5 Simple Ways to Make Running Fun

A lot of people hate running. They see it as a chore, something they "have" to do, or as penance for the ice cream they had the night before. They find the act of running itself a hateful and painful experience and cannot fathom how some people claim to enjoy it. I've been in that position many times. After returning to running after a long break or illness, running can feel clunky and horrible. But once you have a baseline of fitness, running can be a lot of fun!

If you observe kids at the park (which is an ill-advised pass time for a childless, mid-twenties bloke like myself), they can have inordinate amounts of fun by literally just running around. No equipment needed! I think kids have got it figured out while us grown ups put all sorts of barriers up that ruin the fun of running.

Before we get into it, I do want to acknowledge that there are many different runners with many different goals and that's great! My goal is to get in a bit of exercise and have fun doing it, however if you've got a training plan and are trying to become the fastest runner you can, you might not be able to apply all of these points. Hopefully you'll still find some food for thought!

If you'd prefer, you can consume most of the ideas of this post in video form!

1. Don't put expectations on yourself

When a kid is running around in the park, they are not concerned with their pace, or have far they've run or anything else so trivial. They are there to muck around and have fun. I've detailed how GPS tracking was ruining the fun in a previous post, so I won't labour the point, but by putting expectations on your run, you immediately set yourself up for potential disappointment.

I would encourage you to try leaving the watch and phone at home, and just set out on a run without the burden of expectations. Run for the run, not for the stats.

2. Explore new paths

It's very easy to get entrenched in your usual route. It's the end of the day, you're mentally exhausted from work and you want to go out for a run, but you don't want to have think about it. You lace up your shoes and head down the same paths you always do and mentally check out. I think everyone needs these runs from time to time, but they quickly become boring if you do them too frequently. I've fallen into this trap countless times but thankfully the cure is very simple; Change up your route.

If you come across a street or trail you haven't run down before, then take it! If it turns out to be a dud you can just turn around, but in all likelihood you'll discover another path to add to your arsenal and potentially some really cool spots to run.

I've lived in the same general area of the same city for my whole life and I'm STILL coming across hidden stairways, back streets, trails etc. If you start getting into an exploration mindset, you'll almost certainly find some new places to run around, on, under, and through.

Adding some variety can easily inject a bit of much-needed fun into a run.

3. Let yourself get distracted

The exploration mindset can be applied to much more than just where you run. I am endlessly in admiration of the curiosity possessed by children and the shear delight they get from discovering something new. By showing a bit of curiosity yourself, you'll surely find some oddities and share in the delight.

It's all too easy to get caught up in the rhythm of your feet and the ticking away of the minutes and miles until your run is done. But by keeping yourself present, not only can you distract yourself from effort of the run, but you might just stumble upon something cool.

It can really be anything too. For example, the other day I was running past a golf course so I stopped and watched someone absolutely shank one into the bush next to the green which was a great laugh! 

I stop to pat the enthusiastic dogs in the park. I'll read plaques on old buildings and on park benches. I stop when I see some interesting wildlife or plants. Sometimes I'll push the local kids off the monkey bars to have a go myself (for legal reasons, that was a joke. Well the pushing kids part was, I do like to swing on the monkey bars though).

I will sometimes treat running more as the mode of travel on an adventure than as an activity in and of itself. By not taking myself too seriously on a run I allow myself to observe all the wonderful, kooky things in the world which are almost always amusing.

4. Set challenges or games for yourself

There are no rules when you go out for a run, except the ones that you set for yourself, so why not try making those rules as fun as possible? Maybe your rules for a run are you must run some number of laps around the track. If that's what is fun to you then more power to you, but to me, that sounds like about as much fun as licking a cheese grater.

The rules I tend to set myself are generally along the lines of "anything goes". I'll see where the run takes me and come up with little challenges along the way.

There is one staple I have though, which is to pick up litter when I see it and then I'll make a game of trying to find the next bin (this concept will be explored more in a future post so be sure to check back for that!).

If you're stuck for ideas, here are some little bits and pieces I like to do on my runs:

  • Run along the top of a stone wall
  • Attempt to hurdle that bush or the branch that's fallen across the path
  • See how many stairs you can skip while going up/down them, or;
  • See if you can slide down the hand rail
  • On trail runs, try hopping from rock to rock
  • Weave around bollards
  • Can you jump up and high five that <insert object> as you run past
  • There's a retaining wall on a street near me that must be at about 70 degrees which has lamp posts right near it. I like to wall run around the lamp posts
You might think that by doing these sorts of "strange" activities I'd become part of the "kooky" things in the world. You're probably right, but I have no problem with that. Not only do I get to have fun, I'm sure other people will get a laugh out of it. That's a win win in my books.

There are also probably some people that would suggest this isn't "real" running, to which I would say: get the pickle out of your arse! If I am running, I am a runner. End of story. And that goes for you to! Sometimes you may not feel like a runner, but if you run then by definition you are a runner and anyone who claims otherwise is a gatekeeping twit.

5. Run with others

A tried and true method for making a run more enjoyable is to share the suffering with someone else (I'm mostly joking about the suffering, although sometimes it sure does feel that way...).

By taking a pal along with you, you can talk shit, enjoy each others company, set each other challenges, get up to all manner of shenanigans all while going for a run.

Prioritise fun

As I mentioned at the beginning, different people have different goals for their running, but if you're like me and you just want to get in some exercise, a bit of time outdoors and want to have fun while doing it, then I would urge you to prioritise having as much fun as possible.

Treat running not as a chore or a punishment, but as a hobby. A celebration of what your body is capable of. Go where your feet take you and have a new adventure every time you lace up your shoes and head out the door.

If you've got things you like to do on a run to keep them fun I would absolutely love to hear them (as I'm sure all the other readers would), so please leave a comment with your methods of madness!


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