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How to beat running boredom: Six great tips

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A little while ago I was talking to a friend about marathon training and she asked me how I avoid getting bored on long runs. “I’m in too much pain to get bored,” I said.

There is only some hyperbole in that statement.

Nevertheless, I have heard people say that they do find running to be boring because it really is just one foot in front of the other. So I came up with a few ideas to keep things interesting.

1. Pick a new route

This does not mean switching treadmills.

Actually, I wrote an article for my Los Angeles Times column that addressed the issue of treadmill vs. outside running and people who run outside enjoy it more, go further and faster. So, yes, do go outside, but go somewhere else.

You may need to drive to do this. There are only so many directions I can run in from my house that offer good choices for running routes, but there are plenty of scenic areas throughout the city or countryside that are only a short drive away. Running gives you a chance to either explore a new route or at least go back to a scenic area you don’t often visit where you can soak up the natural environment. I live in Calgary where there are lots of different places that offer different views of the Rocky Mountains. It’s hard to get bored when there is a mountain view.

2. Read a book

I don’t mean put your life at risk and attempt to read while running, what I mean is get someone else to read a book to you. Technology is advanced enough now to load books onto phones and iPods and you can listen to any number of books while you run.

3. Change your tune

Have you been listening to the same soundtrack for a while? Perhaps it’s time to either check out this newfangled rock and rolly type stuff, or perhaps get old school and relive those back seat of the car moments from high school.

I have Googled terms like “best rock songs,” “top classic rock songs,” “80s classics” etc. to get ideas of music to buy from iTunes. Another thing I do is keep a notebook in my car and if I hear a song I really like on the radio I jot it down at the next red light. One hint is that you don’t need to know the name of the song, but if you can just remember one line of lyrics Google will find it every time.

4. Get wired

GPS watches can be a lot of fun. Tracking your progress is a proven motivator. You can tell exactly how far and how fast, and some watches have the ability to download your runs into a spreadsheet. It’s like having a companion on your wrist that is constantly telling you how you’re doing.

5. Get friendly

A fitness buddy can be a powerful motivator. It can either be a friend or a significant other and this is a nice opportunity to be in each other’s company.

I’ll admit that when I go running with a friend I have to slow my pace so we actually can talk without gasping, and the conversation does tend to become more stilted during the last third of the run as we run out of gas, but it’s always fun. The time flies.

6. Go faster

Remember what I said at the beginning about being in too much pain to be bored? Well, there was some truth to that. I’m not talking about screaming joints – the bad kind of pain; more the cardiovascular and muscular exhaustion type.

See, when you’re pushing hard this takes a tremendous amount of concentration. It’s no longer about just one foot in front of the other. It becomes one foot in front of the other, quickly. Your brain is what is making this happen. Testing your limits doesn’t just improve fitness and health, but it’s mentally challenging. I can guarantee when your mind is fully engaged on going to the wall you’ll be anything but bored.

James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary. He writes the column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Los Angeles Times and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get your free Metabolism Report here.