Get Off the Beaten Path
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Changing your running routine can bring big benefits

Even if you love your usual running routes, there is a lot of benefit to switching things up every now and then. If you’re like me, you know every aspect of your regular jaunts—from how the light looks as the seasons change, to the names of dogs you encounter along the way and whose dinner smells the most appealing on a cold, dark night.

As runners, we may be creatures of habit, but if your pace is lagging or you’re not excited to get out the door, you could stuck on a plateau because you’re bored. Navigating new street crossings and landmarks or figuring out which way to go on the trail, could be just the mental stimulation your need to keep runs stimulating. That’s not to say you shouldn’t run your favorite routes, but there’s great value in adding a few more options to your rotation.

Recently, I decided to try a new trail. Not only was the trail unfamiliar, I opted to sleep under the stars the night before my run in order to get an early start the next day. I have camped overnight by myself (occasionally), but heading out to a desert wash, alone, in a fairly remote area of Utah was a new kind of adventure. Of course I arrived at night (not recommended), and yes, I did let a couple people know where I was going. I fretted about a bit, checked and double-checked my gear and eventually turned off my headlamp. In the darkness I was finally able to relax and appreciate the vast star-filled sky and get excited for the run.

Morning came early because the local mosquitoes where eager for fresh blood. I slept in my running gear, so all I needed to do was pull on my shoes, grab a bar and a water bottle and get moving. The trail was fairly well marked, but I was still cautious, perhaps overly so, not to miss a cairn, making sure I could spot the next before continuing. The run itself was beautiful, passing through sandy washes, over weather worn slickrock and by ancient rock art before reaching the crest of a massive ridge. My sunrise timing was spot on and when I turned to head back to the trailhead, my nerves were calm, I knew the way to go and I had a greater sense of accomplishment than from all the runs I logged in the previous month. That’s a lot of positives for a 4-mile run! Plus, I had renewed appreciation for the fresh coffee and a hot breakfast I enjoyed on the way home.

You don’t have to go to the desert (unless you already call it home!) to reap the benefits of mixing up your run. It can be as uncomplicated as running at a different time of day, going in the opposite direction on your daily loop or trying a new to you race distance. Find someone new to run with, join a running store run, organize a running happy hour at a pub. Do something—anything!—different a couple of days a week and you’ll reap the benefits of the change. Who knows?! You might discover a fresh reason to love running in the process.

Allison Pattillo

Motiv Running senior editor Allison Pattillo writes about running, health, nutrition, gear and travel from her home in Colorado. When it comes to gear, she’s a fan of tall running socks, short running skirts and wearing her hat backwards. Even with a BQ and a few podium finishes (all triathlons should be run, bike, canoe!), Allison finds more inspiration from running in beautiful places and exploring on the run instead of the numbers on a stopwatch. She looks forward to the day when she finds her ultimate running dog, which, at this point, may be more bulldog than border collie.