Running is a convenient, low-cost and effective way to get a great workout, and, because of its low barrier to entry, it’s the mode of exercise many turn to for their personal health and fitness. Unfortunately, regular endurance running or jogging, whether outdoors or on a treadmill, can become tedious and, to be frank, a bit dull, causing many to abandon their running efforts. If this describes your feelings about running, but you really want to enjoy the benefits, here are nine tips that can help make your running workouts more fun and interactive.
1. Trail running
Running on a hard surface like pavement or asphalt can be uncomfortable and running in a straight line is pretty boring. The solution? Trail running, which adds a ton of variety because the terrain changes and adds additional physical challenges, plus you have the added bonus of beautiful and varied scenery.
2. Fartlek training
From the Swedish word for “speed play,” Fartlek protocols call for running sprints at various intervals, either for distance or time. To break up the monotony of your run, pick a spot in the distance and run as hard as you can to get there. You will be out of breath at the end of your sprint, so walk until your heart rate and breathing drop, and then resume your normal running pace until you decide it’s time for another sprint.
3. Sprinting at a track or field
Specific speed training involves running as fast as possible and then taking a proper rest period. Speed training requires an all-out, 100% effort. To do that, each sprint requires a rest interval that is approximately five to six times as long as the sprint. For example, if you run 50 meters in eight seconds, you should allow approximately 40-45 seconds for proper recovery before the next sprint. To maintain energy and 100% effort with each sprint, be sure to take a full three- to five-minute rest period after a series of sprints to replenish your energy stores. A good workout might include five sprints followed by three minutes of rest, five more sprints followed by four minutes of rest, and then five to seven more sprints (plus a cool-down) to finish the workout.
4. Running hills
If you played any outdoor sports growing up, you probably ran hills at some point. The late Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton made hill running popular for football players back in the early ‘80s because it helped him develop the strength and power required to break tackles. As a result, many coaches today use hill running to help athletes improve their fitness levels. While they’re tough, hills repeats are incredibly effective and worth adding to your runs whenever possible.
5. Stair running
ACE shot this video featuring the San Diego Convention Center stairs because stair running is effective to get in great shape. If you live in an area that isn’t that hilly, you can probably find an outdoor stadium or bleachers where you can run stairs. When you’re traveling, look for a good set of stairs for a workout. Just like running hills, running stairs is hard, but provides the benefits of running without the monotony of jogging.
6. Listen to podcasts or comedy routines
We all have our favorite playlists we like to listen to when exercising, but these can get a little stale over time. Download some podcasts or type in a favorite comedian on a service such as Pandora and listen while working out. Listening to a good podcast interview or a great comedy routine is an easy way to engage the brain, which means it’s not as focused on the physical work you’re performing. It can also make the time feel as though it’s moving faster, which can help you to log distance or volume.
7. Agility drills
If you’re looking for a fun way to get in a good cardio workout without the repetition of linear running, agility drills are a great option. Examples of agility drills include low- to moderate-intensity movements such as high knees, backpedaling, lateral shuffling or multidirection cone drills, all of which can be done with or without additional equipment such as resistance bands. Pick an open, flat surface, set up a few cones and you’ve got everything you need for a fun and challenging agility workout.
8. Take a hike
If you live in an area with access to a good trail system, investing in a comfortable pair of hiking boots and a hydration pack can provide you with a great option for aerobic endurance training without the repetitive stress of running. Hiking up and down steep hills challenges your body while you experience the benefits of being out in nature (of which there are many). If you have children, hiking is a great way to make exercise an activity the entire family can enjoy together.
9. Gamify running
If you’re the type of person who loves to play games, find an app that adds a competitive or playful element to your workouts. Zombies, Run!, for example, is an interactive app that creates the sounds of being chased by the undead, which can be a highly motivating way to make your run more challenging. Even if you’re not a fan of zombie culture, there are other apps that can help you gamify your run—a few searches should help you find the right ones for your interests.
Aerobic training is an important component of a well-rounded exercise program. Both steady-state workouts, such as trail running, and interval training, such as sprints or hills, can provide important health benefits, while also improving your aerobic capacity. And remember, for optimal safety and enjoyment, make sure you stay well-hydrated and pay attention to your surroundings.