I love running. It’s cardiovascular exercise per excellence. And it can help you lose weight and get into the best shape of your life.
Nonetheless, here is the bad news: after doing the same run over and over again, it’s so easy to fall into a routine trap in which boredom reigns supreme.
Boredom is just one part of the problem. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again you will definitely….
Enter Plateau Territory
The human body is an amazing piece of “machinery”, and it adapts to the training stimulus fast. Once your body gets used to a certain running intensity level it will no longer see the benefit of growing, so you performance stalls, and you encounter what’s known as a training plateau.
23 Ways to Change Up Your Running Routine
Today I’m sharing with you 23 ways to switch up your running program so you can keep your workouts fresh and improve your overall conditioning and fitness level.
Set a Clear Goal
There is one common trait among successful people on this planet, whether they are top-level athletes, CEOs of fortune 500 companies, you name it, and it’s the habit of goal setting.
And if your running program has been in a rut for quite sometimes, then goal setting is just what the doctor ordered. The mere act of a setting a running goal will give you short term motivation and long-term vision to help you reach your best with your running program.
Image Credit – Scott Fischbein via Flickr
Just make sure your goals are CRYSTAL CLEAR, and action oriented. In fact, in my own experience, vague and unspecific goals will only get you more stuck. So be sure to remove the confusion from the equation and try to be as specific and clear as you possibly can.
Plus, set your goals with a deadline on mind. This adds urgency to your goals and will make accomplishing them (or going about doing it so) more likely.
Pick any goal as long as it’s clear and well-defined. Maybe it’s racing in a 5K, or a 10k, or qualifying for the Boston Marathon, or even running an Ironman Triathlon. You can also pick a weight loss goal, a personal goal, you just pick one and stick to it.
Whatever gets your heart pumping, commit yourself to it on paper and do what you have to do to make it a concrete reality.
But please be down-to-earth and practical. Sure, you can always set a challenging goal, but if you push too much, you will be setting yourself up for failure.
In other words, be realistic, be flexible and never go beyond your current fitness limits.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last decade, then you must be familiar with the benefits of interval training. According to numerous studies, interval training is the closest thing to a miracle when it comes to increasing cardio power, boosting metabolism, burning fat, and helping you get into the best shape ever.
Plus, opting for intervals can surely break you out from the monotony of low steady-state cardio training.
As a result, if you have never tried interval running before, then your time is up.
Try this workout: After a decent warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes of jogging, sprint as fast as you can for 30 to 45-second, recover for one minute, then go for your next interval. Repeat the cycle five to seven times, then finish off the session with a cool-down, and some light stretches.
For more, check my 6 fat burning workouts article.
Nonetheless, if you are already familiar with the classic form of intervals, then be ready to embrace the Tabata protocol sprints.
3. Tabata Protocol
Tabata protocol inspired workouts are my favorite. They are short, intense, effective and have been proven by many scientific studies to be one of the best training methods for increasing VO2max and burning fat.
A word of caution here. Tabata protocol workouts require performing all-out effort sprints, so only start doing them once you have built enough stamina and endurance. Otherwise, you will be risking injury or a painful burnout.
Tabata sprints can be done almost anywhere: on a beach, on a trail, up a hill (for more resistance), on a treadmill, but, in my personal experience, the most convenient way to do them is on a running track.
I usually prefer performing the tabata protocol sprints back and forth, because this helps me map out my progress and speed as I go. On my way back, I strive to make it back to my starting point, and so on. This can become quite challenging especially after the 5th or 6th sprint.
Here is the Tabata workout you need.
Start out with a decent warm up of 10 minutes easy running followed by a few strides or short sprints to get your legs ready for the fast pace. Next, sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then take a 10-second recovery break, walking or jogging at a slow pace. Repeat the process for 10 to 15 minutes.
Finish off the workout with a 5-minute slow jog as cool down.
4. Climb a Ladder
This is one of my favorite ways to play around with interval training and make it more challenging. Also known as pyramid training, ladders are a very useful variation of traditional interval training and it’s used by runners of all distances.
So what is it all about?
Ladder workouts usually involve doing a series of decreasing and/or increasing intervals of high intensity work separated by periods of recovery. The main goal of this training method is to push your legs into fatigue without totally leading to complete exhaustion.
So instead of sticking to the same intervals or pace, you change up the flow of your session by creating a ladder workout with different distances and intensity levels.
Here is how to proceed on your next (or first) pyramid interval workout:
Head to the track, warm up with 10 minutes of jogging, followed by a set of short sprints to get your fast twitch muscle firing and body ready to moving at a faster pace.
Next, run for 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, 300m, 200m, then finish it off with a100m dash at your maximum effort. Be sure to run each interval a bit faster than the preceding one, and jog for 200 to 400 meters between each interval to ensure full recovery.
Finish the workout with a 5-minute cool down.
Image Credit – Robb Hammer via Flickr
5. Try Fartleks
Swedish for “speed play”, Fartleks is your permission to go act like a kid again with the added bonus of improved speed and fitness.
Fartlek training can help you reap the benefits of speed training in an unstructured way. Not only that, this “free spirit” type of a training can also help you break away from the monotony of the typical interval workout session.
Here are the 5 steps you need for Fartlek training:
- Start off with a 5 to 10 minute easy jogging as a warm-up,
- Sight an object in the distance like a stop sign, a tree, a mailbox , or the end of the block,
- Throw in a sprint and run as fast as possible to that object.
- Slow your pace down, recover, sight for the next object, and so on.
- Keep doing it until you can do no more.
And that’s it. Be sure to make a game of it. After all, “play” is a part of its name.
For more speed workout, check my interval workouts guide.
Hill training is the best way to add strength training to your workouts without going to the gym on a regular basis. Embracing the hills can help you build killer lower body strength and endurance.
Plus, the hills will definitely reinvigorate your running routine.
Word of caution here. Please don’t try any hill runs before you have built up a basic endurance level—when you can for 30 to 45 minutes without much huffing and puffing.
In case you couldn’t find a hill course nearby, just hop on the treadmill and raise the incline as high as possible.
For more workouts check out my in-depth post on advanced hill workouts.
7. Bleacher Runs
Bleacher runs are another awesome option to add to your training arsenal. They are the next level of hill running and they will challenge your body and mind like nothing else.
Here is how to start doing them:
Look up a stadium or bleacher stairs that’s open to the public and run them again and again. That’s it.
There is not much to tell.
Nonetheless, you can always make it more challenging by adding bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, or even lateral hops, after finishing each set of the bleachers.
How many bleacher run reps you can do depends, of course, on your fitness levels and the bleachers. So if you are a beginner, be sure to pace yourself and aim to do as many sprints as you can while staying within your fitness zone.
Image Credit – Leo Leung Via Flickr
8. Hop on the Treadmill
Treadmills are awesome. They are convenient, available in almost all gyms, and scalable when it comes to intensity and speed. Plus, they can also help you stay fit and keep your running program humming all year round without having to worry about the weather, or road conditions.
Not only that, you can also do all kinds of workouts on the treadmill, from long runs, intervals, to incline sprints, and race simulations. So they are the perfect race-training playground.
For more on treadmill benefits, go to: 10 Reasons why you Should Run on a Treadmill.
Start your treadmill training with these awesome workouts.
9. Hit the Weight Room
Hitting the weight room regularly can help you increase strength in all major muscles—especially your running muscles—as well as bulletproof your body against common (overuse) injuries.
The right strength training routine for runners includes plenty of bodyweight exercises (especially lower body moves) and core work.
So try this routine: after a 5-minute warm-up, do 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 lunges on each leg, and then do the a one-minute plank hold.
Repeat the cycle five to six times.
For more strength workout routines for runners, check my following posts:
Image Credit – Pump Junkie via Flickr
10. Chang Up your Long Runs
Long runs are a must when it comes to endurance training. Nonetheless, the 20-miler can get super boring after doing it for the 37th time. That’s why many a runner dread the long run.
Good news is your long runs don’t have to be a march through hell. In fact, you still can change up your long runs while squeezing in even more fitness out of them by opting for the progression finish.
And here is how:
Run the first half of your long run at a controlled and slow pace (For example, one minute to two minutes slower than your average marathon pace), then gradually pick up the pace by 10 to 15 seconds per mile, then end your long run at marathon or half marathon pace for the last two to three miles.
Of course, this workout is not for the beginner. I’m well aware of that, but everyone—elite and recreational—can benefit from it.
For more tips on long runs, check these two posts:
11. Do the 30-day Run Challenge
Sometimes running more is the best way to break out of a running rut. Get me?
As a result, set a goal of running each day for 30 days, then do your best to stick with it.
Here is how a week of running might look like:
Monday – Tempo run
Tuesday – Recovery run
Wednesday – Interval run
Thursday – Easy run
Friday – Hill run
Saturday – long run
Sunday – Easy run or a long walk. You choose.
You can also run one mile the first day, two miles the second and keep building it up as long as you can.
12. CrossFit your Runs
My whole running program (and training philosophy) has completely changed the day I started CrossFitting on a regular basis. Nevertheless, I don’t think you need to become a complete CrossFit convert to get the benefits of this amazing (and crazy) fitness philosophy.
Here is how to add a CrossFit touch to your runs (without the fees).
Make a list of the most convenient and easy-to-do-anywhere CrossFit moves (think squats, push-ups, planks, inchworms, walking lunges, jumps squats and why not, the infamous burpees). Then after a 10-minute warm-up, run for 400m, stop and perform 12 to 16 reps of one of the exercises on the list. Next, run for another 400m, and perform your next set.
You can also do this for time. Every three to four minutes of running, stop and perform one of the exercises on the list.
Perform as many rounds as you can with good form. I suggest you start with 5 rounds and build on that.
13. Try out a DVD Workout
In case you are completely bored with your running and want to try something else, then be my guest. It’s better to keep your fitness routine alive by switching gears and trying another sport instead of becoming a complete couch potato.
You can join a group class such as Yoga, kickboxing, TRX or even Zumba if that’s your thing. You can also go the solo path and try cycling, hiking, kayaking, you name it. Whatever you like, just go and do it.
Or you can take your workout indoors by exercising with a DVD workout.
These workouts DVDs will not only serve a good break from running, they will also help you increase strength, boost energy levels, improve stamina, and help you reach new fitness heights without pounding the pavement.
If you use them the right way (read the manuals first and make proper form the priority), then you are going to learn a lot of new exercises and great training tips to help you reach your next best.
In fact, right now I’m on week 6 of Insanity Asylum program, This is an advanced and super intense program that focuses on so many features: strength, speed, agility, jump rope, core work and balance.
Do you know how elite runners keep training hard all year long? They race.
By training for a race, you make progress the priority, so you create a measurable goal to attain by doing a lot of stuff that can help you improve, from timing the runs, tracking progress, and setting benchmarks for yourself as you go along.
Not only that, competing in a race and crossing the finish line breeds accomplishment and can motivate you for more running, helping you rejuvenate your enthusiasm for the sport.
So what are you waiting for? Find a nearby race and register in advance so you can have plenty of time to get ready.
15. Change up your Running Route
Sticking to the same running route, day after day, is the recipe for disaster and boredom.
So change up your route and run somewhere you haven’t run before.
In case you couldn’t find any new running route out of your neighborhood, then try running your usual route backwards. It helps. By running your typical road backward you will get a different perspective, and sometimes, that’s all you need to add a bit of vigor to your runs.
Plus, since you are well familiar with that route, you will still have a clear idea on where you are and how many miles you have covered. However, if you are bored with the road, then try trail running instead.
16. Embrace the Trails
If you are used to doing the bulk of your running in the city, on the asphalt and sidewalks, or inside of a track, then take your runs off the road and into nature. This will definitely rejuvenate your body and mind and help you make running more enjoyable.
Trail running offer a magnificent source of scenic enjoyment. So, let nature absorb you into her beauty and be invigorated from the inside out. Hitting the trails can also lower your stress level and promote a more positive attitude.
Plus, trail running is not only good for the mind, it can also help you improve coordination and quick reflexes on new terrain, which is vital for performance.
17. Get some Gear
If your budget allows it, treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes or new running shorts, and also use some technology to your advantage.
Head to the nearest specialty running store and have your foot type and gait professionally analyzed on a treadmill by knowledgeable staff to figure out which shoes fit the best with your foot type and mechanics.
Here are some of my favorite items:
- New Balance Men’s Accelerate Long Sleeve Shirt ($35 – Get it here).
- Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves Ear buds ($38 – Get it here).
- Hydration Running Belt With 2 BPA Free Water Bottles ($23 – Get it here).
- Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom ($180 – Get it here).
- Dacom Wireless Bluetooth V4.1 earbuds ($25 – Get it here).
18. Get Social
I have to admit. Running with other people has always been a challenge for me. I’m an introvert. And most of the time I run just because I want to be alone, period.
However, if you usually run alone but your routine feels like a drag, then I urge you to partner up with another runner, or a group of runners.
According to study, training with a partner or in groups can help you stay more consistent, add more enjoyment to your training, and reduce the levels of perceived exertion, which is always good for fitness.
So use this to your advantage. Run with a group or join a running club to meet new running partners and discover new running routes.
If it’s hard to find a running buddy, then go online. Just make sure that the friend (or group) has similar training goals and running schedule, obviously.
Image Credit – Henry Kwikstori via Flickr
19. Change up your Running Form
Running form is also something you can shake up for a change. Proper running mechanics are key to efficient and injury-free running. With the right mechanics, you can ward off injuries while getting faster and more efficient with your running. And if you are looking to pick up a new running skill, then I think you should try an alternative running form.
There are plenty of running form methodologies you can opt for. Chi Running and the Pose method are some of the most common techniques. Preachers of both forms claim these alternative running forms can be more efficient than the traditional form.
In fact, each school of running has its die-hard fans who swear it’s the silver bullet that can change your running. Nevertheless, don’t let the hype lure you in. I urge you to try them for a while then see if it’s something worth pursuing. At least, you will learn a couple of things, and sometimes that’s all you need to spice up your running.
Just take it one step at a time. If you try to change your running form overnight, and without giving your body enough time to adapt, then you will be setting yourself up for a major setback.
I personally tried Chi Running a while ago, and I have to admit, that it is a wonderful method. You just you need to try it out and see for yourself.
20. Read Great Running (and fitness) blogs and books
Sure I’m a runner, but I happen also to be a nerd. I love books.
I find great joy in curling up with a book about my favorite subjects. And as a runner, it’s only obvious and natural that books about running top my list.
Here are five of my favorite reads on the subject of running, fitness and health.
- Once A Runner (Get it Here).
- Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Get it Here).
- Running On Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America (Get it Here).
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir (Get it Here).
- Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Life (Get it Here).
Nonetheless, if you are not a book lover, then I urge to turn to the next and start reading running and fitness blogs. My blog is one blog among many and you should be following and reading as many blogs as you can.
Here are 5 of the best running websites and blogs:
Most of these blogs offer great advice on running, diet, training and all aspects of fitness. They will surely help you answer and find solutions to most of your problems.
In case you are looking for more inspiration, then start your own blog. That’s why I started blogging in the first place. There is nothing more refreshing and motivating other than researching and writing about your favorite subjects.
21. Meditation Running
In my personal experience, running not like other forms of cardiovascular exercise. With the right practice and mindset you can find you inner sanctum while hitting the pavement, a sort of meditation in motion.
In other words, running can become a form of zazen—seated meditation without the boring part, and the numb feet. In fact, I think that running is the ideal time for meditation because of the repetitive nature of running. So you won’t be just running, you will be also taking transcendental steps toward living in the now.
This is what you might refer to as “Zen running” and it’s a wonderful practice to help you tune in and focus on being present while running.
At least, you can integrate mediation and mindfulness into running to improve your experience and help you stay more in tune with how your body feels during the exercise.
During Zen running, performance and calorie burn should the last things you should worry about. Instead, put your focus on your breathing, thoughts, body and surroundings. Forget everything else.
So next time you are on the run, try to bring your attention to your breath. Keep your focus on your breath and let your awareness warps up the rest of your body from head to toe.
22. Update Your Playlist
I don’t know about you, but a good music playlist is key for me. Three Days Grace, Linkin Park, and Breaking Benjamin have helped me survive many hard and grueling runs and I thank them immensely.
In fact, music is not only a great way to add some spice to your runs, it can also help you run farther and faster. Study show that running to the beat of music can help you run longer with less fatigue.
That being the case, I tend also to get bored really fast, and listening to “Diary of Jane” for the 43rd time is not that exciting. In fact, listening to the same playlist over and over and over is as exciting as watching grass grow, or staring at a turned off TV.
So I cannot emphasis enough the importance of keeping an updated playlist. Be sure to pick songs with a fast beat and keep updating your playlist on a regular basis.
Sometimes the best way to go fast, is to go slower.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but just bear with me for a sec.
Rest (and the whole practice of proper recovery) might be the last thing on your mind when it comes to changing up a running program, but I believe it’s vital to include it on this long list because proper recovery is often ignored by many runners, which is really baaad.
Get this. If you run hard every day and you usually sneeze at the importance of proper rest, then you are heading to the wrong direction. In fact, you are flirting with disaster.
Therefore, if you are the typical obsessed runner, then be sure to include proper rest into your training program.
For starters, be sure to alternate hard training days with complete rest days. In case you don’t want to get a whole day off, then you can definitely add a recovery run between hard sessions.
And in case you are feeling that your running program is compromising the quality of your life, then stop running, take a few days (or weeks if you have to) off, and recover on your own rate and speed.
Hopefully my list will prove useful. I cannot count the many times these tactics have helped me get out of running rut and rediscover my love for running.
So here is my question to you buddy.
What about you? What do you usually do to get out of a workout rut? I would love to hear from you in the comment section.
***This post contains affiliate links.
Featured Imaged Credit – Robb Hammer through Flickr.