I’ve learned two important running lessons over the past few months:
- Running is much more enjoyable when you relax and have fun in the process
- Running is much more enjoyable when you’re doing it alongside a friend
I’ve been running regularly for the past seven years, but prior to this year, I generally ran by myself and in anticipation for a race. I’m not a fast runner, but when I was training for or running in a specific race, the competitive juices would start to flow as I was on the clock and was competing with others and myself. There’s nothing wrong with trying to beat the clock, but for me, I finally realized that I enjoy running when the goal is fun over the gun.
For some, the fun part of running is the competitive aspect. I thought this was the case for me until I completed my 30th birthday run. During this run, the clock was never a variable. The only thing I tracked was distance and the places I had to reach. The eight runs became more about the experience that I was sharing with my running buddies. What amazed me was how much fun I had, what little stress was present and how good my body felt the next day. I expected to run six miles each day, but ended up running 8.3 miles each day.
I’m currently running with a friend about 60% of the time now. I’ve realized that my runs are very different when I’m running with my buddy Cory vs. running by myself. When I’m by myself, yes it’s good to process life and have the alone time, but the clock factor comes into play again. My mentality is how far can I go in this amount of time. My mind also races about what I need to get done when I get home. When running with somebody, my focus is on the conversation rather than the pace or time. The runs go by quicker, I can generally run further and my body seems to be more refreshed the next day. Plus, it is time well spent with a good friend.
So, having written all of this, I wanted to leave you with a few things you can do to make your run more fun.
A Random Playlist
When I’m not running with somebody, I listen to music during my run. I’ve noticed that after listening to a certain playlist a few times, the music aspect becomes boring. I use Spotify for all of my music needs these days. One, because it’s awesome, and two, because it’s awesome. Imagine having close to every song ever produced at your fingertips, all in one place, that you can stream on your computers, on your phone, in your car, on your runs and everywhere in between. That’s what Spotify is. Solely on your computer, Spotify is free, but if you want to be able to stream to your other devices, it’s $10/month. I’ve replaced paying per song via iTunes and paying for XM Radio in the car with paying per month for an unlimited music selection everywhere I go. Plus, it’s social, so you can listen to others’ playlists who are on Spotify. When I go on runs now, I have the ability to listen to playlists that others have developed. It keeps the music factor to my run fresh and makes my runs more enjoyable.
Create Your Own “Race”
As mentioned above, most of my running in the past had to do with preparing for an organized race. There’s nothing wrong with organized races. They’re great but there is something special about creating your own challenge and doing it. I learned this trekking across the country on Megabus, running cities, and enjoying my time with friends along the way. Yes, you may not have the benefits of organized races – planned routes, masses of people around you, entertainment, cheering supporters, goodie bags or post race refreshments, but the sense of accomplishment at the end along with the spontaneity along the way is quite the reward. Plus, you’d be amazed to learn about how far the funds that you’d spend joining a race can take you on your own adventure. For the price of admission to your average marathon, I was able to buy seven bus tickets that took me from Des Moines, Iowa to Washington DC.
Run a New Route
The same old running route over and over becomes routine and routine is generally not as fun as experiencing new things. You all live in cities with countless running routes. Taking off from where you live in a different direction will keep things fresh for awhile, but try getting in your car, local bus, or whatever mode of transportation you prefer and starting in a different spot in your city. You’ll be amazed when you stumble upon things you had no idea existed in your city. This concept is also very beneficial when traveling. There is no better way to learn about a new city than strapping on your shoes and exploring via foot.
Run For A Cause
I learned this firsthand. I’ve run two marathons and raised money for a cause prior to one of them. My first marathon, I did not, and what I thought would be a sense of accomplishment at the end was actually a sense of disappointment that I hadn’t done a little good in the process. I was shocked during this run to see how different of a race those who were raising money for a cause were running. They were actually smiling! This realization literally changed my life as it sparked an idea that led me to the things I work on today. There are many charity athletic programs and platforms out there to accomplish this, and I’d highly recommend taking part in one. It’s life changing. If you don’t believe me, just go and watch a local race that includes charity runners. You’ll notice how much fun their having. It’s contagious.
Run With Someone
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, running with someone generally results in a better experience. Ask a friend to start running with you, join a local running club, stop by the local humane society or animal shelter and as if you can take a dog for a run, or strap your child into a stroller and hit the road. This does one thing – focuses your run on someone or something else.
As I like to say often, “Different strokes for different folks.” If you’re driven by the competitive aspect of running, do your thing. If you’re not or notice a little anxiety when you are, strive to make your runs more fun. I can promise you that it makes laces up your shoes and getting out the door a lot easier.
Do you enjoy this blog? Are you feeling generous? For $5, you can Tweet-a-Beer (actually a growler full of beer from Olde Main Brewery in Ames, Iowa) to Steve (@sgood) to help fuel his writing habit. I’m easy to please!
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