The worst thing about running 10 miles or more is not exhaustion or pain or heat. It is boredom. As much as runners crave that sense of accomplishment at the end of the run, putting one step in front of the other over and over can become monotonous during long distance runs. The combination of boredom and fatigue can cause a runner to delay potential runs, starting that deadly cycle of procrastination which has destroyed countless training plans.
Variety is the spice of life, and runners starting to get bored need to change up their routines and find new ways to keep spirits high when those remaining miles feel like an eternity. Here are some suggestions.
Listen to something (not necessarily music)
I am not much of a fan of running with music. The swells of emotion created by a song often end up out of sync with where I am in a run. It can be bizarre to hear some pump it up song playing when I am winding things down.
But there is no doubt that music can be a great motivator, as Runner’s World points out that music can distract athletes from the boredom of exercise. And I do sometimes enjoy listening to podcasts or audio books instead. They are educational and do not interfere with the rhythm of a run.
If you have stubbornly refused all audio material, consider giving it a try to see how it may positively affect your run and keep you distracted. And if you listen to just music, consider switching to audio books or podcasts.
Change your Environment
Just as some runners look down on those who wear headphones, others look down on those who run in an air conditioned gym instead of outdoors. Running primarily on a treadmill is a quick path towards boredom. All too often, you find yourself staring at that clock on the treadmill, counting down the minutes and miles left like a student at the end of a school day. This is a surefire way to cause an accident on the fitness equipment you’re using, leading to a potential lawsuit for the gym.
But that does not just mean that treadmill runners should all go outside. Outdoor runners should also consider running on a treadmill sometimes for a change of pace and to better track their running.
Running on a treadmill does not have to be easier. A study reported by the BBC noted that running on a 1% gradient “could adequately compensate for the extra effort of running outdoors.”
Run with Friends
Man is a social animal at heart, and there are so many benefits to running with someone else. What becomes an isolated run with nothing but you and your thoughts can turn into a social hour. Furthermore, running with a partner makes it more difficult to cheat and end a run a half mile early, and there is the competitive aspect.
Of course, you need to find a good running friend. Such a friend would ideally be experienced and optimistic, and have a flexible schedule so you can easily arrange a joint run. If you do not have a good running buddy, look for a training or running group nearby as an alternative. This may offer less camaraderie and flexibility than running with a partner, but remains a good way to socialize.
The idea of running and meditating at the same time may sound bizarre, but any good runner has experienced that Zen-like state where you are barely thinking beyond putting one step in front of the other. Meditation is essentially attempting to actually reach that state consciously.
The key is to focus on something like your breathing, your footsteps or the environment. Not your pain or how many steps you have to go, but on your inner self. Through meditation, you can hopefully realize that you run not to attain some goal but for the simple joy of running.
Boredom is fundamentally a state of mind, and you can change that state of mind by changing your inner thoughts, breathing deeply and meditating.
Don’t be Afraid to Stop
Sometimes, nothing may seem to work out and you may find yourself hating the idea of getting up to run another 10 miles. That can be a warning sign that you are approaching burnout, which Psychology Today points out can affect your entire personal and professional life beyond running.
Burnout is not just a mental state, but can also be a physical warning that your body is not recovering adequately and is deficient somewhere. If you are continually exhausted, you may need to go to a doctor and take a temporary step back from running.
This does not mean a temporary step back from exercise. Change activities to something like swimming or a team sport for a short bit. But do not just tough things out and think that an extra day or two of rest will instantly transform you into a couch potato.
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