Running is awesome. It’s good for you physically and mentally, and it’s one of the cheapest and most effective ways to stay in shape. Once you power through the always-tough first mile, running tends to get easier and more enjoyable.
At some point in everyone’s running career, though, things get dull. Things start to get hard. Lacing up becomes a chore, and that always-tough first mile becomes that always-tough every mile.
So what do you do when the fluorescent sheen has faded from your sneakers and the only highlight of a run is that it ends?
If your runs feel kind of lifeless, then breathe some life into them by grabbing a running partner (or joining a running group). These days, almost everyone runs at least a little, and a lot of people need encouragement to get going. So hop onto Facebook or send a few messages and just ask if anyone wants to hit the park and get a few miles in.
Chances are good that you’ll find at least one person who is looking to liven up their runs, too.
And if you don’t do the social media thing or have any friends who run, it’s no big deal. All you have to do is head to your local running shop and see if there are any running groups that meet regularly. Most of the time, shops keep a schedule of what groups exist and when they meet during the week. All you have to do is show up!
Don’t think you have to have a human companion, either. If you have a canine buddy, grab a leash and hit the park. Dogs are fantastic running partners, and they may even to keep you on your toes even better than a GPS watch. (Although there might be a little more clean-up on your part than if you bring a human friend with you!)
Pick A Cause
Outside of the obvious health and fitness benefits of running, one of the best things about being a runner is being a part of the community. The support is almost overwhelming at times, and whether you’re the first person across the finish line or the last, people really and truly care about you. Runners band together and support each other--even if you haven’t found a running partner, it’s good to know that you’re part of a team.
Racing is one of the best ways to be a part of that community, and not only can you find a race that supports your current level of fitness, but you can also use a race as a catalyst for training toward a new distance such as 10K or a half-marathon. Additionally, you can find one where your registration money goes toward a cause that you believe in.
Fundraising for nonprofits is highly competitive, and races bring in not only revenue, but also awareness and community involvement. Because of this, most areas have charity races scheduled during the better part of the year. So, if your runs are becoming a little stale being all about you and your own personal bests, then hop online and see what charity races are being held in your area and give back a little.
Plus when your training gets bogged down, knowing that every step you take is furthering a cause and helping someone else, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated and achieve your goals. Running for charity helps people see how every person can make a big difference.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten about running is “run the mile you’re in.” That holds true with this, too. Most of the time, we think entirely too much about our runs, and often, we think something negative--how hard it is, how much we hurt, how sweaty we are. Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on the positive side of running, so we have to make ourselves.
So when the going gets tough, the tough put big grins on their faces.
Seriously. If you want to have a more vibrant and fulfilling run, just smile. When you’re having a tough stretch, instead of scowling, bowing over, and gasping for breath, open your eyes wider and grin from ear to ear. One of my favorite TED talks is all about how the simple act of smiling can biomechanically improve your mood and increase your lifespan.
Personally, I love having other runners see me smile while I run. Sometimes, I’m having a very hard time, and I know my body language shows it. I am slouching and going slow. But I’m smiling. The “you’re a crazy person” looks I get from other people in that moment energize me in a way I can’t explain.
If you’re having a hard time, think about the end result, think about why you’re out there in the first place--to live a better life. That’s absolutely something worth smiling about.B.J. is a certified personal trainer from the American Fitness Institute and holds a Master’s degree in English. He is currently training for his first marathon. He’s also a geek who has lost 155 pounds. He wants to teach other geeks and nerds how to live healthy, fitness-oriented lives. You can find more of his work on his blog Geek Fitness.
Main Photo Credit: lzf/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Maridav/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Druzhinin Mikhail/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Iryna Tiumentseva/shutterstock.com