While many runners never feel even the smallest tinge of boredom, for some of us – as much as we love running – it sometimes just gets a bit same ol’ same ol’.
This can happen with other workouts that involve repetitive movements, such as walking or cycling, too. So if you’re into walking or cycling, read on to get some helpful hints on how to bust out of a workout rut.
Boredom means less motivation, which means you’re less inclined to give it your best. If you’re not giving it your all, you’re unlikely to be making progress. And if you’re not moving forward, you can bet your bottom dollar, you’re heading backwards. ‘Cause there no such thing as standing still.
So how do you keep your run fresh and interesting? For the miles to fly by, try these boredom-beating tips to revive your running workouts and make them more fun, enjoyable and productive!
1. Run with a friend
Running should never be a wretched experience, but should be fun. And running with a friend can definitely boost the fun factor. Buddying up makes your run more social, stimulating, and adventurous. You can chat, take it in turns to set the pace and even make up your own games as you run.
Running with a friend also exerts positive social pressure, as you’re less like to skip out on your run if someone is relying on you to turn up. So you’ll be more consistent in working out.
Research also shows that we can pick up the healthy habits of others and increases motivation to work out harder and longer.1,2 One study found that participants who exercised with others, especially in a team, doubled the time they spent exercising compared to participants who exercised solo.3 It appears that exercising with others can help push you past that wall you hit when you exercise alone, in terms of both how long you work out and how hard.
Tip: For a running partnership to be successful, you should be of a similar level of fitness, have similar running goals and be prepared to committed – no standing up your running buddy or turning up late for workouts!
2. Change your route
Running the same route over and over almost guarantees your workout will become boring with time. Rather than do the same old loop every time you run, look for new running routes and even drive to new areas to enjoy a change of scenery and stimulate your senses.
Check out running websites for your local area, which will have tips from other runners about great running locations. No need to do a ton of legwork in seeking out new running routes if someone has already done all the hard work for you.
Tip: Look for different environments in which to run – for example, if you normally run on the roads, try off road routes. If you usually run on the flat, go for hillier terrain. Not only will changing running surface and terrain make your runs more interesting, it will also make you a better runner and challenge your body a different way.
Read more: How to choose a running route
3. Try a running training system
Most of us run at a steady pace for most of our workouts. This type of training is also called LSD which is short for Long Slow Distance. Steady pace running is an important part of running training but there are several other types of running, called training systems, that you can employ to make your runs even more productive and more interesting.
- Fartlek involves mixing your speed randomly over the course of your run. Fartlek means you can walk, jog, run or sprint as you want – just mix it up and make it fun and interesting.
- Interval training involves alternating periods of fast running with slow running or even walking. For example, run 880-yards as fast as you can and then walk 220-yards and repeat five times. You can also control your intervals using time rather than distance e.g. run hard for 90-seconds, jog for 90-seconds. Interval training takes less time than steady paced runs and will increase your top-end fitness and burn a lot more fat.
- Tempo runs are like mini-races where you try to run as fast as you can over a specific distance or for a specific time. On a scale of one to ten, a tempo run should feel like a high eight or even a nine – you could go faster but you’d soon have to slow down or stop if you did. Like intervals, tempo runs increase your top-end fitness and workouts are generally shorter than for steady pace runs.
4. Listen to music
Providing it is safe to do so (consider traffic and other road users), listening to music can be both super motivating and provide proven distraction from the sometimes monotony of running. Exercising with music has been shown to make people exercise harder and go faster.4
Turn on, tune in and zone out as you run to the beat. If music isn’t your thing, you can also listen to podcasts, radio talk shows, radio plays, sports commentaries or audio books.
Running can be incredibly meditative and provides an ideal opportunity to enjoy some quality “me” time. It’s also the ideal opportunity to do some actual meditating.
Try to empty your mind and concentrate on nothing else but the sound of your breathing or your footfalls. It’ll take a little time to get the hang of it, but with practice you should find it easier to clear your mind of all extraneous thoughts.
Of course practice caution and only meditate when it is safe to do – so not while running through traffic!
Counting is like watered-down meditation and helps take your mind off your run and discomfort by focusing it on something like your breathing or your footfall.
Start counting your breaths and then try and coordinate your breathing with your footfalls – in for four and out for four for example. Do your best to maintain this rhythm as your run progresses – even as you begin to tire. Count up to 30, 50 or even 100 and then start over.
7. Focus on your technique
Running is pretty easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it wrong! Focusing on your running technique can be a great way to distract yourself and will also make you a better runner. A quick recap on proper running form:
Light, quick feet – you should make very little noise as you run
Relaxed hands – imagine you are holding eggshells and you mustn’t break them
Run tall – imagine your head is being held aloft by a balloon
Shoulders down and relaxed – don’t let any tension creep into your upper body muscles
Relax your face – tension in your face will soon irradiate into your neck, shoulders and arms
8. Problem solve
Running is a great opportunity for working through problems and coming up with solutions. The increased flow of oxygen to your brain and the production of happy hormones (endorphins) mean you are probably at your most creative when you’re running.
If stuck on a problem or suffering with a creative block, lace up your running shoes and head out for a run. Chances are, by the time you get back, your creative and problem-solving juices will be flowing freely.
9. Try cross training
If running is losing its appeal, try cycling, rowing, hiking, swimming, aqua running or join a circuit class. Doing other activities works your muscles in different ways, targets muscles that running might not, can improve strength and are generally lower-impact than running.
Of course, runners must run but that doesn’t mean that other exercise modalities should fall to the wayside. Consider swapping one or two runs a week for an alternative type of exercise.
10. Drop down and give me 20!
Just because you are out for a run, doesn’t mean you can’t shake things up and add a few bodyweight exercises into the mix. For example, every half-mile, drop down and bang out 20-pushups or some other simple body weight exercises.
Not only will this break an otherwise long run into shorter, more manageable chunks, it also gives you the opportunity to work muscles not normally involved in running.
Body-weight exercises to try: Pushups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, dorsal raises, hip bridges and pull-ups are all great equipment-free exercises that can easily be slotted into a run.
- Meghan, Madden & Plante, Thomas & Sonia, Mann & Grace, Lee & Allison, Hardesty & Nick, Gable & Allison, Terry & Greg, Kaplow. (2010). Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion. Journal of Social Sciences. 6. 10.3844/jssp.2010.50.54.
- Feltz, Deborah & Kerr, Norbert & Irwin, Brandon. (2011). Buddy Up: The Kohler Effect Applied to Health Games. Journal of sport & exercise psychology. 33. 506-26. 10.1123/jsep.33.4.506.
- Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 44, 151–159 (2012).
- Waterhouse J, Hudson P, Edwards B. Effects of music tempo upon submaximal cycling performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20(4):662-669. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00948.