10 Ways to Add Variety to Your Runs

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10 Ways to Add Variety to Your Runs

By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor

We all know the benefits of running-- strong heart, muscular legs, huge calorie burn, the runner's high--the list goes on and on. But even the most dedicated runners can get bored or lose motivation to lace up their sneakers every now and again. So how do you take your usual boring run and make it interesting, challenging or exciting again? You change it up, that's how!

Spice up your next run with these 10 tips!

1. Get Hilly With It

If you’re normally a track or treadmill runner, take it outside with some hills. Find a hilly trail or create your own hill-filled route with an online tool that tracks elevation, such as mapmyrun.com. The hills will challenge your body in new ways and help to increase your cardio fitness.

If you’re really looking for a challenge, find the biggest hill you can in your area and run up and down it as many times as you can with proper running form. Add this hilly workout to your weekly running schedule and watch your running power grow!

2. Turn the Beat Around

Nothing is worse than hearing the same song or playlist over and over during a run. If you feel like you have music déjà vu every time you run, it’s time to switch up those tunes. Whether it’s swapping your running tunes for a new batch of favorites or downloading an entirely new album or couple of tracks, new music can reignite your running spark. These ideas from your fellow Sparkers and Coach Nicole will get you started.

3. Intervals Are Your Friend

If you find yourself wanting to turn and run home because of boredom after just a few minutes of jogging, then you may want to try intervals. Perfect for those with short exercise attention spans (I'm guilty of this), intervals give you something to focus on. To improve speed--and make the time fly--try running fast for 30 seconds followed by 1 minute of easy jogging or fast walking. Do this for 20 minutes and your previously boring run will fly by. Plus, intervals burn more calories and improve your fitness faster than slower, steady state runs. Bonus!

4. Grab a Bud

Finding a friend to run with is the easiest way to turn a drab run into something fun. Especially good for long runs, grab your most gossipy bud and get those legs and mouths moving (this "talk test" can help measure intensity). Before you know it, you'll have your run done, and you'll know all the dirt on the new neighbors.

If you don't have a friend to run with, don't forget about your dog! Furry friends can be fun and entertaining running companions. (And if your dog likes to chase squirrels like mine does, then you can get quite the interval and resistance workout, too!)

5. Take the Road Less Traveled

If you always run along with the same river, around the same block or even on the same treadmill, change it up! Be it a park, off-road trail, sandy beach or even a treadmill in a new area of the gym, get creative and take your run to a new spot. The variation will give you something new to look at and the varied terrain will challenge your muscles in new ways!

6. Find Your Purpose

Jogging doesn't just have to be about running laps around a track or getting fit (although the fitness part is awesome). Change how you see your run by repurposing it. Instead of running to burn calories, run the few blocks over to see a friend, jog to the post office to drop off a letter, or run to the video rental store to drop off that movie before it's overdue. Your body--and Mother Earth--will thank you!

7. Perfect Your Gait

Whether you're new to running or have a few marathons under your belt, you can always improve your form. If you’re finding your runs boring, then really pay attention and focus on your form. Nothing will make the time pass by faster than forgetting about how far you have to go and instead focusing on how you're running. Need pointers on the correct way to run? Check out these tips!

8. Learn and Burn

If music no longer speaks to your running soul, then try a book on tape, CD or download. From fiction to nonfiction, find something that really interests you and begin looking at your running time as a way to burn calories and learn something new! And if you don't want to spend the money on a book download, try listening to a few podcasts. Many of them are free and range in topics from fitness to cooking to news to humor to technology. No matter what subject matter you choose, just make sure you enjoy it--and that it isn’t so entertaining that you slow down!

9. Train Your Brain

Especially for those who run a lot and for long distances, sometimes your brain just gets bored. No matter how many hills you run or intervals you do, your brain just keeps saying, "Go home." But you don't want to go home! You want to run! So, to prevent brain boredom, give the noggin a task. Not sure what to bring to that housewarming party this weekend? Decide during your run. Have a big project coming up at work and aren't sure how to present it creatively? Brainstorm while you run. Can't figure out how to squeeze your workout into next week’s crazy schedule? Organize your time during your run. Make that mind run with those legs!

10. Go for the Goal

If all else fails, focus on your goal. Whether you're training for a half marathon, a 5K or just trying to complete your first mile, reacquaint yourself with why you started running in the first place. Is it because you feel fantastic after running? Is it because you love the accomplishment of running longer and faster? Is it because it's helping you drop unwanted pounds? No matter your reason, chances are that once you remind yourself of goal, you'll feel motivated to lace up those running shoes yet again.

Now get out there and run! (And if running isn't your speed, try these great walking tips!)

Written by Jennipher Walters
Jennipher is a certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and lifestyle and weight management consultant. She also blogs regularly about her own fitness adventures at www.fitbottomedgirls.com.

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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LJOHNES

10/27/2012 6:46:42 AM

LJOHNES's SparkPage
Points 6 and 9 were the most valuable for me. I like the idea of repurposing my run to actually do something constructive. I suppose it can also work the other way round i.e when going to the shop, run instead of walk.

I already listen to audio books during long walks, but never thought of brainstorming ideas while running. It's something I will definitely try out!

APLOUIS

2/2/2012 1:43:43 PM

APLOUIS's SparkPage
Great tips

DINAJOFIT

1/14/2012 9:42:28 AM

DINAJOFIT's SparkPage
Really great tips, I love it.

CINDYTICCONI

10/26/2009 2:34:26 PM

CINDYTICCONI's SparkPage
Hooray, for cooler weather...says a Central Florida Sparky!

DAKOTANMISTY

10/20/2009 1:37:38 PM

DAKOTANMISTY's SparkPage
I put my Ipod mixes on Shuffle.....so I don't hear the same song/order every time.

LORIBUG

10/6/2009 8:15:42 AM

LORIBUG's SparkPage
You don't have to buy books on tape - just get audio books from your library (they might even have a bigger selection thru inter-library loan, just about the best thing ever invented for my tax dollars), upload to iTunes or whatever - and you've got them on your mp3 player. I love this.

TOASTERLISA

9/21/2009 2:21:18 PM

TOASTERLISA's SparkPage
After losing a bunch of weight, I'm just re-learning how to jog, but I love to walk. These are some great ideas to spice up my morning walks! -- Lisa

SKNNYBE

9/18/2009 8:23:02 AM

SKNNYBE's SparkPage
There are many deterrents to my evening walk/jog/run. For example, last night, I was full of energy and ready to run, but my husband just wanted to go inside and watch TV. I went anyway, and came back supercharged. I was able to do an extra hour of housework/prepping for our remodeling project, while he channel surfed and complained that there was nothing worth watching. My advice, if you can't get anyone to go with you, go alone. Lately, I've jogged while carrying my 2 lb. dumbbells, hoping to knock off a few extra cals, and build arm strength in proportion to my already well-developed calves. When I'm walking, I'm curling.

CRACKERMOM

9/15/2009 10:23:42 PM

can I borrow your drill sargeant hubby Lisa? mine will hardly walk with me

BARNABABY1

9/15/2009 10:23:32 PM

BARNABABY1's SparkPage
These were really great ideas...thanks!

JAHMARDIE27

9/15/2009 10:07:31 PM

Great tip on keeping running fun and interesting.

DEEUP1214

9/15/2009 7:22:19 PM

DEEUP1214's SparkPage
My last straw was when I found a lump in my breast...Reality check...get in shape..next time it could be cancer/diabetes/hypertension!!

LISALALAUK

9/15/2009 5:24:14 PM

when I first started running i used to use the lamp posts....think you call them street lights over here...or telephone poles..anyhoo, I used to walk to the first pole, then run the second, walk the third etc....then after a week i'd go to walk one pole, run two, walk one...then just keep upping it and increasing the distance...i got to 5 miles a day and 10 every sunday morning which resulted in a half marathon and joining the military...so go for it!

LISALALAUK

9/15/2009 5:21:27 PM

I did this a few weekends ago, I noticed that the running was harder as the grass was tall (and wet) so I had to pick my feet up...got really wore out quick but the next day was better, different muscles hurt but I think it's good for strength which can only help with regular road running.....did intervals with exercises thrown in too...squat thrusts, jumping jacks, mountain climbers and high jumps...husband used to be a drill instructor, lucky me =)

SAMOOCH

9/15/2009 5:07:29 PM

SAMOOCH's SparkPage
interesting article, intervals are definitely a way to change things up that I have learned about.

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