Running can be fun, exciting, rewarding and even meditative. But new runners and long-time veterans alike are susceptible to burnout. Hitting a mental wall or becoming bored with your runs may be enough to waylay your good intentions and keep you indoors. Rather than giving up, try to keep that spark alive by spicing up your runs.
“We’re creatures of habit,” says Johnny Crain, run coach at Team Wicked Bonkproof. “We often do the same thing every day, but variety is what makes running so fun.” Below, he shares seven tips for mixing up your outdoor runs so you can stay engaged, fight boredom and keep moving
SWITCH UP YOUR ROUTE
It’s easy to get bored if you run the same route through your neighborhood or log miles on the track. Instead of maintaining the status quo, change your route. “Go explore new places, drive to a local park or do something besides your regular loop,” suggests Crain. Giving your body and mind new stimuli is a fun way to keep things interesting.
THROW IN SOME INTERVALS
Crain is also a big fan of intervals, including sprints and hills, for physical training purposes and to keep your interest as you run. Intervals can be run-jog, run-walk or jog-walk — whatever makes sense for your ability, and they can include longer intervals spread over a longer distance or quick on/off intervals at a higher pace. Crain likes hill repeats in particular because you can objectively turn around and see what you just climbed up, which provides a sense of accomplishment.
CHANGE YOUR SPEED OR DISTANCE
Running consistency is commendable, but steady run frequency throughout the week doesn’t mean you have to run the same distance or at the same pace each time. Just like you can break up a run with intervals, you can break up your run schedule by varying your distance. Mix a couple of longer, slower runs into your fast-paced weekday jaunts, or do the opposite and break up those long runs with a sprint day.
RUN AT A DIFFERENT TIME OF DAY
“I’m a morning person,” says Crain, “but I love running at night.” Running at dusk or even in the dark can change the feeling of the run and make it a different experience. “At night people often feel like they’re running faster than they really are,” adds Crain. As long as you’re careful about lighting and feel safe, running through quiet city streets or trails after work or early in the morning can provide a new perspective and visuals to keep you engaged.
KEEP IT SOCIAL
If health and safety measures allow it, and you feel comfortable doing it, you can try running with a friend or a group. Plenty of run clubs exist all over the country, which makes it easy to find a running buddy. “That’s a great way to stay motivated,” says Crain. “Running with another person helps runs fly by because you can talk with someone, and it makes you excited to hang out with your friends.”
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SET A NEW GOAL
Give yourself something to work toward, and you’re more likely to keep going. You can aim for a certain mileage or frequency per week or even sign up for a future race. “Goals don’t have to be a scary thing,” says Crain. “Just try to run a certain amount of times in a week or month to get started. Running is an individual sport, so your goal can be personal. Just compare yourself to yourself, and you can see growth that doesn’t really exist in other sports.”
FIND A NEW PLAYLIST
Sometimes all it takes to rekindle your love for running is new music. A great playlist that keeps you motivated can help you log miles even on days when you’re not as enthusiastic to lace up your shoes and get outside. There are no set rules here — just choose whatever music works best for you. But for starters, you can try fast-paced, upbeat music for faster runs and slower, more methodical music (or even a podcast) for longer runs.
Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.