I don’t know about you, but running really has not been very enjoyable for me for most of this lock down/pandemic time. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me as I watched the Boston Marathon get postponed, my flight home to see family and friends for the first time in 6 months cancelled, and I began living this new “stay at home” way of life. I needed time to adjust. And running (something I love) just didn’t sound fun most days.
I had been training hard for Boston since November. Training in Sydney, Australia through the summer. It was HOT. It was hilly. It was hard. Having a goal race kept me out there doing hard runs, long runs, and uncomfortable runs. But once I didn’t have a marathon to train for anymore, I felt kind of lost. And I knew my body needed a break. Five months of hard marathon training is a lot. I knew I should not continue training through this pandemic at full capacity, especially if I will start training again in June. I need the break. I need the time to focus more on strength, yoga and chilling. THAT IS OKAY! But that does not mean I have to stop running completely.
Now what? I love to run just for running sake. It isn’t all about races for me. But that said, getting out for runs anyways when you do not feel like it, is a lot easier when you have a date on a calendar you’re working toward. Speed work in heat just isn’t going to happen for me if I’m not racing soon, because it isn’t enjoyable for me. And all I want is for running to feel enjoyable. I had to reset my mindset. I wanted to just run for my mental health. To get outside and get fresh air. To run for pure enjoyment. And for me, that means not forcing anything.
For the last two weeks of March and first three weeks of April, every single run felt frustrating. Despite stay at home orders in Australia, there were more people out running and in parks than ever before. Running paths I used to have to myself were now flooded with people (groups of people!!) who were breaking the rules and oblivious to those around them. Most runs were flat out angering. I didn’t feel like myself. And having something I love that usually brings me peace all of a sudden bring me panic and frustration is just a terrible feeling.
I had to kind of trick myself into enjoying running again. I am still working with my coach, but he is letting me lead what I want to do at the moment. I do still think even in spite of the uncertainty, now is a great time to work with a coach. They can hold you accountable, challenge you (if that’s what you want), encourage you, and make sure you don’t over train (huge right now). My athletes have been inspiring me with the work they are still putting in day after day. And I truly believe running is a good thing right now. You might just need to frame it differently in your head. If virtual races and normal speed work is your jam, then go for it. If it isn’t, that’s okay too. I came up with some ways to make running feel “fun” and wanted to share if you also are in need of some inspiration!
- Random Directions – Set out to run with no total time or mileage or route in mind. Try to run down some streets you haven’t run before, or at least don’t run often. Every time you get to a stoplight or stop sign, just choose a direction. Go right, stay straight, etc. Just use your gut instinct and go every which way with no real plan. Turn around and run home when you want!
- Run/walk – (I promise I will actually get my blog up soon about the benefits of run/walking.) I am a huge proponent of the run/walk approach. Especially in a time like this. If you’re struggling to get outside because running feels daunting right now, try this: run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat. Or run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat. The walk breaks are short – just enough to drop your heart rate a little and help you reset your easy pace. They make a big difference in effort and are so great on the days you think a run won’t feel good. Try it!
- Photo hunt – If you run with your phone and like photos, try to set a silly photo challenge before you get out to run. Choose an object like trees, street art, leaves, anything you want and plan to take X number of photos on your run. I think this is a good reminder to look up, take in nature and scenery around you and be willing to press pause. It’s a nice little distraction. The purpose of this run can just be to go take some photos, and however far you run is however far you run.
- Errand run – I love the errand run. I use my Camelbak pack to carry things when I run and it’s great. I often run to drop off a library book, pick up something from the store, etc. I have been doing this for years, but I have found it especially nice in this time. We are all staying inside more, as we should be, and time in stores or visiting restaurants is limited. But if you choose a run once a week where you can run to go leave a book on a family members front porch, or a card in your friends mailbox – go for it! You might not even think about the running part. It’s just something on your to-do list and maybe a nice gesture.
- Fartlek – If you are wanting to get some speed back in your legs, but don’t love the idea of structured speedwork, try a fartlek run. You can set the “hard” minutes and “easy” minutes for however long you’d like. Try a 10 minute easy warm up, 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 4 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 3 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy, 10 minute cool down. Really any combo you like! Just make the hard a hard effort, don’t worry about paces.
- Stair/hill climb – I am lucky I am surrounded by SO many hills and staircases, but I think most people can find a good staircase somewhat close by where they live. If you can, try a stair workout. Maybe run 10 minutes easy, climb the stairs 4 times, run 10 minutes easy, climb the stairs 4 times. However many stairs or hill reps your heart desires. Different terrain is really good for you and now is a great time to work it in if it’s something you usually avoid.
- Podcast length – I have been “saving” my favorite podcast episodes for runs. Since I know I can only listen to them while running, I look forward to the run. And I set out with the intent to just run for the length of the episode. I might pick a 20 minute one or an 80 minute one, it doesn’t matter. I just put on my headphones, and run until it’s over. This lets me really disconnect and not even think about the running part. Highly recommend it.
- End at a coffee shop – You might not all love coffee, but this could be anything really (a doughnut treat, a smoothie..). Start out a run with a final destination (that isn’t your home) in mind. Mine lately has been a coffee shop a few miles away. I run there, grab a coffee, and walk home as I drink my coffee and maybe call a friend. I love walking almost as much as I love running and coffee, so this way I get all three. You can support a small business, get some exercise and get extra time outside. I find having a place to ‘go’ on a run really helps.
I hope you try some of these and find new vigor in your running. Run for fun! Run for your mental health. Run for alone time. Run to run. Now is the time to just enjoy it and remind yourself why you love it in the first place. But also, just one more reminder that now is also a great time to take a break. On the days you don’t want to workout, don’t. It will be okay. Just do what you feel like, when you feel like it. If you feel like running, but need an extra reason to get out and enjoy the run – I hope one of these ideas helps.