5 Ways Out of a Running Rut

I’m deep in a running rut. Between the ever-unspooling pandemic (why? how?) and the waning days of summer with young kids at home, I’m (to quote young summertime kids everywhere) so bored.

In the interest of saving time, I almost always run from home. But at this point I’ve been up the hill, down the hill, to the east, to the west, around my favorite loop, past the school, through the park trail, just . . . everywhere. Dozens of times.

My brain is bored, my body is bored, and I can feel aches and pains increasing, probably because I’m running similar distances on similar terrain repeatedly. I sense a deep need to shake things up.

Perhaps you, like me, could do with a little change of pace? Here is some of what I’d like to try.

Meet a Friend

It’s harder to be bored with a buddy. When the conversation is flowing, it matters less if you’ve already run the current route countless times before. And, bonus, your friend very likely has some routes in their back pocket that aren’t part of your usual repertoire.

Plus, you’ll likely shake up your pace a bit—your pal might go a bit faster or slower than you do, or prefer a different distance. This is great: It mixes things up for your over-it brain and your bored/sore muscles, provides catch-up time with a friend, and makes your run something to enjoy rather than slog through.

Try a Running Club

Like running with a friend—a lot of friends. A running club gives you a whole pool of people who all enjoy the same activity you do. Plus joining a club takes away some of the mental work, telling you what routes to run and when. Anything that brings new people and places into your life is a win.

Group of runners on a paved trail in a treed park.
Get out of a running rut: Join a running group to vary your workouts and routine. // Photo: Shutterstock

Sign Up for a New Race or a New Distance

Always do the same annual 10K, Turkey Trot, or marathon? Make things interesting by registering for something new. Committed to half marathons? Sign up for a 5K or mile race.

Regularly do 10Ks? How about a sprint triathlon or a marathon relay? Need an adventure? Try a long-distance relay or an ultra trail race.

You might discover you’re really good—or really bad, which is exciting in its own way—at something you’ve never before considered.

Look for a New Route

Take one day a week and commit to driving to a new starting point: a trail run at Riverside State Park, a circuit that takes you around a series of neighborhood parks on the other side of town, or a hilly off-road adventure up Mica Peak.

Your mind will appreciate the new location, and your body will be grateful for any variation in terrain.

Take Some Time Off

Just because you’re a runner doesn’t mean you can’t ever take a break. If you’re sick of running, you don’t have to force it. Rest.

Do something else you love—hike, bike, swim, play some disc golf. Sign up for a yoga class, or a climbing package at Wild Walls or Bloc Yard. Focus on strength training. (See “Become a Better Runner with Yoga” and “Five Beginner Yoga Poses for Runners.”)

Or just dial your mileage way, way down to maybe one or two days of running each week (depending on what is your normal). Any new activities you attempt during this time—SUPping, or martial arts, or spinning, or tap dancing—are providing something for you through their very different-ness.

Originally published as “Running Rut Remedy” in the September-October 2021 issue.

Photos: (top left) Running at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. (top left) // Jon Jonckers; Running Club (top right); Spokane’s High Drive Bluff (bottom left); Mica Peak trails. // Holly Weiler; Spokane running clubs (bottom right).

To learn about Northwest running clubs, visit the OTO archives.

Find more Run Wild columns here.

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