In Stride

How to Improve Your Running Life

Have things gotten stale on the trail? Variation is the key to sustaining the relationship.

How to Improve Your Running Life

Without some element of variation, running can grow dull, even for the most committed among us. Photo: Studio Firma/Stocksy

“Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure,” goes the maxim, typically attributed to Petrarch. Obviously, the man had running on his mind. While the psychological release and physical exertion of this sport make it an essential part of so many people’s daily lives, running can grow dull without some element of variation, even for the most committed among us.

If boredom is tempting you to end your long-term relationship with running in favor of younger, ostensibly more exciting exercise opportunities (it may be hot right now, but wait and see what Zumba looks like in ten years), allow us suggest a few ways to bring the magic back.

Start Seeing Other People

One of the most basic ways to add a little variety to your running life is finding different running partners. The monotony of your workouts could very well be linked to the monotony of that person who can never refrain from talking about their physical ailments or predicting which Game of Thrones character won’t survive the season. Despite its solitary image, running can be a rich social activity—a good time to shoot the breeze or make crazy, endorphin-inspired plans for the future. You don’t need to be monogamous about whom you run with. The same principle applies for those who always run alone: try joining a group for long weekend runs and (re)discover the joys of exercising with your fellow homo sapiens.

Get Sweaty

Word to the wise: you don’t want to execute all your runs at the same general level of intensity and effort. This will both increase the chances that you’ll get bored with running and be to the detriment of your fitness level. You want to keep your body guessing. There’s been a lot of hype in recent years about the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—essentially short bursts of effort interspersed with rest. While HIIT should not replace longer, more moderately paced efforts (“It’s been a popular myth that you can substitute intensity for duration,” elite-level trainer and alpinist Scott Johnston recently told Outside), incorporating one hard interval session into your week is a great way to keep your running life dynamic. Need some ideas for interval workouts? Here you go.

Give In to Your Foot Fetish

It’s hard to keep things fresh when you’ve been trudging along in the same model of running shoe for years. Don’t be afraid to see what else is out there. Go to your local running store, get a gait analysis, and have a few professionals recommend a shoe based on your stride. The analysis process has become increasingly sophisticated, as some testers are now looking at more than just your foot strike. (Brooks, for instance, has developed a system that also takes your “baseline knee-bend” into account.)

Do It in Unfamiliar Places

Regularly changing up your running route is the most obvious way to keep the scourge of sameness at bay, but it can also be one of the more difficult adjustments to put into practice. Once you incorporate a particular trail or loop into your regimen, it’s always going to be easier and more time efficient to repeat it every time you head out, rather than trying something new. And yet there remains no better way to explore an area than on foot. It’s worth dwelling on this point: those resigned to the idea that their daily run is but another Sisyphean chore to accomplish before bed are depriving themselves of an excellent opportunity to discover a new neighborhood or landscape. (Or experiment with GPS art.) Some of the best finds happen by accident, so don’t be afraid to just head out with no route or particular destination in mind.

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