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August 22, 2013

Have Some Fun on the Run

Written by Dena Evans

cropped_little_girlRunning can be fun with just the open road and the rhythmic sound of breathing to accompany your thoughts, but even the most hard core, old school, “blue collar” runner can use a little external stimulus every now and again to keep things fresh.  Stuck in a rut or just enjoy a bit of irreverence every now and then?  Read on a for a few tips on keeping the fun in your run or race….


Give people something to yell

These days, racers commonly “Sharpie” in his or her name on the front or back of a racing jersey.  Some races even allow you to print your name right on your bib automatically.  Fans alongside a race are looking for something to yell besides “Woo!” and “Great Job!” and “Go!”


If you don’t feel like writing your name, write another name besides yours, like some people do at coffee shops for kicks. Write a slogan, wear a hometown favorite school or team logo, put anything on there! Then, count how many people actually cheer for you using whatever you wrote.  With some imagination, you could get some pretty amusing moments along the way.


Ditch your watch every once in a while

Take day every once in a while to run without your Garmin or watch.  Instead of obsessing about the pace and time, look inward and pay closer attention than usual to what your body is doing and how it feels, or the route and scenery / people around you.  Or, if you need a challenge, take a familiar route, note the time you leave, and guess the exact time you have run, just like the Price is Right.  No, this won’t revolutionize your whole perspective on running, but it might provide a different and refreshing set of thoughts and reflections about your daily run, particularly if you are in the habit of running along some very familiar routes.


Make a point to run with someone else, or someone new

Some runners thrive in isolation, while others don’t step out the door unless they are meeting at least one other person or a group.  No matter where you fall on this spectrum, freshen things up on an easy day (so that you aren’t stressed about the unknown preferred pace of another during a workout), by connecting with another person.  Many runners have found lifelong friendships on the road or trail, and with many a great talk along the course of a long run, you never know when a connection that seems like a hassle to make will be well worth the follow through.


Try a new kind of race

More than ever, spirited, themed races are available on the schedule at all distances.  You may not consider yourself a good candidate for a race where you end up colored in various hues of paint from head to toe by the end, but you never know – it might be more fun than it looks!  Need a break from regular races on the roads, check out a local trail race or even an all comers meet on the track.  Without changing your training goals too much, finding a new type of venue for your racing, even at a familiar distance, might help invigorate your workouts, and help you identify more clearly the elements of running and racing you enjoy most.


Find your way without directions

When in a safe situation, try on a new run, without completely mapping out the route and distance beforehand.  Allow yourself to go where you feel like, be a bit impulsive (just a bit), and make snap decisions.  In other words, bring some childlike perspective into the equation and hopefully experience the run as play instead of work.


Bring a person, a pet, or a prop

While it may not be appropriate to do so all the time if training goals are being approached seriously, taking an easy run with a relaxing distraction can add a dimension of fun that may be lost on a typical 6am weekday run before sunrise.

A child on a bicycle, a dog, or even a basketball bouncing along or passed between friends can give the brain some things to engage with other than the needs of the run itself, and can remind us to relax and enjoy the chance to be outside.


Training is hard work, and hard work can’t always be described as fun.  Even so, running is a pursuit that should add value to your life – for health, for goal setting, for release from the stresses of the day.  When it seems like those benefits are getting buried in the sameness of your routine, stepping outside of your comfort zone and having a little fun could be just the ticket.