Runners are creatures of habit- we tend to stick with what we know once we’ve found a routine that works for us. You probably have a route which you run regularly, you know exactly how many miles it is, and it’s become so familiar that you could run it with your eyes closed!
If you enjoy the familiarity, then why change? Because introducing variations in your running is the best way to become a faster, stronger, and more efficient runner.
Reasons to vary your running route
1. Avoid boredom
Running the same route over and over can become seriously tedious. Boredom usually results in reduced motivation, which means you’re less engaged with running and more likely to skip training sessions altogether. Keep running fresh and interesting by adding some variety to your routes.
2. Stay mentally focused
When following a familiar route, it’s easy to run on autopilot. Whilst it can be helpful to zone out whilst running, it is also important to be aware of your surroundings, your form, and your technique. It’s all too easy to trip and fall when you’re not mentally focused when running!
3. Keep it challenging
Our bodies adapt to routine. Each time you repeat the same workout it becomes less challenging which can lead to a plateau in your progress. In order to get stronger or improve your overall fitness, you have to make things more challenging with different routes.
4. Avoid injury
When we run the same route repeatedly, we work the same muscle groups and imbalances can accumulate over time. For example, you may adjust your dominant side to the camber of the road, which when repeated for a prolonged period of time, reinforces muscle imbalance. Vary your running route and help to create a counterbalance to avoid injury.
5. Adapt to the weather
It’s worth having a variety of routes for when the weather is against you. Strong winds can make an exposed, open area very tough. Torrential rain can turn a dirt path into muddy swamp.
6. Stay safe
Bit of a controversial one, but running the same route (especially at the same time of day) can make you a target for attacks. I don’t believe in changing your behaviour because of other people, but keeping safe while running is an important consideration.
How to add variety to your running route
Run your usual route in reverse
Sounds pretty simple but you’ll be surprised how your route looks different when you see it from another angle.
Drive somewhere for your run
If you’ve done your local running routes to death, then consider driving to a different location like a park, beach, or river to enjoy a change of scenery.
Swap an out-and-back for a loop (or vice versa)
If you often run out-and-back routes, running a large loop can add some variety. This is particularly helpful if you are struggling with motivation on your long run.
Change terrain and surface
If you normally run on the roads, try taking to the trails. If you usually run on the flat, go for hillier terrain. A well-rounded training plan includes a variety of terrain and surfaces to challenge your body in different ways.
Try the treadmill
Personally I hate treadmill running, but it can have it’s benefits for when the weather is against you. Treadmills also allow for more continuous running avoiding traffic lights, busy junctions, gates and stiles.
Looking for more running tips? You might like…
How I’ve improved my half-marathon time using the run/walk method
6 track sessions to improve your running speed
Running advice for beginners
All items worn were gifted by Adidas, but all opinions are my own.