Most runners would agree running is more than just a way to keep fit; it’s a way of life. But it’s easy to get caught up in a routine that can seem to drain the joy from this essentially simple sport.
Add together a desire learn more about the sport you love with access to the internet and pretty soon you’ll be loaded up with gadgets and training plans designed to ‘improve’ your running before you can say ‘fartlek and interval training’.
That’s not to say intervals don’t have their place, but whether we were born to do it or we just learned to love it somewhere along the way, it’s worth taking a step back to revisit your goals, check for injury or niggles, think about your motivation and, if it’s starting to feel a bit like a chore, find a way to rediscover your passion for running.
A change is as good as a rest
Changing things up can be a great way to rediscover the passion and give the mind and the body something fresh and new to focus on.
But changing things up doesn’t just mean throwing in a bit of speed work once a week if you’ve spent the last six months doing the same run every other day.
Start simply, with a new route; something scenic if you can. It doesn’t sound like much but runners are creatures of habit, and these days they are busy creatures of habit. It’s easy to lose sight of the pleasure of simply being outside and running in the quest to log another 10km run for the week.
Don’t be a slave to your gadgets. How often have you found yourself at the beginning of a run frantically waving your wrist around trying to get a satellite signal?
Regain your dignity and make one run a week a ‘naked’ run. Be brave pick a new route and guess the distance. Run it again with your watch on to see how close you were.
The next time you are running your regular 5km time trial or your local Saturday parkrun leave the watch at home and run to feel. You might surprise yourself in terms of the effort you are willing to put in without a pace guide on your wrist.
If you never run hills throw some in on your next run. Make it a fartlek session: fast and short. They’ll be over before you realise how hard it is.
Or do your next set of 400s on the grass at the local park, and take off your shoes and socks. It won’t necessarily turn you into a barefoot runner but the feel of cool grass under your feet is bound to bring a smile to your face. Just make sure it’s not the dog park!
Bitumen is boring
Most people live in cities so it stands to reason that most runners run in cities. And that tends to mean running on concrete or asphalt. If you are lucky you might have a grass oval nearby or a regular route with a generous grassy verge but it’s not the norm.
Getting out of the concrete jungle and doing some green exercise is good for both your mind and your body. You might also find you work harder without out realising it.
Participants in a 2012 study by the University of Essex into the impact of the colour green on exercise reported lower mood disturbance and lower levels of perceived exertion compared to other colours.
But you probably don’t need a study to tell you that. A run free from pedestrians, dogs, buggies, traffic light stops, traffic, and all the other urban obstacles runners face daily is always going to put you in a better mood. But it takes a bit of effort so even if it’s not a regular thing, the occasional off-road trip can be worth it.
It might also just make you a better on-road runner since training on different surfaces has also been shown to boost performance and help manage injury. And since you generally have to run slower on trails you can let your body dictate a comfortable pace without being a slave to time.
Practice makes perfect
Runner’s goals tend to be mostly about time and distance. Running at a certain speed for a certain distance is the foundation of pretty much all training programs. Whilst the distance and speed might vary depending on the goal the underlying premise doesn’t.
But if you’ve ever been to a yoga class then you’ll have some understanding of the idea that function, form and practice can also be at the heart of any activity designed to enhance health and wellbeing.
Whether its understanding how running posture impacts on performance, or how to breathe in a way that maximises oxygen intake, thinking about how you run, as well as how far or fast you run, can make you a better runner.
So the next time you are surfing the net for your latest 10km training program drop in on some sites that talk about form and function during running.
Incorporate some of the techniques into one of your weekly runs. It could be rhythmic breathing or simply making sure your shoulders are relaxed and your hands unclenched for the whole run. Pick one and focus on it, note whether the technique or your run gets easier.
Even experienced runners need to go back to basics once in a while and it could be the start of a greater awareness of your running body.
Awareness or mindfulness is often touted as the antidote to modern life but it can bring an unexpected element of meditation to your daily run. Try running in sync with your breath and run lightly, with less redundant movement of your arms and head. Aim to feel less like you are fighting your body as you run.
Relax, run tall and smile, you’ve just rediscovered the joy of running.
Article by Rachael McKinney, 2015.
 Akers, A, Barton, J, Cossey, R , Gainsford, P, Griffin, M, and Micklewright, D, 2012 Visual Color Perception in Green Exercise: Positive Effects on Mood and Perceived Exertion. School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, United Kingdom