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 and performance plateaus reign supreme.
That’s why today, my dear readers, I’m gonna share with you some of my best advice and practical strategies to help you change up your running lifestyle.
How to Change Up Your Running Routine
Without further ado, here are 23 ways to switch up your running program so you can keep your workouts fresh and improve your overall conditioning and fitness level.
1. Set a Clear Goal
There is one common trait among successful people, 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 to get you started and long-term vision to help you reach your best with your running program.
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.
Instead, try to be as accurate and precise as you possibly can.
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.
Plus, set your goals with a deadline in mind. This adds urgency to your goals and will make accomplishing them (or going about doing it so) more likely.
But please be down-to-earth and practical. Sure, you can always set a challenging goal, but if you push too much too soon, you will be setting yourself up for a major disappointment.
In other words, be realistic, be flexible and never go beyond your current fitness limits.
Here is my full guide to goal setting.
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 improving fitness and health level.
Not only that, 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 get 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. Otherwise, you will be risking injury or a severe 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 a 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 primary goal of this training method is to push your legs into fatigue without leading to complete exhaustion.
Therefore, 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 a 100m 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 burst to ensure a full recovery.
Finish the workout with a 5-minute cool down.
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, but this “free spirit” type of training is a fun and creative way for breaking 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.
Hill training is the best way to add strength training to your workouts without hitting the weight room. 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 building 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 are 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 on, of course, your fitness level 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.
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, but you can also do all kinds of workouts on the treadmill, from long runs, intervals, to incline sprints, and race simulations. This makes them 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 this awesome incline workout.
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.
Try this routine: after a 5-minute warm-up, do 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 lunges on each leg, and then do the one-minute plank hold.
Repeat the cycle five to six times.
For more strength workout routines for runners, check my following posts:
10. Change Up your Long Runs
Good news is your long runs don’t have to be a march through hell. In fact, you still can change up your 90- to 120-minute endurance workouts while squeezing in even more fitness out of them.
How? Do the progression finish.
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). Next, gradually pick up the pace by 10 to 15 seconds per mile, then end your long run at a marathon or half marathon pace for the last two to three miles.
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.
If you are a beginner, then try this 30-Day Beginner Runner Challenge.
12. CrossFit your Runs
My whole running program (and training philosophy) has completely changed the day I started CrossFitting on a regular basis. All the same, 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).
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 a 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, but 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 lots 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, and you start working your butt off to reach it, 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 a favorite running route can help you beat the “Where I will run today?” stress, but doing it day after is the recipe for disaster and boredom.
As a result, change up your route and run somewhere you haven’t run before.
In case you couldn’t find any new running routes out of your neighborhood, then try running your usual route backward. It helps. By doing this you’ll 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 of where you are and how many miles you have covered.
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.
Trail running offers a great source of scenic enjoyment. So, let nature absorb you into her beauty and be invigorated from the inside out. In my experience, hitting the trails is one of my favorite ways for reducing stress level and promoting a more positive attitude.
Plus, running on the trails is not only good for the mind, but 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 expert 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 Earbuds ($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
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.
With that said, 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 athletes, to make things more interesting.
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—all of which is good for fitness.
As a result, 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.
19. Change up your Running Form
Running form is also something you can shake up for a change.
Proper form is vital for efficient and injury-free running.
And in case 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 style methodologies you can try out. Chi Running and the Pose method are some of the most common techniques. Preachers of both forms claim these alternative running forms can be efficient and improve athletic performance.
In fact, each school 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.
I personally tried Chi Running a while ago, and I have to admit, that it is a fantastic method. You just you need to try it out and see for yourself.
However, what you do, make sure to 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.
20. Read Great Running (and fitness) blogs and books
Sure I’m a runner, but I also happen to be a nerd. I love books, and I find great joy in curling up with a book about my favorite subjects.
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 best thing 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 10 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 got into blogging in the first place. There is nothing more refreshing and motivating other than researching and writing about your favorite subjects.
21. Meditation Running
This might sound a little bit out there, but, at least in my experience, 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 its repetitive nature.
You won’t be just running, you will also be 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.
Nonetheless, if you are not into the spiritual aspect, then, at least, you can integrate meditation into running as a way to improve your experience and help you stay more in tune with your body.
So next time you are on the run, try to bring your attention to your breath. Put your focus on your breathing, thoughts, body, and surroundings. Forget everything else.
Keep your focus on your breath and let your awareness wraps up the rest of your body from head to toe.
Performance and calorie burn should the last things you should worry about.
22. Update Your Playlist
I don’t know about you, but a good music playlist is a crucial part of a running lifestyle. Three Days Grace, Linkin Park, and Breaking Benjamin have helped me survive many hard, and grueling run.
In fact, music is not only an excellent way to add some spice to your runs, but it can also help you run farther and faster. Study shows that exercising to the beat of music can help you work out longer with less fatigue.
That being the case, I also tend to get bored really fast, and listening to “Diary of Jane” for the 43rd time is not that exciting.
Truth be told, listening to the same playlist over and over and over is as exciting as watching grass grow. Not something to be looking forward to.
As a result, make sure to keep your playlist updated. 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.
Get this. If you run hard every day, and you usually sneeze at the importance of proper rest, then you are heading in the wrong direction.
In fact, you are flirting with disaster.
Therefore, if you are the typically obsessed runner, then make sure to include proper rest into your training program.
For starters, alternate hard training days with complete rest days. In case you don’t want to have a whole day off, then 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 at your own rate and speed.
New to Running? Start Here…
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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.
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.
Featured Imaged Credit – Robb Hammer through Flickr.