Unless you are deep into a training schedule or getting yelled at by a coach, chances are you have an “Everyday Run.”
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
You’re short on time and only have about 30 minutes to squeeze in a run, so you quickly slap on your shoes and head out the door.
Without an ounce of thought, you find yourself taking a right out the door, wandering through a few of the same streets you ran on yesterday, and magically, 4 miles later, you end up back at your house, having just run the same route you already ran twice this week.
That, my friends, is your Everyday Run.
For some of us, the Everyday Run might come 2-3 times a week, but it is easy to fall into the pattern of running that everyday run for every workout other than my weekend long run.
After all, we are creatures of habit.
We stick to what we know because it is easy and comfortable.
But running the same routes over and over again is not only boring, it could be holding you back from potential improvements.
Muscles memorize what you teach them, and if you’re only teaching them one thing, they will be less responsive to new courses, distances, and speeds.
You’ll be more prone to injury and less prone to a new PR.
So when it comes to running, mixing it up is important.
4 Easy Ways to Mix it Up
1) Add in easy, but fun, workouts.
If you’re already training for a big race, you probably have race specific workouts on the schedule. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add another, easier workout throughout the week.
These two workouts can be made as difficult or as easy as your heart desires:
- Fartliks – A Swedish word for “speed play“. Basically short spurts of speed work intermingled between that pace you are already running on your everyday run. Start your regular run, then pick a beginning and end point for the “play.” For example, you are cruising down the sidewalk and see someone watering their lawn. Take off at a higher speed when you pass them until you reach your predetermined end point. Could be a mailbox, the first SUV you pass, or maybe the woman walking her dog. Once you reach that point, slow back down to your normal pace. Repeat with new start and end points.
- Progression – Start at a normal speed and gradually get faster throughout the run. If you are going for 4 miles, increase your speed by a predetermined amount each mile. You shouldn’t be sprinting, but you should be running significantly harder by the end of the run.
2) Take a left, not a right (or just run it backwards)
If you are like me, and almost always go the same direction when you leave the house, mix it up! Take a left when you typically take a right. You can run your standard loop backwards, or maybe you’ll create an entirely new route that you just might fall in love with.
Your body is this crazy being that adapts over time. When you repeatedly run the same route, the body memorizes when it needs to push and when it can relax. Come race day, you’re body wont know what to do when you ask it to push up a hill during a time it is typically relaxed.
3) Join a running club, or at least steal their routes
Last week I announced that Rock Creek Runner was starting a trail running club. The good news is that even if you can’t join ours, most cities have dozens of options to choose from.
Good clubs will pull from a variety of different distances and routes each week. Joining others for a run is not only a good way to mix it up socially, but may also take you places you don’t normally go.
As a bonus, many groups post their routes online. If you don’t feel like being social, just steal their routes! I’m sure they wont mind.
4) Run for time, not distance
For some reason most runners are in the habit of setting a predetermined distance for each run.
Instead of going out for 4 miles, run for 35 minutes. Maybe you’ll still run 4 miles, or maybe you wont. If you free yourself from the distance and focus on how long you’ve been out there, you never know where your run will take you.
Feeling stuck is probably the number one reason people burn out. Breaking the Everyday Run habit will free your mind and add the variety your legs need to get stronger.
What do you do when you find yourself stuck running the same route every day?