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11 Fun Ways to Spice Up Your Running Goals

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Even if you love running, sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated to keep progressing and actually enjoy it. Eventually, it just feels like hard work. When it feels easier to give up than to lace up your shoes every morning, it’s time to set some fun running goals to liven up your routine. Here are 7 great fun running goals to add to your list.

1) Step Up Your Regular Running Goals

2) For a Week, End Your Warm Up or Cool Down with a Dance Party

3) Run with a Friend Once a Week or More

4) Run in a New Location Once a Week or More

5) Join or Start a Virtual Race

6) Signup for an Official Race

7) Give Yourself a Reward

8) Find New Music, Podcasts, and Audiobooks to Listen to

9) Watch Running Documentaries and Movies

10) Take a Break

11) Buy Some New Running Clothes

No matter if you’re a beginning or seasoned runner, these spicy suggestions are a great way to liven up goals at every skill level. Heck, these can be adapted for walking as well. All you need is a sense of humor, a bit of silliness, and a willingness to smile a bit when you’re out on the roads. Save this list and return to it whenever you need something new to add to your running schedule. 

1) Set New Regular Running Goals...That Are More Fun

This might seem silly, but sometimes our goals just aren’t working for us. Old, stale goals can be a reason why we get bored and don’t progress. It can be really tough to get out the door and work towards something that feels uninspiring and bleh. 

You may not have even realized that your goals are a problem and that you aren’t fun with them anymore. We all expect running to be hard and challenging. Doesn’t this mental anguish come along with the game? Well, not always. As a runner, you’ll go through hard and challenging times, but you should ultimately enjoy it and find it meaningful at the end of the day. Take some time to think about whether your goals are actually working for you or if they need an adjustment.

One thing to think about is whether your goals are a little too advanced right now.

It can be really mentally demoralizing to work and work and work towards a goal and feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.

Or, moving at a snail’s pace. This could be a sign that your goal is too big. 

You don’t have to give up your big goal, but try breaking it into chunks so that you’re inserting some more frequent accomplishment and reward points. So, if your goal is to run a marathon, sign up for some 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. Get out there and cross a few finish lines! Races are fun, inspiring, motivating, invigorating, and all of those great words. Achieving goals are all those things as well. Run a few races, crush some goals and you’ll find that your running goals become a lot more fun. 

Also, make sure that you’re working towards the right goal. You’ll have no fun training for a marathon if your heart is actually set on a half marathon. Forget the glitz and glamor of the social media posts of people accomplishing their goals. Those of their goals, not yours. No matter how great it looks from the other side, a goal is only as meaningful as you make it out to be. What type of running makes you tick? Fast sprints? Long ultras? Figure out what you actually want to achieve in your running life and you’ll find out that your running goals become a lot more fun.

2) For a Week, End Your Warm Up or Cool Down with a Dance Party

There’s nothing like a dance party to lighten the mood and make a run more fun. Don’t worry, no one has to see it. You can still have a great dance party in the privacy of your garage or closet. Hey, pantries even work if you aren’t tempted by the cookies. Find a place in your house where you feel safe to dance like crazy and just go for it. That said, if you like dancing with your family and they’re willing to join you, get everyone involved in your daily dance party.

We can get really serious about our running, which has its place, but also can suck the fun and joy out of it if we aren’t careful. Warm up, run, crush our goals, cool down, get on with the day. All work and no play, we all know how that ends. Having a quick dance party gives you a chance to just let loose and be silly for a few minutes. You may find that it’s something that you actually look forward to before or after each run.

Dance parties aren’t just fun, they can also boost your well-being. In a study about the benefits of exercise, participants took part in ice skating, aerobic exercise, body conditioning, and hip-hop dancing. At the end, they found that those who participated in aerobics and hip-hop dancing rated higher levels of well-being (source). So, take the mood boosting effects of running and add them to the positive impacts of dancing and you’re looking at a good day ahead of you. 

Pick a favorite song, find a place in your house to let loose, and just have some fun dancing. 

3) Run with a Friend Once a Week or More

There’s nothing like friends to motivate you, give you a break from your stale playlist, and kick your butt on a run. When you run with a friend, you naturally adopt a sense of accountability. If you suddenly decide to give up, you’re not only ruining your own run, but your friend’s as well. If you’ve been struggling to stay motivated, ask a friend to join you and push you to get out the door every day. 

Friends aren’t only good for accountability, they’re also a good source of distraction when the going gets tough. I’ve been out on runs and realized that I went farther and longer just because I was interested in what my friend was saying. You might want to figure out who your chatty running friends who always seem to have some wild story to tell are. These people might be annoying when you’re trying to get work done in the office, but they might be perfect as a running buddy. “Hey Patricia, hold that story for our afternoon run, would ya?”

Running groups can be a great way to find a LOT of running friends. This takes the fun to the next level, as you’re suddenly in a running community that goes out together to hit the pavement. A lot of running groups train for races together, get uniforms, and develop really strong bonds. Running groups also make your life easier from a logistical standpoint since they often have set times for their weekly runs. 

4) Run in a New Location Once a Week or More

There’s that fence with the missing board. Oh, look, that person parked their car in a different spot. Here comes the hill I dread. Does any of this sound familiar?

Running in the same location over and over and over again can get really old. After you’ve been running for years, you’ve probably run some of the same routes hundreds of times. There are some running routes that I’m so familiar with that I know the individual cracks in the road in certain places. 

There’s nothing that can spice up your running faster than changing the scenery. New sights, smells, speed bumps; it can make a difference in how mentally bored you get during your run.

This is why I LOVE to run when I travel. It’s an amazing way to get lost and explore a new city. My dad is the same way and, when I was a kid, would often return to the hotel room with an itinerary based on all of the cool things he discovered while he was running. It’s almost like you get an insider’s pass to the neighborhoods, parks, and little quirks that may not be at the top of the tourism list, but are local treasures that are worth seeing. 

If you don’t have time to take a full blown vacation, running in a new location can be a good excuse for a day trip. Maybe you drive an hour to the coast for a beach run and a picnic with the family. Maybe there’s a brewery you’ve always wanted to go to and you use your need to run in a new location as an excuse to head in that direction. Make a day of it if possible. Bring friends and family along and tell them to hang tight while you run. Afterwards, have some fun. Not only will you get to run through a new location, you’ll also be motivated to finish your run and head to the festivities.

5) Join or Start a Virtual Race

Virtual races are all the rage these days…and for good reason! Official races can be really expensive and they aren’t always at the times or locations you want. Virtual races let you have a race experience without the hassle. Organizations like Virtual Run Events make it really fun. Often for less than $25, you can get an awesome medal and bib for any type of themed race you can imagine, ranging from Star Wars to unicorns. These virtual races can be a fun way to have some fun with racing without having to wait for an actual race.

If you want a really hassle-free option, you can get a few friends together and call it a race. Make signs, t-shirts, medals, and everything else you would normally get for race. Even grab a few bananas for that classic, post-race treat. Even though your time won’t be officially logged, there’s nothing stopping you from having your own races. This can get a great way to shake up your normal running routine and make it a bit more fun.

6) Signup for an Official Race

Virtual races can be really great for some people but, for others, they don’t offer the same energy or spirit. Unless you get a group together, you’re running on your own without the cheering fans and hoopla. For me, the hoopla is what I love about racing to begin with. Alright, so if you’re like me and virtual races don’t float your boat, go find an official race that appeals to you. You may have to drive a bit and wait a month or two, but races are happening everywhere, ALL the time. 

Remember how we talked about breaking your large goals into smaller chunks in #1? Races give you a great opportunity to do that. If you’re training for a marathon, go run an official half marathon at some point in your training. Personally, I love throwing a few races into my training routine so that I always have something fun and exciting to look forward to. It always helps me remember the excitement of crossing finish lines and reconnect with why I run in the first place. After a race, I’m naturally more energized when I return to my regular training. I don’t know, there’s just something magical about it.

Can I Walk a Marathon Without Training?

7) Give Yourself a Reward

Yep, we’re going back to our elementary school days when we would do almost anything for a sticker. I think we assume that the love of rewards dies out after childhood or only lives in the casinos. In reality, our brains are wired for pleasure and reward. Even though this can cause a lot of problems, it can also be used to our advantage. 

First, let’s talk about mid-run rewards. These types of rewards can serve as instant motivation and energy since they’re frequent and don’t require you to wait until you’re back home. I vary the timing of my mid-run rewards depending on how much of a struggle I’m having that day. If I’m having a really rough go of it and having a hard time persevering from one mile to the next, I’ll make my rewards more frequent, even as short as 5 minutes apart. On the other hand, if I’m having a good day, I might only need one reward or two.

Mid-run rewards can be anything from changing up your music or podcast to eating an energy gummy. Sometimes, a reward can be as simple as giving yourself a mental high five for reaching the end of the street or the next lamp post. Whatever you choose as your reward, make sure it’s actually reward-worthy for you. A reward doesn’t work if it’s something you don’t value. 

Personally, switching through to a new playlist, audiobook, or podcast is my favorite way to give myself a mid-run reward. I’ll often give myself a distance goal, whether it be a certain mileage or a familiar landmark. Once I hit that spot, I put on my favorite song or an audiobook I’ve been craving. The key to a mid-run reward is to make it something novel. If you’ve been listening to the same song over and over again, it might not have the same power as a song you’ve been depriving yourself from in anticipation of that moment. The same goes for an audiobook or podcast. Make sure it’s not something you always allow yourself access to. These mid-run rewards can really liven them up and keep them exciting.

Post-run rewards are a great way to turn your running into a game. And who doesn’t love games? The time span for earning your reward is up to you and depends on how big you plan your reward to be. If your reward is a weekend vacation, logistically, you’ll want more time to earn that reward than a trip to the movies. Again, make sure that you choose a reward you actually value. 

Once you have an idea for a reward, think about how often you need to earn a reward in order to keep it fun for you. Weekly? Monthly? You can even earn daily rewards if it’s something simple like watching 10 minutes of your favorite TV show. 

Next, you’ll want to decide how you’ll earn the reward. Is there a certain pace you have to hit? A maximum number of times you can stop? Simply getting out the door and running? Put together all of the pieces of your reward system and feel free to adjust if needed. 

As runners, we all naturally love rewards. Heck, we’re willing to go through a lot of pain for the reward of finishing a race and getting a t-shirt. Continue to use your brain’s reward system to your advantage during training runs and you’ll start to enjoy your runs more.

8) Find New Music, Podcasts, and Audiobooks to Listen to

Even the biggest ABBA lover will eventually start getting tired of ABBA. Even though this is obvious, a lot of runners make running playlists and then never update them or clean them out. It’s always important to remember that the stuff that motivated you last month may not motivate you the next. Always be on the lookout for new material to listen to that can keep your brain entertained while you’re out on your run. 

For music, it’s a good idea to have multiple running playlists that you can cycle through. If you have 4 running specific playlists, you can switch between them once a month and only repeat one single playlist every four months. If four months isn’t enough time to make the music seem fresh again, rotate a few more running playlists in until you’re at a good number. You can go all the way up to 12 and only hear one playlist for one month out of the year. That’s definitely enough distance to keep it fresh!

For podcasts, even though the shows are new and fresh, you can get tired of the show overall. Sometimes, you just need a break from a certain host or topic. I’m always scouring the top podcast charts to see if there’s a new podcast that I can work into my mix. Deleting old ones and adding new ones, I’m usually subscribed to over podcasts at one time. I’m obsessed and I love it. Grab a new podcast and see if it adds some new flavor to your runs.

And, for audiobooks, I’m a huge Audible fan. If you’re looking for new audiobooks to freshen up a running routine, Audible will always have your back. 

9) Watch Running Documentaries and Movies

I recently watched the Breaking2 documentary on Disney+ about Eliud Kipchoge attempting to break the sub two marathon. Man, it was incredible. McFarland USA is another great choice about an underdog team of high school runners who try to make a name for themselves as athletes. Also incredible. 

Every time I watch a running documentary or movie, I fight the urge to sign up for another race. I often say that it’s risky to be swayed by the media. Watching inspiration stories, no matter how goodhearted they are, can lead you to sign up for races and set goals that aren’t in line with your needs. Yes, watching an ultra running documentary might look epic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be inspired to sign up for one. Movies are meant to tug on our emotions and there’s a big difference between sitting on your couch and watching the runners on your TV with a backdrop of inspirational music and actually running an ultra yourself. 

That said, if you already have your goals set in stone and you’re just looking for a boost in your running motivation, you could see a lot of benefit from watching a few running documentaries or movies. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Breaking2
  • McFarland, USA
  • Boston: The Documentary
  • Chariots of Fire
  • The Barkley Marathons
  • Spirit of the Marathon

10) Take a Break

If you read my post about my hypothalamic amenorrhea, you’ll know that I’ve taken long breaks from running in order to work on some health problems. Well, it only takes a week before I miss it and want to start running again.

If you’re feeling like your running goals need some new life, take a break from them and see if rest was the medicine they needed. You may realize that you were physically exhausted and didn’t realize it. Or that your brain needed a reset and you couldn’t tell until you actually stopped to take a breather. As runners, many of us rely on our routines so much that we forget that we need to take a break from them every once in a while. Even when we’re on vacation, most of us run! If professional runners take off seasons, casual runners can take 1 week off every once in a while. We all seem so allergic to it sometimes. 

During your week off, take the advice from #1 and do some self-reflection about whether your goals need to be adjusted. If your time off from running doesn’t help re-energize you, there may be some bigger issues with your goals and it’ll speed up the process if you have thought about it ahead of time. 

11) Buy Some New Running Clothes

I take after my dad and wear gross, old running clothes. To the dismay of both of our spouses, our closets have some nice name brand items in it but we always seem to prefer our old standards. I think we’re the only ones with this weird character trait though. 

A lot of people actually enjoy having new running clothes and actually enjoy wearing them. Who knew? If your running goals are growing a little stale and you have a little padding in your shopping budget, see if a new outfit will rejuvenate you. Hey, a lot of good can come from feeling stylish. 

If you don’t have extra money to spend on new clothes, work it into your reward system that we mentioned in #7. Find a pair of shorts or a new shirt and add it to your wishlist as a motivator. Or, do a clothing swap with a friend. Wearing clothes that feel new and fun to you doesn’t mean that they actually have to be new. You could have a great time with a clothing swap with your running buddy or running group. 

Adding some life and spice to your running goals doesn’t have to be hard. Basically, it’s just about doing something new, different, or silly. Figure out why your goals are turning stale and which strategy on this list would be the best at combating it. Whenever you need a pick-me-up, try a new strategy and see how it goes. All of these strategies are low risk and easy to implement. Give it a try. Who knows; you might just fall back in love with your running goals.

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