By Jennifer Ward Barber
Have enough 5K medals to adorn a Christmas tree? Keep things fresh by introducing variety into your race schedule. Not only will the events below ensure that smiles are as plentiful as aid stations, they’re guaranteed to inject new playfulness into your training. So go ahead, indulge your inner kid—your running will never be the same.
1. Join a running group
A group of like-minded—and fleet-footed—companions can take your running from ho-hum to fun. While it’s good to be able to go the distance solo, every runner can benefit from group workouts. Having to be somewhere will ensure that you don’t procrastinate and skip your workout, the group dynamic will distract you from discomfort and mental fatigue, and even the subtlest of competitive environments will have you logging faster intervals than you’d likely do on your own.
2. Hit the dirt
If the track is a speed-seeker’s best friend, the trail is the perfect antidote to business as usual. The varied terrain will help activate your stabilizer muscles as well as provide natural cushioning, and having to look out for roots, rocks, and wildlife will help you mentally disassociate from your workout.
3. Become a Ragnar-ian
The wildly popular Ragnar relay series blends summer camp-like antics and street festival energy. Oh yeah, and running. Ragnar’s family of 200-mile relay races are spread throughout the country, so you can choose one that’s close by or one that caters to a more adventurous spirit. It might sound crazy, but spread between 12 runners (6 if ultrarunning is more your thing), it’s totally doable. You’ll run in odd outfits, down random roads, and at hilarious hours–the perfect cure for a case of the running blahs. Visit RagnarRelay.com for more details, route maps, and training tips.
4. Try a triathlon
Are your sneakers (and spirit) tired of the pounding? Make it a triple, and sign up for a sprint or Olympic-distance triathlon (two of the shorter options on the tri market). Swimming and cycling are both low-impact disciplines that offer benefits far beyond creative cross-training. Triathlon training and racing can help add playfulness and competition to your routine, and who knows, you just might catch the bug.
5. Sign up for a theme race
Whether it’s the Color Run, a Tough Mudder, a Rock ‘n Roll event, or the Wine Glass Marathon in Bath, New York, the lastest obstacles to regular old running (literally) encompass a wide range of wacky activities. Family-friendly and boredom-proof, theme races erase the “should” element of exercise and fitness and remind us of why we like to move: because it’s just plain fun.
Jennifer Ward is a Southern California-based blogger and triathlete. Follow her racing and DIY adventures at thehippietriathlete.com.