Every so often we come to a point in our lives where routine just gets boring. Often times we grow comfortable with our training because we are accustomed to that which is familiar. Pay close attention to these moments for it’s at these points that we start to drift and become less enthusiastic about doing something we once were very passionate. At a very young age, running is mistakenly engrained in our minds as something boring or punishing. Later in life we realize that running is a great exercise activity that yields tremendous physical and mental benefits.
The problem that I encourage you to avoid is retreating to the idea that running is boring. What keeps a runner on the improvement curve, whether it’s to be faster or simply to lose or maintain weight, is to be consistent with training, which usually means having an established routine. However, over time routines can become boring and lead one down the path of falling into a rut. How can this be avoided?
Below are 5 effective ways of staying out of the rut. Keep in mind that the body and mind will respond to change after a certain period of repeatedly doing the same thing and it is during these times of change that we improve as runners. I often find that the time frame for this plateau of benefits is 3 weeks, but for some it could be less or more.
DIFFERENT DAYS, DIFFERENT TIMES
Change your routine every 3 to 4 weeks. Do your best to run at a different time of day or change your schedule so you are running on different days of the week. Runners are creatures of habit, which makes it rather easy to do the same thing over and over. Do your best to fight this habitual trait by making a concerted effort to find that which is different yet feasible. For example, try going to sleep a bit earlier so you can wake up and run before work instead of running late in the day.
NOTHING ON THE WRIST
Don’t be afraid to take a break from the mileage focus. Put the GPS away and, instead, run for time or possibly without any regard for it at all. As runners we tend to obsess over our total mileage and this could be disheartening at times when we are building an endurance foundation or maybe coming off a tiring day of work. The best way to break the mileage focus is to lace up those shoes and JUST GO RUN! Don’t worry about how far or how fast, instead listen to your internal instruments.
RUNNING WITH A VIEW
Change of scenery is my favorite way to avoid the rut. Look around you and you’ll see that there are more places to run than your neighborhood. Challenge yourself to find a different route that provides some scenic views. You can do this by simply browsing several websites that provide route suggestions by other runners, asking other runners about their favorite paths, or just getting in your car and driving to a spot frequented by runners or maybe even one a bit secluded. Several studies have found that the best way to run efficiently is to “distract” oneself by paying more attention to the surroundings. I often recommend to those who depend on iPods that they leave the device at home during their scenic run for the week. Training runs can be so much more enjoyable when listening to environmental sounds along the run. With the change of scenery can also come a change of surface, which can actually result in less injury as it helps build lower leg strength.
FIND GOOD COMPANY
Try to run with someone else at least once a week. Look for a local run club or ask a friend to join you, especially if you tend to get bored during your longer slower runs. You can manage your pace if you chat along the run and then, as the run progresses, you may want to finish a bit faster than you started and you can be encouraging to one another to accomplish this. Running is misconstrued as an individual activity, but I sternly object to that. I find it to be one of the best ways to socialize and get to know another person. Look around your community and you’ll see large groups all over proving the notion that running is very social.
DON’T BE INSANE
Be creative with your training by looking through websites and reading social media posts and magazines to find different workouts that can help you achieve your personal goals. Often times we do the same workouts week after week and year after year expecting different results. Our PRs (personal records) don’t drop by much or even at all because we are stuck in the same schedule of workouts. As they say about insanity… you are simply insane doing the same thing while expecting different results.
BY Frankie Ruiz is co-founder of the ING Miami Marathon and currently serves as Chief Running Officer of US Road Sports & Entertainment. He is a Certified RRCA Distance Running Coach.