There’s no denying that running is hard. Some days it can seem nearly impossible to muster up the strength to go for a run outside or on the treadmill because it seems like a daunting, mundane task. But it’s also one of the most accessible forms of exercise. Luckily, there are some tricks you can use to convince yourself that running really isn’t such a bad thing after all, and actually, it can be pretty fun. Try out these tips to make your next run easier and a lot more entertaining!
1. Run in a race
Running just for the sake of running can be kind of a bore. But if you set a goal for yourself, like running a race, then your workouts will have more of a meaning. Demi DeSalvo, a junior at Boston University who ran the 2014 Boston Marathon, likes to schedule races because it helps her stay motivated even on the tough days. And although a marathon may seem daunting, any distance for a race can still do the trick!
“I like to schedule races because this gives me something to work towards and forces me to run even when I'm not feeling it,” Demi says. Whether it’s a 5K or a half marathon, giving yourself something tangible to work towards will give you a huge boost of confidence once you finally achieve your goal and finish the race.
If you really want to spice things up, try a themed race, like The Color Run or the Disney Princess Half Marathon. You can also find charity runs so you can do your running while helping a good cause. Search local charity runs on ACTIVE.com to find one that’s coming to your town.
Once you’ve found your race, get some friends to join you so you can all have fun together. If your friends run a race with you, it also means you’ll have a training buddy to help keep you on track. Find a training schedule that works best for you and start running!
2. Run for a reward
There are other tactics you can use to motivate yourself when running, like bribing yourself with a healthy treat or a shopping splurge.
Chelsea Birtch, a junior at Wilfrid Laurier University, thinks of rewards she can give herself after she runs, and she incorporates that into her workout. She says that she will end her run at a smoothie place so she can reward herself with a healthy post-workout treat. Setting out on a run with that kind of end goal in mind can help you push through to the end. However, it’s better to have a healthy reward, like a homemade smoothie or fro-yo and fruit, instead of something unhealthy, like a milkshake. You want to give yourself something you enjoy, but you don’t want to counteract all that hard work you just put into running.
Another great trick is to reward yourself with non-food-related indulgences. Set a goal for yourself, like running a certain number of miles in a week. If you reach that goal, then you can buy that skirt you’ve been obsessed with. Even better, reward yourself with nice workout clothes so you can feel and look great while you run. Getting a manicure or a massage is also a good reward because it can relax your body so you’re revitalized to run the next day.
3. Run outside
Although treadmills are great when it’s cold, windy, rainy or sweltering hot outside, they’re not always the most conducive for making a run thrilling and exhilarating. But running outside on a nice path can help take your mind off of the fact that you’re exercising and give you a nice breath of fresh air.
“I suggest picking a route that’s pretty because I always tend to focus more on how pretty things are and I forget that I’m running,” says Neha Basu, a senior at Boston University who also ran the 2014 Boston Marathon. When Neha runs outside in a visually stimulating area, she says that she doesn’t look down at the ground as much because she’s looking around instead. Demi adds that running outside helps her connect with nature, which can be refreshing when you’re stuck inside a classroom or the library all day. “When you take the time to notice what's around you, the miles fly by,” Demi says.
If you aren’t close to a good running path, run through campus. That might sound intimidating at first since you’ll probably see people you know, but that can actually be a great motivator. Stacey Oswald, a junior at Vanderbilt University, tried this tactic, and her plan of running just one mile turned into a lot more. “I decided to take a new route through campus so I would be running by people I know,” she says. “After the first mile, I felt inspired to run more, so I kept going and finished three miles at a great pace!”
She says that seeing people she knew gave her the push to run harder than normal, so now whenever she’s unmotivated to run, she heads to campus. “Everyone wants to impress their friends,” she says. Plus, you never know when that campus cutie will be watching!
4. Run with a killer playlist
Music is a great motivator, and it can make a world of difference when you’re doing a mental sport like running. And if you’re trying to make running more enjoyable, why not make it like a dance party?
“I like to have a wide variety of music,” Neha says. “When I run to house music and they have that [beat] drop, I'm revitalized and more motivated to run.”
There are many ways to go about making a playlist, including using websites and apps. The website RunHundred allows people to submit and vote on their favorite workout songs. Every month users get a list sent to your email of the top 10 workout songs. Users also have access to 12 workout mixes every 12 weeks. The mixes cost $10 and run between 30 to 60 minutes long.
What makes good workout music? According to research by a professor of sports psychology at Brunel University in London, songs that are between 147 and 160 beats per minute (BPM) are ideal for running. You can count a song’s BPM by just listening to it, but you can also use a computer program to help you out.
Apps can also help you create the perfect soundtrack for your run, like Cruise Control ($4.99). It does all the work of making a playlist for you, and it even helps you stay on track with a customized workout. Pick a target speed for your run, and this app will pull songs from your library that match that pace. As long as your steps hit each beat, then you know you’re staying on track. You can also choose to do a free run, and the app will automatically pick music to match your stride. Thanks to an algorithm that can change the speed of a song in real time, Cruise Control keeps you moving and grooving to your own music.
5. Run with apps
Speaking of apps, there are ones that can do a lot more than just control your music! Running apps can help you track the mileage and minutes of your runs, allowing you to set goals and evaluate your progress. Cruise Control also logs the statistics of your runs, but there are many others that focus just on this aspect. Popular apps include Nike+ Running, Strava and MapMyRun.
They all do the same basic thing with slight variations. You can record your time, distance, route and speed, and you can share your runs on social media, allowing you to have friendly competitions with others. Nike+ Running lets you link your account to Facebook so that every time someone likes the status the app posts about you running, a cheering sound goes off in your headphones to keep your spirits high. Strava lets you have a news feed to track your friends’ runs, and they can follow your progress, too. It also tells you when you broke a new record on a run to show how you’ve improved.
MapMyRun is helpful because it not only tracks your running routes, but it also lets you search for new routes to try and it gives you challenges to push your limits. By sharing your stats, people can also hold you accountable for your runs, so it doesn’t feel like you’re in this alone. These apps are all free, so you can experiment with what works best for you.
And finally, this last app takes the cake in making running fun. Put yourself in the middle of a fight against the undead with Zombies, Run! This running game makes you the key player in saving the world from hordes of zombies. Missions last between 20 and 30 minutes, and instructions are fed to you though your headphones, telling you to collect items, go back to your “home base” or speed up and run for your life. Although you’ll be running all over an imaginary, zombie-infested land, you can use this app while running in any location and running either a solo mission or with friends.
6. Run with something else on your mind
Running can be a great way to clear your mind, but you can also use this time to work through problems or think about upcoming situations. Do you have an interview tomorrow? Go through a mock interview in your head and think of the perfect responses to the questions you might be asked. Is there a certain someone you’ve been crushing on? Think about what you would say if you ran into him or her at party. Anything that’s going on in your life can be turned into an award-winning movie in your mind, and you can write the script as you run. The time will fly by, and so will the miles.
Lindsey Moses, a sophomore at SUNY Oswego, likes to occupy her brain on a run by listening to a story instead of making up her own. She narrates her workouts with audiobook recordings. “As an English major, I always have a ton of required reading for homework, so this is a great way to multitask,” she says. If you’re worried about balancing a workout regime with your schoolwork, this is a great way to fit both into your schedule.
Even though running might not be the number one thing on your list of fun activities, it doesn’t have to be miserable. “Running should be fun,” Demi says. “After each run, think about how you feel and what you accomplished.” Use that motivation to push yourself on to another day of fun and successful running.