If life were like the cover of a fitness magazine, we would always run alongside breathtaking mountains or into a tropical sunset (and we’d look really hot while doing it). The truth is we need to get our runs in when we can, which often requires running the same routes close to home or, worse, staring at our basement wall while we cram it in on the treadmill.
Yes, I’ve written about how much running means to me, how much it defines me, how much I love it! But lately, despite living in a place with amazing trails and a beautiful lakeshore, I’m bored. Here’s the problem. I have precisely one day a week when I can afford the time required to drive somewhere to run. The rest of the days it’s the treadmill or cul-de-sac. So, how am I supposed to keep the love affair alive when I’m pounding the same pavement day after day?
It’s Saturday morning. I’m lying in bed playing the age-old runner’s game of, if you don’t get out of bed now, you won’t have time to get your run in. I manage to flop myself out of bed and into some random spandex ensemble. I shove a bagel in my mouth and spend way too long looking for my running shoes. (Seriously do these things come alive at night?)
I open the front door and stare at the shadeless concrete cul-de-sac that lies before me. I sigh and shut the door. I can’t do this. I can not run the same maddening suburban loop of cul-de-sacs and cookie cutter houses. I certainly can not run the same routes where the wind howls in my face three out of four directions, or on the street where I swear people swerve to intentionally try to hit me, or on the main road where the road noise is the only thing louder than the teenage boys yelling inappropriate things at me.
Alright, I tell myself, I’ll just run on the treadmill, it will be quicker anyway since there are no traffic lights. I step on the treadmill. My body has a physical reaction; my brain is still on it, but there my body is dismounting the machine. I open the front door again, sigh and head outside. Maybe this time I’ll find a new route, or discover an unexplored street or a hidden path.
My body switches to autopilot, turning right, then left and right again without me telling it to. Before I know it, I’ve completed the familiar six mile loop completely lost in my own thoughts. There’s something to be said for that. I have to admit though, I’m bored. I’m a bored runner.
The easiest fix for me is to run with a friend. I’m lucky enough to have a running buddy that lives just a few doors down. There is comfort in the fact that we always run the same route. We’re usually too immersed in conversation about our day to even notice the all too familiar landscape. And on those early mornings when I don’t have enough time to drive to meet people, I can sometimes convince people to come meet me at my house. As we wind through the dark pre-dawn streets, I’m the leader. My friends don’t know what combination of lefts and rights gets them back to their cars or which turn adds on just one more mile.
On days when no one is willing to get up and out the door in the dark, I trick myself into feeling the excitement of a new route by running one of the usual routes backwards. It usually feels strange, like my shirt’s on inside out, or like I’m wearing mismatched socks, but it gives me a fresh perspective. It’s kind of like looking at the world upside down. Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective to notice a beautiful old tree, a house you’ve never seen before or a yard full of curious lawn gnomes.
Another trick is to designate a run as a “choose-your-own-adventure.” If I’d normally turn right, I turn left just to see what the outcome will be. Crrrrraaaaaazzzzzy! I look for streets I’ve never run down before. Sometimes I discover disappointing dead ends, or whole new neighborhoods to explore. I’ve even found myself miles deep into a maze of dead ends, causing me to return home an hour later than I planned.
Another good way to mix it up is to multi-task or do a destination run. The other night before I left for vacation, I had about an hour and a half to run a few errands and get my run in. I only needed a few small things, so I strapped my spybelt on and ran to the local running store, pharmacy, and Target. My pace was much faster than a normal easy run and I didn’t even notice it because I was running to the next place I needed to be and focusing on getting it done in the allotted time. Think of all the possibilities! You could run to the post office to mail a letter or to the RedBox to return a movie. You could even run to your kids’ soccer practice.
And if none of those will cut it, make your run a workout. Add some strides or some fast intervals between familiar trees or landmarks. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, simply something for you to focus on other than how many miles you have left on your usual loop.
How do you deal with boredom that comes with running the same routes day after day?