Spice up your running routine with nine fun things to do while running.
When running begins to feel like a chore, there are countless ways to make it more interesting. You might vary the location, vary your running routine, hire a personal trainer, or buy new running shoes, for example. Sometimes the best way to stay motivated is to find another activity you love that you can do while you run.
Here are nine fun ways to multitask your run and get benefits beyond raising your heart rate, regardless of your training program or fitness level.
1. Listen to Music
Most people already listen to music at least some of the time while running. You probably have a running playlist that bores you out of your mind. Get out of that rut and use music to shake up your routine.
One option is to listen to music that is totally outside of your comfort zone. If you normally listen to country, try Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. If you normally listen to classic rock, try some Beyoncé. Expose yourself to enough new things and eventually, you’ll find something, you unexpected love.
Another option is to use your run as an opportunity to study music in a way you haven’t before. If a musician you know has a couple of songs you love or a deep catalog, use your runs as an opportunity to become an expert on their lesser-known tracks.
Or consider learning more about a genre of music from outside of the United States, like K-Pop, or Dub music from Jamaica. This strategy will make your run as enriching for your brain as it is for your body.
2. Learn From Audiobooks
Sometimes when you aren’t enjoying running what you need is a distraction. Nothing works better than an engrossing story to transport your mind to a different place. Audiobooks are particularly great for longer runs because you can dive into the story.
You might want to restrict yourself to only listening to the audiobook while you run, so that it becomes an incentive to run more often and for longer. Used this way, audiobooks are ideal for marathon training.
You can pay for audiobooks through Audible.com (owned by Amazon), and the first time you download a book it is free. An even better option is to use your public library. Apps like Libby allow you to enter your library card to access the library’s whole catalog of audiobooks, for free.
You may be surprised at how many great books, both fiction and nonfiction, are available in audiobook form. If you aren’t sure where to start, you might try Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
3. Enjoy Podcasts
Podcasts, like audiobooks, come in many different flavors. There is, of course, the much-mocked panel of commentators format. However, you can also find investigative journalism, game shows, personal narratives, interviews, deep dives into fascinating rabbit holes, and fictional programs akin to old school radio dramas, complete with sound effects. There really is a podcast for everyone, no matter your tastes and interests.
Some people's meditation is something you only do when seated in the lotus position with your eyes closed, but the truth is that movement-based meditation is very traditional. That said, running meditatively is very different from typical running. A lot of the time, runners are entirely unmindful of the experience of running itself, focusing instead on our discomfort, our destination, our phones, or the distractions around us.
Start with a couple of minutes of seated, focused, closed-eye breathing before you start your warmup before you start running. During the run you want calm, quiet movement, taking each stride as gently and gracefully as possible. Notice the way each subpart of your foot feels as it makes contact with the ground. Thin-soled shoes that allow you to feel and grip the ground are preferable to thick-soled athletic shoes. Feel truly rooted to the earth with each step.
Look at the ground ahead of you with a soft, undistracted gaze. Focus on your steps and your posture and your breathing. Notice how many steps you take per breath and if it changes depending on the elevation. If your state of mind is unfocused, count your steps and let go of everything else. Consider using a mantra.
Meditation has countless benefits, from reducing anxiety and stress to helping you cope with pain and sleep better. What’s more, research shows that combining aerobic exercise and meditation can have huge benefits like reducing depression by increasing your control over your own mind and reducing harmful thought patterns.
Integrating meditation into your running will make your running more fun, but it will also benefit you for rest of your daily life.
5. Play GPS games
If you have a GPS watch or a phone you take running, there are a variety of games you can play to entertain yourself while running.
For example, you could try geocaching, which is like a scavenger hunt. Using a geocaching website, you identify GPS locations where geocachers have left token items in a public place for other people to find. Simply run to the location and replace a trinket hidden in the cache with one of your own.
Another option is Pokémon Go. While this was more popular a few years ago, it’s still an activity that gets people excited to explore new running routes. If you want to try a game but aren’t interested in Pokémon, you could try Zombies, Run!, a game where you are a survivor of the zombie epidemic… so far. The audio narrative integrates your run (and even your running speed) into your post-apocalyptic mission.
Another option is to use a GPS-based run tracker to create funny images. Design a running course that spells out a word or phrase, or that creates a line drawing of an animal, and share the image on social media for fun.
6. Complete a Destination Race
One low-tech option to gamify your run is to create your own destination-based game and learn something about your community while running. For example, you could set a goal of running to (and checking out) every mural or public statue in your hometown, or trail running in every state or federal park in your county.
If you have the funds and can travel safely, try a real destination race. There are tons of amazing destination options, from the Polar Night Half-Marathon in Norway to the Maui Half-Marathon in Hawaii.
You can use your running time as the first step towards writing the next great American novel. If a novel seems a little ambitious, you could work on a short story, an essay, or anything else.
Regardless of what you want to write, running is a good opportunity to think it through. You can brainstorm topics, construct an outline in your head, or think up witty dialogue and anecdotes to include.
Make sure you have a pen and paper waiting at the endpoint of your run, so that you can make notes as soon as you get home. If you’re particularly coordinated, and have good breath control, you could make notes as you run using a voice recorder app.
If you aren’t going to write creatively, you can still use the brainstorming time for other types of communication. If you have an important conversation coming up, or an important email to send, think through how you want to articulate your position.
Regardless of the subject matter, brainstorming it while you are in a flow state, and under the influence of endorphins, can allow you to think about things in new ways and find unexpected solutions.
If you’re used to solo running, maybe what you need to shake up your routine is to find running buddies. This could be an individual or even find a running community by joining running clubs.
Adding this social element will help, not only by offering a distraction in the form of conversation but by creating an accountability factor. You won’t skip your running plans in favor of some couch time if you know someone is waiting for you.
If running with other people isn’t your thing, consider a four-legged companion. If you can’t adopt a dog, many shelters have programs that allow you to take dogs running with you to get them more time out of the kennels. This makes the dogs less stressed, and more adoptable, so it’s a true win-win.
9. Support a Nonprofit
Sign up for a charity fundraiser 5k or another run organized by a local nonprofit. Your entry fee will support a good cause. Some allow you to fundraise even more by gathering pledges, and give prizes for top fundraisers, but often that is just an option, not required for participation. Ask your employer if they’ll match your fundraising efforts to make an even bigger impact.
Another upside of this option is that many charity runs give you access to a totally new environment for your run. Some charity runs allow you to run in a location you couldn’t otherwise access, such as the Refuse to Abuse 5k, where the course goes through exclusive areas of Safeco Field in Seattle.
Fun Things To Do While Running: The Bottom Line
Sometimes greater focus and mindfulness will dramatically improve your run, while other times what you need is a distraction to help you cross the finish line. Multitasking while running can increase your motivation, improve your state of mind, make you a better runner, teach you something new, and even serve your community, all while you get some great cardio.