10 ways to inject some fun into your training sessions
Love running again
When you’re slogging uphill or gritting your teeth during your final mile rep, the words ‘running’ and ‘fun’ aren’t always synonymous. If you’ve lost the love a little lately and are struggling to find your running mojo, check the following ways to inject some fun back into your run.
Run with others
Training on your own can, at times, be soul destroying, particularly during the dark and cold winter months. You can find yourself struggling to get out of the door and counting down the minutes during a run. However, training with company can be a game-changer. Not only does it make tough sessions more enjoyable; the positive peer pressure can push you to do hit splits that would be difficult to do solo.
Ditch the watch
Many runners are guilty of becoming slaves to their watches. Constant analysis of your splits during training can create unnecessary pressure which then draws the fun and enjoyment out of running. Why not try some runs where you run ‘naked’ (not literally of course!). Ditch your watch and head out of the door for as little or as long as you like. You’ll be amazed at how liberating it feels not to be dictated to by a small device on your wrist!
Run somewhere new
Runners tend to be creatures of habit. More often than not we have a tendency to run the same routes, most probably due to a combination of routine and convenience. However varying your routes can be both mentally and physically stimulating and can certainly increase the fun factor. So why not break the monotony and try running somewhere different?
Play a game
Incorporating a game or two into a long run is a fantastic way to distract your mind from mileage monotony. Whether it’s an impromptu game of ‘I Spy’ or some trivia questions, a silly game will make your run a little more light hearted and you’ll be amazed at how much quicker the time passes. For more serious gamers you can even download the Zombies Run app to listen and play along to.
The prospect of doing a tough session or a long run on your own isn’t much fun. However it’s worth considering if you can use any low-key, local races as training sessions or as part of a long run. Whilst having company will make the session far more enjoyable, you’ll need to be a little disciplined and suppress the urge to race at an ‘eyeballs out’ effort though as you may otherwise dig yourself a hole.
Visualisation is a key psychological tool used by many elite athletes to help them achieve peak performance. This means that they ‘mentally picture’ themselves performing successfully in their event. There’s no reason why you can’t use the same technique to help you to push through those tough training sessions and to inject a little fun at the same time. Why not picture yourself running alongside one of your favourite athletes during an interval session or a long run? Simply allow your mind to daydream and see where it takes you!
Running intervals in different ways helps to keep training fresh and exciting. Splitting regular time or distance intervals up into different segments and paces can provide a new physiological stimulus which will boost your fitness as well helping to make the session fly by. For example, if your standard interval session is 5 x 1200m then you could try the following combinations:
400m steady/400m fast/400m steady
600m fast/200m steady/400m fast
3 x 400m with each 400m run progressively faster than the last
300m steady/300m fast/300m steady/300m fast
Train with tunes
If you’re feeling a little tired or demotivated then training with music can be a great way to put the spring back into your step and a smile on your face. Research has shown that music can positively influence your mental state by lifting your mood and distracting you from the sensations of effort and fatigue.
If you’re training with other runners of differing abilities then you could employ a handicap system for harder workouts so that you’re still able to train together. The slowest runner starts each effort or interval first and the remaining runners should stagger their start times according to their predicted pace/finish times. If calculated correctly you should all finish each interval at roughly the same time.
Run point to point
If you fancy a fun-filled run with a change of scenery then why not try running from point to point instead of your usual circular route? You could even pop some money in your pocket and enjoy a coffee and some cake when you’ve finished. Then you may need to ask a friend or loved one nicely to pick you up!
Written by Louise Damen
Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.