Variety Is the Spice of Running

3 06 2011

Running & FitNews ®
American Running AssociationSometimes runners get hooked on the same running routine—route, time of day, pace—and what was once a routine becomes a rut. Motivation and joy can languish. Perhaps even more important—you can miss the opportunity to make fitness gains since working out at the same intensity, frequency and duration week after week will preserve, but not improve, your current level of fitness.

If your workouts have a distinct sameness about them and the thrill is gone, you need a dose of variety to get it back. Stepping out of your rut will banish the blahs and can give you the added benefit of improvements in strength, stamina and speed. Try these suggestions to spice it up.

    • Find a new route. If you’ve been running the roads, find a trail. Check out a new neighborhood. Drive to a nearby scenic area and plot a course, park and run. Set yourself the goal of one new route a week until you find a few you really enjoy. Commit to trying a new route once a month.
    • Get a running partner. Check out a local running publication for listings of runners in search of running buddies. Running stores often have bulletin boards to match up runners of similar ability.
    • Join a running club. If you’ve had trouble finding the motivation to complete a weekly long run, a running club can keep you moving.
    • Set a new goal. If you have been running the same pace for years, challenge yourself to shave a little time off over the next few months. Set a new goal when the first is achieved.
    • Sign up for a race. Try a 10K if you’ve been running 5Ks or vice versa. Half marathons are gaining in popularity and can be a great next step for a 10K runner.
    • Volunteer at a marathon. Nothing is quite as motivating as the exhilaration of accomplishment written all over the face of each participant.
    • Add some cross-training such as cycling, swimming, elliptical trainers, yoga or strength training. Each can challenge muscles in a different way and increase overall fitness without increasing the risk of running injury.
    • Keep a journal, but don’t stop at recording just the specifics of your workout. Jot down notes on mood, ideas that occurred to you on your run, observations and enlightenment. You might discover poetry you didn’t know you had.
    • Add a quality workout to your week. Try hills or repetitions. After a warm up, time yourself for a mile. The next week try it a little faster.
  • Fartlek. If you make no other change in your routine, at least give fartleks a try. Head out at your usual warm-up speed, then on a random basis pick a landmark and run a fast pace until you pass it. Jog to the next landmark. Take a longer, slower segment. Take a hill faster than usual. Break up each speed segment with an easy jog or a walk to recover. Continue randomly spicing it up throughout your usual route. Or better yet, fartlek over uncharted territory.

Copyright, The American Running Association

© American Running Association, Running & FitNews, Vol. 20, No. 7

American Running Association, empowering adults to get America’s youth moving. For more information or to join ARA, please visit




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