Running can be a very solitary, monotonous and repetitive pursuit, and because of this, the fun of the sport can sometimes be lost in training. But running doesn’t have to be boring, and you can make it fun if you try. To do that, however, you may have to make some changes in your training, otherwise you’ll never break free of the monotony. If you feel the need to revamp your training and make running fun again, here are a few tips for doing so.
One way to rediscover the fun in running is to find new routes for your training sessions. If you’ve been running the same loops over and over again for months or even years on end, you’re bound to get tired of them (and of training in general). Head to Strava or Google Maps to search for new routes you can test out, or hop in your car and take a tour of your town while making notes of roads or trails you haven’t run yet. This may be the key to loving your next training run.
Chase a personal challenge
You don’t have to race to fuel your competitive drive. But you could come up with a challenge that will keep you hungry for running. Maybe try a run streak (see how long you can go without missing a day of running), or if you live somewhere with a lot of hills, aim to hit a certain level of elevation gain in a week, a month or longer. Whatever you choose, make the goal achievable, but not easy. This way, you won’t easily become discouraged by an unbeatable challenge, but you also won’t conquer it too quickly, and achieving it will bring a sense of satisfaction and pride.
One surefire way to lose the fun in running is to put too much pressure on yourself. We get it–you want to improve as an athlete and hit a PB at your next race (and at the one after that), but that’s not worth being super hard on yourself. Remind yourself that running is supposed to be fun, and stop beating yourself up over slow workouts, poor races and training slumps. If you take it easy on yourself, you may remember why you liked running in the first place.
Race without expectations
Enter a race, but run it without any expectations. You can still have your big A race, but in the meantime, sign up for an event purely for the fun of it. Don’t set time goals for yourself, don’t tell yourself that you want to finish in a certain spot in the rankings, and consider leaving your watch at home and just run.
Link up with other runners
If you don’t run with other people, you should try it. Running with a buddy or in a group can be a lot of fun, and makes the miles fly by. Instead of trudging through your training runs with only yourself to talk to, you’ll have someone else to keep you company, and soon enough, running will be more like a hangout than a workout or chore. Running clubs are also very popular, and many have free social runs that you can try without making a commitment.
Do you always run on the roads? Trying a different surface might give you a whole new outlook on the sport. If you’ve never tried running on a track, you might enjoy zoning out and running around in circles, just for something different. Similarly, if you don’t usually run on singletrack trails, you’ll find it puts you in quite a different headspace than road running. For one thing, you’ll have to concentrate to avoid tripping over tree roots and rocks–and this can be unexpectedly enjoyable, as can the immersion in the sights and sounds of nature.
It may be worth stepping away from running a bit to give your mind and body time to relax. This break can be a week or two, or it can be longer. Play it by ear and take as long as you need until you feel like you truly want to get back to training. At that point, you’ll be ready to jump back into the sport, and we’re willing to bet it will be fun for you once again.
BEN SNIDER-MCGRATH MARCH 29, 2023 Canadian Running