There is a strange phenomenon that takes place during pretty much every Rogue Expeditions trip: apprehensive runners show up telling us that they haven’t been running much lately due to injury or workload or a total lack of motivation, and then proceed to run one of their highest mileage weeks ever on challenging, unfamiliar terrain and somehow wake up every day feeling great and ready for more! This happens on every. single. trip.
There are a number of factors in play here – the removal of daily responsibilities and stressors, great meals, full nights of sleep, no pace pressure, good company – but ultimately the driving force behind this phenomenon is the escape from routine. At home, going running is often about ‘getting it in’ or logging a specific number of miles or minutes on your watch. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when covering ground becomes one of your many routine tasks, enthusiasm is bound to suffer. When someone finds themselves on a running trip, however, there is no routine. Each day features a new plan, a new destination, new food, a new structure and it’s all constantly flexing to meet the needs of the group as a whole. The reason for running suddenly ceases to be about data points or the finish line, but instead about seeing things that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. Of course you want to get out there and experience as much of it as possible!
While normal life will never be quite like running trip life (#goals), there are ways to weave this concept into the everyday. Here are a few suggestions for disrupting your routine and keeping the magic alive on a daily basis:
Pick an event, and make a plan: This is the oldest advice in the book, but far too many people still go it alone and don’t do anything more than step out their door and run the same route at the same pace over and over again. Choosing a goal – whether it be an organized race, a personal fitness milestone or a running trip – creates purpose, and a training plan (ideally designed by a coach who knows what they’re doing) is a day-to-day manifestation of that purpose. Some days are for increasing distance, some are for developing speed, others are for recovery; suddenly there is a reason for getting out the door each day, and the variety in workout styles keeps you mentally engaged. If you’ve never taken a chance on a coach or a training program, do it!
Run your errands (literally): Maybe you need to return a library book or hit the ATM or drop off something that you borrowed from a friend; throw on a hydration pack for storage and go get it all done on foot! You end up with a brand new route, a few items checked off your to-do list and a brain that is engaged with a task rather than bored by aimless miles.
Be impractical: Maybe your go-to route is the best way to maximize the time that you have to run, but is it maximizing your sense of discovery? Go somewhere new, even if the drive is further, and do it on a totally impractical day, like a Tuesday. Let yourself be inefficient, even if it means cutting mileage down or having to get a bit creative with when and where to clean up afterward. The fulfillment you’ll get from experiencing something brand new on an otherwise routine day is worth every bit of impracticality – don’t overthink this, just try it!
Ditch the watch: Seriously, do it. Go out to a trail, any trail, and run until you don’t feel like running anymore. Stop to smell the flowers, soak your legs in the river and take all of the side trails. With no numbers to look at, you’ll find yourself looking – really looking! - at the world around you and paying real attention to how your body feels. Maybe you’ll run far or maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll run fast or maybe you won’t – either way, no one will know and no one will care. That’s truly running free!
Act like a tourist: During a running trip, sightseeing happens on foot and nearly everyone runs with a phone or camera to capture it all. While I don’t endorse looking at the world solely through a camera lens, going in with the idea of seeing new things and documenting them immediately turns the run into an exploration mission. So, why not do the same at home? Look up a top-10 list for visitors to your city (as a local, chances are that you haven’t seen half of them) then create a route that hits the highlights. You’ll be amazed at how many sights you typically overlook (and how the miles fly by!).
Don’t run: Personally, I don’t schedule my off days. I run most every day, but every once in awhile I just can’t seem to get myself out the door. I stall, drink one more cup of coffee, then another, staring at my shoes and bargaining with myself until the window to get going has gone. There was a time when I’d feel guilty about this and then spend all day obsessing over how and when I’ll get that run in, but I’ve since learned that best cure is to simply not go running. When your mind, body and/or schedule are telling you no, the best thing to do is listen. Maybe it becomes a complete off day, maybe you bike commute or maybe you go for a hike instead (yes, other activities can give you that endorphin fix), but, as any injured runner knows, there is no better way to get excited about running again than by taking some time away from it.
Paulo Coelho nailed it when he wrote “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” Few things feed the soul like new experiences and yet few things are tougher to break than routine. Use these suggestions as a way to mix it up on the running front, and see what happens; chances are that your miles will become more enjoyable, your mind will clear and you’ll soon find yourself approaching other areas of your life with an adventurer’s mindset!