25 Hacks to Beat Running Boredom
The loneliness of a long distance runner is a real phenomenon – just ask anyone who has ever trained for a marathon! How can you bust the occasional boredom of running? Listed here are 25 tips guaranteed to make your next run fly by.
1. Run With a Friend
The best way to beat boredom when running alone is to run with a friend. Simple small talk such as sharing in each other’s day or listening to a rant about work can make the miles go by quickly. If you don’t have any running friends, find a local club. The less familiar you are with another person the less likely you are to focus on internal struggles.
2. Draw a Picture with your Route
Do you upload your route to Strava or another run-tracking app after your workout? If so, use the city streets as your canvas. You can either draw a picture on the fly, or use a website such as MilerMeter to create a design. If you’re feeling especially romantic, you can even write messages to your significant other.
3. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
If you live in a large city, this boredom buster is especially fun. For instance, during your run, explore the city to find a restaurant that starts with the letter A, a coffee shop with a neon sign, a port-a-potty, a purple flower, and a house with a lawn gnome. For added fun, you can take pictures along the way and upload your finds to social media. If you have multiple running friends, you can even turn your Sunday long run into a fun game!
4. Run an iPod Fartlek
If you listen to music while you run, you can break up the monotony of lonely miles by turning your workout into a fartlek. Every time a new song starts, change the tempo of your run. Switch between easy pace, marathon pace, and half marathon pace. Just hope that Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond doesn’t play during a hard portion!
5. Switch Your Listening Material
If you primarily listen to music while you run, try something new. Many runners enjoy listening to podcasts, which can be more mentally engaging than songs you already know. Audio books are another great option, especially when long runs are involved.
6. Make Incline/Pace Changes on the Treadmill
Treadmill runners can bust boredom by continually making changes to their workout. Set an interval in your mind, such as a quarter or half mile. Every time you reach this distance, make an adjustment to your treadmill settings. For instance, you might increase or decrease incline or increase the pace you are running.
7. Play the Alphabet Game
At the start of your run choose a category, such as cars. Throughout the duration of your workout, try to spot things that are car-related while working your way through the alphabet. For instance, you might see an Audi, for the letter “A,” and then a Beetle for the letter “B.” The more difficult your category, the more engaged your brain will be.
8. Download a Boredom Busting Running App
There are many available apps that can transform your run. For instance, Zombies, Run! allows you to pretend you are running in a different reality, one where zombies are chasing you.
9. Set Small Goals
Turn your run into a virtual checklist, and have fun mentally crossing off each task. Goals can include running to the next stoplight (and then the next, and the next), or hitting a certain pace for a duration of time. Alternatively, you can imagine that each time you reach a goal, a specific amount of money is deposited into your imaginary running bank account. Have 10 hill repeats to run? Each time you get to the top of the hill, you can deposit $1 into your virtual piggy bank. What will your fitness be like when you reach $10, $100, $1000?
10. Catch Up on Shows
Did your long run get relegated indoors due to treacherous weather? Set up Netflix near your treadmill and catch up on your favorite television shows. Short episodes can keep your brain quickly entertained, while longer shows may be more mentally engaging. Better yet, start a brand new series, which will keep you excited to get to the next show and might just make you stay on the treadmill longer.
11. Make it a Progression Run
Boredom occurs when we have too much time to think, or too few challenges. However, not every run should be a workout. A great way to overcome these problems is to turn even easy days into progression runs. Aim to run each mile, half mile, or kilometer slightly faster than the previous one. On easy days see how controlled you can be by only speeding up a few seconds each time. On hard days, see if you can consistently increase your pace by 10 – 15 seconds.
12. Run Partner Pick Ups
Are you and your running partner both finding running a little bit stale? During a run, each person in the group has 4 – 6 one minute pickups they can randomly assign. Whenever a person yells “Go!”, everyone in the group must run hard for 60 seconds. The element of surprise – and wondering when the next pickup will occur – keeps a runner on his or her toes.
Why not cross multiple items off your to-do list when you go for a run? “Run” errands by dropping off a letter at the post office, returning a library book, and stopping at the grocery store to pick up a few bananas or other small items on your way home. Breaking your run up into destinations will keep things interesting.
14. Run on a Technical Trail
Who can be bored when there are tree roots to avoid, logs to jump over, and beautiful scenery to observe? If you are bored with your usual runs, find a new trail to tackle. The more difficult the better.
15. Visualization Intervals
If you have an upcoming race, do a visualization interval workout. This run can be performed on easy, hard, or long workout days and is perfect for the competitor wanting to kick his or her mental game training up a notch. Choose a set distance, such as a mile, to only focus on aspects of an upcoming race. Then, take a “rest” period, such as a half mile, where you are free to think about whatever you would like. Once you finish the half mile, visualize a different aspect of the race for the next mile. Repeat this process until your run is complete.
16. Relive a Memory
Is there a particular memory that you are fond of, such as a personal best race, a funny way in which you met a new friend, or a monumental occasion in your life? Use your run to relive every moment of that day, from the time you woke up until the time you went to bed. If you are not a visual thinker, instead practice how you would describe that day as vividly as possible to someone else.
17. Interview Yourself
What is your biggest fantasy? To run in the Olympics, to win a Nobel Peace Prize, or to find a cure for cancer? Pretend you have accomplished your goal and that you are being interviewed. What would you say?
18. Head for the Hills
It is difficult to become bored during hilly runs, because you are constantly going up, down, or anxiously awaiting the next incline. Find a hilly route to break up any boredom you may be experiencing on the flat lands.
19. Be a Mathematician
Running is a perfect time to practice your mental math skills. Count the items that you encounter during your run, such as dogs, cars, trees, runners who make eye contact, or birds. Pay attention to your biometrics: What is your cadence? How many breaths do you take per minute? Do these metrics change with pace? Calculate ratios. What percentage are you done with your run? What is half of that number? What is half of half of half of that number?
20. Play the Announcer Game
Pretend that you are running in a dream race, such as the Boston Marathon, and that you’re winning. Now, dictate your performance from the announcer’s perspective. What does he or she have to say about your background, training, and race strategy? Is it a come-from-behind victory, or did you bravely lead the race the entire way?
21. Run a Car Fartlek
During your run, arbitrarily choose a number of cars, such as 5. Every time you count 5 cars, change your pace. On a city road, you might be changing paces frequently, but on a country road your pick-ups may last longer.
22. Catch Up with Long Distance Friends
Thanks to wireless technology such as Bluetooth, you can easily converse with people who are not present during your run. Set up a phone date during your next long run with a friend you have not spoken to in a while. Just don’t plan a hilly route, as talking while climbing might be difficult!
23. Write a Story
Write a story in your head using only your surroundings as inspiration. For instance, if you pass a dog during the first mile, “write” a story about its adventures. In each subsequent mile add a character to the story based on people you encounter, such as a mailman, a woman pushing her baby in a stroller, or a bus driver.
24. Complete a Fitness Trail (or Make up Your Own!)
Fitness trails are a great way to bust the boredom of a regular run. Here, you will run from station to station and complete the specified activity, such as pushups or chin ups. No fitness trail nearby? Make a plan before you head out the door to stop every half mile to do burpees, crunches, pushups, or another bodyweight activity. If you have a playground nearby, you can incorporate the equipment into your run, assuming the park is not in use.
25. Pretend to Be Someone Else
If running is becoming boring for you, pretend to be someone who isn’t bored by this activity. For instance, pretend to be someone who is running for the very first time. What would he or she think and feel? Or, you can pretend to be a professional runner, such as Shalane Flanagan or Galen Rupp. What would he or she think about the route you are running?
On the same note, in this article I talked about how to make running a habit. Add it to these 25 techniques.
Bonus: Dedication Run
Before you head out the door, choose to dedicate each mile of your run to a person in your life. During each mile, think specifically about that person and how you are running in his or her honor.
How Do I Not Get Bored
If you’re currently not happy with how you’re progressing and you’re always quitting your training schedule, remember to apply these techniques or just go deeper. What do I mean by that?
It all comes down to actually wanting to run, not just saying that you should run. Keep that in mind. You need to find your reason. Running is a very lonely sport and if you’re getting bored it’s only because you’re not accessing the right chambers in your mind. A healthy, powerful mind never gets bored. It’s like a perpetuum mobile, a mechanism that has thousands of paths and connections.
The mental chatter while running should keep you wandering from different ideas to memories and possible outcomes in your life. For instance, I always make plans, track different ideas, focus on my relationships, my career, and I’m always searching how can I become the absolute best version of myself. I’m always looking for the next milestone, the next goal that I need to hit. For me, running is active meditation and is one of the best things that happened in my life.