If you do the same thing every run, some little tweaks can spice up the routine.
Emily asks: My interest/motivation in running is waning. I think it’s because I do the same thing almost every day – I run 5 or 6 km in my neighbourhood. It is easy to do, but now it is getting stale. Any suggestions?
Runners tend to love routine, so many of us are guilty of same time, same place and same mileage mentality.
Yet, running is so versatile that we can run anywhere, any pace, any distance and in any weather – except that we usually don’t. Instead, we find a routine that best fits into our day and lifestyle. So it’s both good and bad news that you are consistent.
Running the same route and same mileage every day means recruiting the same muscle fibres, using the same movement pattern, and neglecting the rest of the body. Along with the boredom factor you report, this can also lead to an increased injury risk because the same muscles are used over and over. While at first you improved with this routine, you have now adapted to it, so there is no challenge mentally or physically.
It’s time to change things up.
Varying your running routine not only boosts your fitness level, but also it engages you in your training. By incorporating different running routes, mileage, terrain and paces into your training, you recruit a wider variety of muscle groups in different movement patterns, and you even tap into different energy systems. This leads to an increased level of fitness, better performance and less risk of injury. This also requires some thinking and planning, so it keeps you mentally connected to your training, too.
When you are crunched for time, using your established route may be your best option, but one simple change is to run your usual route in the reverse direction. Another change is switching up the run pace; run the route easy and slow one day and hard the next.
Another option is doing a combination of run paces by warming up first, then running hard for one to three minutes. After that harder effort, run easy for the next one to three minutes to recover. (Repeat this sequence for the duration of the run.) Even though the scenery and route are the same, running different paces keeps you focused, as well as challenged, by the increased intensity level.
On the weekends, or days that you have more time, then it’s a good chance to experiment. Find new running routes that incorporate different terrain – hills or bridges or trails, for example. Of course, keep safety in mind when scouting out new running routes and look for well-lit sidewalks, wide shoulders or popular running areas.
Consider increasing your weekly mileage for a new challenge. This can be done simply by extending one weekend run. Increase your weekly mileage by 10 to 20 per cent every second or third week.
Target a race! Making a commitment can provide motivation. Pick a race, register for it, and put it on your calendar. Then, based on the distance of the race, select an appropriate training plan for yourself.
Find a running partner. Having a running buddy can be a huge help, but it’s often difficult to find someone who fits the bill. Look for a running club or training program in your area and try them out for some group outings.