If you’re bored with running and biking the same loop over and over again, consider route art. You’ve probably seen examples of route art on MapMyRun, and even if you haven’t done it yourself, you’re familiar with the practice of mapping and running a creatively designed route with a GPS-based run app like MapMyRun. What you may not know, is that it’s a fun, community-building practice that jazzes up your regular, ho-hum running or biking route.
Route art is especially useful as a source of entertainment on long training days. “We’ve done some in the past in Austin where we’ve done long runs for a marathon and tried to draw the state of Texas,” says Jeff Knight, senior exercise scientist at Under Armour. Other times, he uses route art to bring running crews together. One of his favorite designs was a four-leaf clover that he ran with a big group. What made it especially successful was that everyone looped back to the center of the map after completing each leaf, creating a space to spend time together on breaks and after the run.
Whether you’re training for a longer race or just going out for a run with a buddy, route art keeps your training dynamic and fun. Celebrate a friend’s birthday by running their name in letters across town, or fire up your creative instincts and draw an animal, monument or some other iconic still-life. You can even explore a new area by mapping out a route through all of the streets and sites you want to catch a view of on your run. However you want to shake it up, here are some tips to get you out on a route art adventure of your own.
1. PLAN YOUR DESIGN AND LOG INTO MAPMYRUN
On MapMyRun, click the “Routes” tab and find “Create Route.” Choose a location to create your design, and start with the area you want to run or bike. Winding roads can be great for creating curved designs like people and animals, while areas with a grid system make for awesome word-based drawings.
Knight says it’s best to plan your route ahead of time. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to just go out there and wing it. You need to get on MapMyRun, plan out your route on the website and go from there. Try not to cross busy roads if you can, try to avoid highways and follow all of the normal running traffic rules.”
2. MAP YOUR DESIGN
If you can dream it, you can draw it. Just be aware of the streets in the area and how elements like cars, turns and stop-lights will affect your run. “First and foremost is safety,” Knight says. “If you’re going with a group, it’s actually helpful to run in areas with a lot of stops because it helps keep people together.”
3. RUN YOUR ROUTE
Click “Send to Phone” on your MapMyRun route page and download the map and directions straight onto your phone — your teammates can use your link, as well. If you went big, hop on your bike to ride out the mileage. If it’s a smaller-scale design, you can run and take in all of the sights your new route offers.
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4. SHARE YOUR WORKOUT
“You’ve gotta want to do it for something,” Knight says. “You’re not just doing it for yourself: You’re doing it to share with other people. It gets at the community aspect of running, which is pretty cool.” Route art is a great way to get everyone involved — try challenging your friends to run your route or to design their own masterpieces for both of you to try.
“Remember it’s not about how fast you run. Make sure you’re out to have fun, be with your people and do something different. Take pictures along the way, and have an amazing experience to talk about and share after the run,” Knight says. Who knows, you might discover a passion for design … or just a lively, artistic collection of routes on your feed.