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Many runners are creatures of habit.
They run the same distances over the same routes on the same days every week — for month or years. They run shorter on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, take Friday off, run a quicker pace on Saturday (or a race) and run long on Sundays.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
“Over time even the most dedicated runner can begin to become bored with the same old routine of running almost every day,” notes an article on Runner Training. “This is especially true for runners who run the same distance and the same route each time they run.
“It is this monotony that causes many runners to give up their running program in search of an exercise routine which will be more challenging both mentally and physically.”
And it’s not just runners who do this. The fitness class you signed up for does cardio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, resistance training on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Every week.
Even your own “gym” workouts can fall into this same rut.
It’s time to break that cycle and try something different, even if it’s just a little tweak here or there.
“One of the most common reasons exercise enthusiasts abandon a running program (or any program) is because of boredom,” the article at Runner Training notes. “... These runners may even run the same course at the same pace each day which can be even more monotonous.”
There are some simple ways to spice things up, even by running your normal route backward. Head down a street you haven’t ventured down before, head up that slight incline instead of avoiding it. Run down an alley instead of a street.
“One simple way is to try running on trails a few days a week if your regular running route is on a paved course,” Runner Training suggest. “Most runners find trail running to be much more exciting because the scenery is usually more attractive and there is also usually more to see during runs.
“Additionally, the footing is usually less stable and this requires the runner to be more alert and focused on the running. This increased focus can make the running seem to go much more quickly and runners on a trail often find they have completed their workout before they even have the opportunity to get bored.”
You can also add speed bursts to your runs, and it doesn’t have to be on a track. You can do fartlek training. That’s a French word for “speed play” and is exactly what you do. Warm up at a comfortable pace, pick up the pace for a minute (or any distance or time), then return to the comfortable pace. Alternate the “speed play” over your normal distance.
“Fartlek leaves a lot of control to the runner.” a Runner’s World article notes. “You can choose to mix a wide range of paces and lengths for your faster efforts, or head out without a detailed structure and just go by how you feel.”
“This type of variety not only makes the running seem less tedious but it can also help the runner to improve his speed and his form,” Runner Training notes.
The Austin Marathon gives runners “5 reasons it’s important to add running variety to your training.”
“Everyone’s fitness goals vary, but one thing that remains common in all forms of training is the goal to accomplish growth,” the article notes. “Most beginner runners train with the same routine every day. Even running the same route gets monotonous. This is exactly why adding running variety can tackle that boredom and help you become a better runner in the process.”
Their suggestions include:
Build endurance — “Incorporating different types of running and using different routes will slowly build your endurance. You’ll work and strengthen different muscles which will help with your ability to run for longer periods of time.”
Increase muscle — “Keeping true to your everyday training is certainly good. But the problem arises when you hit a plateau with your training and there are no visible changes in your body. ... Runners notice an increase in the definition of their leg muscles when adding high-intensity sprints to their training.”
Keep it interesting — “Boredom is something that can make us dislike even things we like. ... You might explore a new route, visit a different part of your city or run past an amazing mural.”
A well-rounded plan — “Incorporating running variety into your training program ensures every day presents something different. Your body won’t know what to expect and that is exactly what makes variety bear fruit.”
Adding variety will not only make you look forward to your next run — or fitness class — it may keep you off the injured list.
“... adding variety to the running program can also help to prevent overuse injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures which may occur when the runner performs the same exact running program over and over again,” Runner Training notes.