace.
Don't Overdo It, Take a Break
Sometimes you're just trying too hard. If your runs are wearing on you no matter what you try, take a break so you don't burn out. Too much of anything is bad news, and you don't want to make yourself hate running. You can always get back to it in a day or two.
If you need longer, that's OK too. Richard Ferguson of Running.net suggests taking as much time as you need and doing other activities that make you happy. Spend time with family, read, or do some chores around the house instead. You can be active still if you want. Play sports, lift weights or just go for a walk. Eventually, your will to run will return.
Change What You Strive for During Your Runs
If you track stats when you run, change up the stat you're trying to improve every now and then. If you're only shooting for time, try shooting for heart rate. If you're always going for distance, try going for speed. Changing your goals for individual runs can change how you run, making the same old thing feel like something different.
There are other things to strive for besides stats as well. Running should be fun, first and foremost. Running's modern definition has become synonymous with exercise and that strips it of joy. For example, the Tarahumara people, found in the mountainous regions of Northern Mexico, are arguably the best distance runners in the world. They run barefoot or with huarache sandals, and the tribe distance record is 700km in 48 hours. Blogger Matthew Karsten at The Expert Vagabond had a chance to run with some of the Tarahumara:
Running is not a chore for the Tarahumara. It's just fun. I could feel their joy running alongside them. It was infectious. We only went a short distance but I was hooked. Running for exercise is one thing, running for fun is something completely different.
It's important to find joy in the act of running and to strive for happiness. Because after all isn't that what it's all about? As the great Phoebe Buffay once said:
"Me, I'm more free. You know, I run like I did when I was a kid because that's the only way it's fun. You know? I mean, didn't you ever run so fast you thought your legs were gonna fall off, you know, like when you were running towards the swings or running away from Satan? ...The neighbour's dog."
You don't need to be a marathoner to enjoy running. It's an easy, effective way to get healthy and feel good. It can be difficult to start, but don't quit. There are a lot of ways to change how you run, but hopefully these tips make the experience a little more fun and exciting.