It doesn’t take a personal trainer to know that changing up your exercise routine is good for your development. The human body is extremely efficient. If you do the same thing over and over, it gets stronger. Your body is constantly striving to get through the day while expending the least amount of energy possible. The same is true when you run the same route over and over. Eventually, your body will get very little out of running unless you switch it up. Your mind will also retaliate; running boredom is a real thing. Here are some quick ideas on how to make running interesting again. Whether you’re a novice runner or veteran, there’s something here for everyone.
It’s no secret that running is absolutely great for your health, so let’s look at some ways to keep it interesting shall we?
1. Switch Routes
Of course we’re starting off with the most obvious! Change your route. If you run on a treadmill, try to get outside. If you run on a track, get off the track. Do you find yourself always running the same loop? Plan out a new circuit. You can even go to a different location altogether. Some of my best runs have come when I’ve left my local area simply looking for a new place to run. Every time I travel, I have a goal of putting at least one or two new runs on the map.
2. Run Off-Road
Leave the street! Running a route that takes you near a place that has open fields gives you the opportunity to leave the street and run off-road. Schools are great locations for this. Crossing the grass and hills that typically surround most schools is a great change and will get those legs burning! State parks usually have great paved paths that are popular with runners and many airports actually have pedestrian-friendly areas popular with runners and bikers.
3. Find Another Runner to Partner Up With
If you usually attack your running route alone like most of us, try to find a partner. Look for someone who has a similar pace and distance as you. Running with a partner can be a great motivator. You’ll keep each other on target and accountable to results. Your run will be much less boring with a friend, you can ditch the headphones and chat or even play games while running.
4. Run Intervals
I could write an entire article just about running intervals. High-intensity training is one of the most beneficial ways to make your body stronger. Adding intervals to your run will really kick off the muscle confusion that makes your body get stronger. It also gives you something else to think about and stay focused on. Keep reading for some ideas on how to actually add intervals to your runs.
5. Change The Music
If you haven’t switched up the playlist for a while, maybe try something different. I listen to Pandora radio when I run. I have a wide variety of stations and switch regularly from one day to the next. Some days I’m out listening to hard rock, other days it’s dance music. If you’re stuck in a rut with the music, changing up those tunes can really alter the mood. If music isn’t your thing, you can run while listening to your favorite podcast or audiobook.
6. Do 20 Push-Ups Every Mile
Changing the exercise in the middle of your same old boring run will totally wake up those muscles. Many runners neglect the rest of their body and actively avoid strength training. Doing an exercise regularly that strengthens your core will make you a stronger runner. This is a great option if you’re still getting used to cardio and need to take a break from running periodically during your route.
7. Listen to Rock Music & Sprint During the Guitar Solos
I swear this is my favorite way to add intervals to my run. It works best if you use a radio station instead of a playlist because you won’t be able to cheat it by picking the easy songs. You can make it difficult by choosing a genre of music that has lots of long guitar solos or you can make it easy by choosing a genre that has fewer and shorter ones. If you’re an 80’s hair metal fan like I am, you’ll be sprinting a lot!
8. Find Some Hills
Depending on your location, you might already be running a lot of hills. If not, seek some out and get those legs pumping. Running hills works your quads and glutes much more intensely. Focus on maintaining control of your run when going downhill; avoid ‘flopping’ down the hill and focus on form. Running downhill without paying attention to form is a sure way to get injured.
9. Chase The Stairs
Stairs can be a major challenge for runners. Not only do they slow you down, but they’re also a major potential for injury. Yes, you could fall down the stairs, but you’re more likely to strain a calf muscle or tweak a knee. Don’t overdo this one until you’ve made it a regular part of your activities.
10. Spend Some of Your Route Running Backwards
Running backward hits your calf muscles in an entirely different way. If you’ve never experienced the intensity of running a full mile backward, give it a shot. Just be sure to watch where you’re going and be prepared for sore calf muscles the next day or two.
11. Every Time You See a Low Tree Branch, Do 5 Chin-Ups
Run a route where there are trees nearby and every time you pass under one with a sturdy branch low enough, jump up and do a few chin-ups before continuing your route. This is another way to add additional strength training to your route and wake up muscles that might otherwise remain idle.
12. Run In The Rain
If you’re a fair-weather runner, you might be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it is to run in the rain during a hot summer day. I used to avoid the rain when I was out on my route until I got caught in a passing shower. The quick cool down that comes with the rain, the refreshing rinse of salty sweat that’s accumulated, and the lack of dry mouth made me feel like I could go that extra mile. Now during the summer months, I actively try to time out my runs when rain is in the forecast. Never run during lightning storms and make sure that your electronics are adequately protected from the water.
13. Run The Trails
Take #2 to the next level and find some wooded trails for your next run. Trail running is a completely different experience and every runner should add it to their routine. If you use a GPS tracker for your distance, you may find that it won’t give you good distance because GPS isn’t accurate when measuring distances that include lots of tight turns. Also, always watch out for exposed roots that could cause a twisted or sprained ankle. You don’t want to be miles into the woods when an injury strikes. The focus required to run trails safely and effectively can result in a zen-like state of consciousness that’s highly rewarding.
14. Interrupt your Running with Obstacles
Over the last 10 years, obstacle courses have become very popular. From the beginner level Warrior Dash to the brutal Tough Mudder, the primary reason these events are popular with runners? They’re different and they break up the monotony of that boring old route. With race fees climbing into the $70+ range, these races aren’t something one would be doing as part of a regular workout. You can, however, add obstacles to your normal running routine. Pick a safe route that has scalable barriers such as waist-high jersey walls. Trail running is perfect for this because there are often logs and streams to cross. Again, be careful and make safety a priority.
15. Change Your Pace With The Music
Many runners already do this naturally without realizing it but for those who don’t, paying attention to the current song and adjusting pace accordingly can be a fun little game to play. Although less intense than doing full-fledged interval training, this technique can provide a similar benefit.
16. Buy Some New Gear
Yes, it’s shallow sometimes, but it works. Buying that new flashy shirt or those super awesome running shoes can sometimes be exactly what we need to get our mind back on task. It also makes you wanna get out there and show it off during your next run.
17. Run Naked
No, I don’t mean run with no clothes! I mean go running with nothing but your shoes, shorts, & shirt. Leave the phone behind. Leave the watch. Forget about the heart monitor. Let it be just you and the road.
18. Problem Solve
I frequently go on a run as a way to think through a problem I’m having. You know how lots of people say that the answer to something came to them while they were driving or while they were in the shower? That’s how it is for running. Sometimes in order to figure out the answer, I must run. That in and of itself is motivating and gives me something to really look forward to.
19. Play Games
Games are more fun when you have another runner partnering up with you, but you can still do them by yourself. Try to look for a certain state on a license plate, a particular phrase on a roadsign. Try to time your paces coming up on stop lights so that you have the green when you get there. All of these things that get you thinking about something other than the actual run will help keep the boredom away without totally losing your focus.
20. High Knees
Add in sets of high knees to your run for short distances. Yes, you might look funny, but the ripped abs that come with high knees will make sure that nobody is laughing at you when the shirt comes off at the pool.
What Do You Do to Keep Running Boredom at Bay?
Do you have anything to add to this list? We’d love to hear about it! Do you have an article about running that you want us to publish for you? Let us know in the comments section.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.