Whether on the road or on the treadmill, adding variety will keep you motivated.
At some point, actually many points, in your life, your fitness routine will probably grow stale. Whether it’s a plateau or a wall, changing things up with some fresh ideas can help get you out of your rut and find the motivation you need to keep improving.
This is especially true for running, jogging, and walking. While there are plenty of options to mix up other fitness programs such as weight training, running/walking can easily turn into the ‘same old, same old.’
However, if you look around, you can find plenty of ways to spice up your program. Here are few ideas to get you started.
So, why change?
While jogging can be a calming, Zen-like experience, it can also get boring over time. Boredom can make you skip your workouts, which can easily become a death-spiral back into the life of a couch potato. Mixing it up occasionally will keep it fresh.
Additionally, your body is an amazing and adaptable machine. Whether cardio or weight training, the same routine practiced for weeks on end will allow your body to get accustomed to using the same muscles the same way.
Over time, the result will be less and less performance gain. Regularly changing your workout keeps your body guessing and improving.
With these ideas in mind, here are a few ways to change up your running or walking program.
1. Sign-up for a 5K
…or a 10K, or a half-marathon. Whatever your level of ability, try to find something just out of your comfort zone.
About a hundred years ago, my then running partner and I talked each other into running the local ‘Turkey Trot’ 5-mile run on Thanksgiving day. After years of running 3 miles, 3 times a week, this took us to the next level and set the stage for longer runs down the road.
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to run in a local race, this may give your running program the kick start it needs. I wrote an article awhile back entitled, “5 Tips for Choosing Your First 5K Race,” which should help you decide on where to start.
2. Interval Training
If your daily jogs have consisted of plodding along at the same pace, for the same distance, for the last several years, a great way to change this up is through interval training.
You’ll find many variations to this on line including Tempo Runs, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and the Fartlek (Swedish for speed play), but the common theme is to vary your pace between low and high intensity.
HIIT, for example, requires you run for a short time at near-maximum intensity, followed by lower intensity jogs or even walking. This will not only strengthen your running, but also increases the amount of fat you burn during your workout.
A cool toy that I use for intervals is the ‘Gymboss.’ This simple device clips to your waist and lets you setup timed alerts telling you when to speed up and slow down. When it’s time, it will beep and/or vibrate. This frees you up from having to carry a stopwatch.
3. Long, Slow, Distance
At the other end of the spectrum is the “Long, Slow, Distance,” or LSD run.
As above, if your weekly runs have topped off at a few miles a few times a week, the LSD run can keep things interesting. For me, it was a scary idea moving up the ladder from 10K (6.2 mile) races to the next level of half-marathons (13 miles). Doubling my max distance seemed pretty insane.
Once I got into the LSD mindset, I slowed my pace down to where it almost seemed more like a walk, except I was lifting my knees higher. Amazingly, this pace still met my goal; I wanted to finish at less than 2 hours, and came in at 1:55.
After that, I had the bragging rights (and the t-shirt) from running the longer distance, and also added a new dimension to my running program.
4. ‘Read’ a good book while running or walking
If you’re happy with your current pace and schedule, another way to make the time pass more quickly is by listening to a book on your MP3 player (It’s still hard not to call this a ‘book on tape’).
I used to listen to music while running; however, no matter how often I’d change songs, I’d be listening to music I’ve heard a hundred times.
Listening to a book while running solved this problem. The books I choose are only for my runs; that is, I don’t read them on non-running days. The entertainment is always fresh, and it’s amazing how quickly time passes. These ‘books on tape’ can easily provide over 20 hours of material.
5. Or ‘watch’ a good movie
Okay, this sounds a little strange, but it really works well.
Have you ever listened to a movie playing in the next room, specifically a favorite movie you’ve watched a hundred times? Even though you don’t see it, you can picture the scenes in your head.
This takes the ‘book on tape’ to a new level. Preferably choose a movie with a lot of talking. Action movies don’t work too well, as they’re mostly car chases, gunshots, and music. A few movies I’ve used in the past are ‘Tangled’, ‘Man from Earth’, and ‘Twelve Angry Men.’
Some time ago, I wrote an article explaining how to rip the sound from an AVI file entitled (amazingly), “How to Rip Audio from an AVI File.” Check it out if you need some technical help.
If you think your jogging program has hit a plateau, hopefully the info provided above will help take you to the next level, or at least freshen things up a bit. Feel free to comment with any additional suggestions.