Changing Your Running Route

Sahara with Nike Hijab, athletic clothes
why do i look so tired i took these photos BEFORE my run for a reason why is one eye half shut well then

Road running is always a lot of fun - if we don't count the stopping at traffic lights, the cars that seem to forget pedestrians-right-of-way on cross walks/zebra crossings and the people who are coming up behind you and don't say 'on your left'. Ok, if we minus all that, road running is 10/10 and I love it.

I used to run on the treadmill years ago as a University student, until I realized that if I walked a little deeper in my gym there was actually an indoor track (I promise I'm observant). One thing I didn't love about the treadmill was that I stayed in one place and it didn't feel the greatest on my shins. I'm pretty protective of my shins as shin splints and soreness in my shins are part of a long list of past injuries. So, anything that makes my shins feel the equivalent to that spongebob meme where everything is on fire and it's a code red is the quickest way for me to chuck whatever it is out of my schedule.

Okay, now back to road running.


I'm finally back to running my regular 5K's a few times a week after building up my mileage since taking Ramadan off + taking a couple of weeks vacation. Ramadan was months ago, and although I was active via doing a 10 minute ab workout everyday for 30 days, I had to build my endurance up again. So, this meant a lot of my days was spent going up to point X and then every week or so going X + extra. And it was a great feeling seeing how I always went further than the previous week.

Until I noticed that mentally since I knew where my mile check points were based on my surroundings,  I'd sit back in my run and not really push myself.

I don't know if this is a me-thing but whenever I'm running the same route for a while, I mentally just take note of where each mile ends and settle into the run because I've run the distance before so it's not an impossible run. What I found after running one specific path for a few months was that in the beginning, I was hitting 6'56 pacing per mile. As time went on, and my distance went up, I noticed that I didn't push myself anymore, just went with the flow of the run even though deep down I knew I could go faster.

Sahara sitting down on steps with gym bag

It's a weird type of place to be in: Going at a slower pace even though inner you is like excuse me we can go faster but then you mute inner you and continue at the pace you're going.

Don't get me wrong here, going slower than your hardcore race pace is 100% needed and you should really have more slow days than all out fast days. It's just on those slow days, I feel I'm going slower than I should be. 

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So I decided to change my running route for funzies.


The path I used to run consistently for months had one massive downhill and was pretty chill after Mile One - well, also making sure cars see you on the side of the road until the sidewalk appears again is a sport on its own and some beep their horn like the road isn't for runners, cyclists AND cars - so uh mostly chill.

At the moment of writing this, I've changed my running route two different times and it's such a weird feeling. I know that's probably not the best way to describe, but stay with me here. The reason why it was such a weird experience is because my mind couldn't recognize where Mile One ended, when Mile 2 was and where Mile 3 would take me based on my surroundings. 

What happened when I couldn't mentally pin my surroundings as mile check points?


I went faster. The reason I went faster was because I had no idea where I was in my run, near mile 2 or just hitting the mid-way point, so that meant my mind was kind of in the dark and couldn't sit back in the run because mile 2 was just around the corner and I'll pick up the pace when I get there. Yes, I have my Runtastic App to tell me you've completed one mile but I didn't know when she was going to speak because I couldn't recognize my surroundings as an indicator that my mile was almost done.


It was also really fun changing my running route, half the time I had to silent my brain that was becoming the math meme with calculus equations trying to figure out where Mile 1 ended and where Mile 2 began and the other half, I was loving going fast and seeing how strong my legs have become. On both of those new running routes there was a lot of steady inclines throughout rather than flat for a good duration of the run.

The funny thing is that on one of those runs, I almost talked myself out of turning up this one street because I knew there was a steep incline, I shushed the running-comfort-zone and turned down on the street. Turns out, that mile was my fastest of the whole run.

Working on speed as a distance runner is something that is a work-in-progress, and I think it will always be a work in progress. There are two different types of running: Aerobic and Anaerobic. In Aerobic, that's the pace where you can go on for miles and miles. Anaerobic on the other hand is the type of running where you can only maintain for a short period of time - i.e. interval training where you're going your maximum speed. I try to stay in the middle of those two types of running, but sometimes I feel I lean too much on the Aerobic running side. It's not that I can't maintain a middle ground between the two, it's that mentally I just get so comfortable in my run that I just stick to an Aerobic pace.

This is where challenging myself by not being familiar with my surroundings has been helpful in getting me to that middle ground. There's so much growth as a runner to explore outside of your comfort zone, and it starts with you making the conscious effort to challenge yourself.

Sahara sitting on steps with running clothes and her gym bag

By changing my surroundings, not being able to pin where my mile ends and the next begins, that's when I started to notice I was approaching that middle ground of Aerobic and Anaerobic. I even noticed on one steady incline that my legs suddenly felt a lot stronger charging up it. As much as I do like to know based on my surroundings how deep into my run I am, to maintain that middle ground it seems to be better not to know.

It's an ongoing journey of me pushing myself outside of my running comfort zone and sometimes my comfort wins vs challenge - and that's completely okay. What matters is that I choose to challenge myself again until I ace the challenge, and then I find a new challenge to master.

I'm a work in progress, and I embrace my journey with all the falls, with all times I've chosen comfort versus challenging myself, all the pauses in between sets, all the injuries, all the tripping over my jump rope while trying a new trick because I get back up, I challenge myself, I start my next set, I learn from my injuries, and I no longer trip on my jumprope as much.

Changing my running route often is a fun way to keep my runs interesting and to keep me from relaxing too much into my run - having all my runs lean more towards Aerobic, although really nice because I feel I can go on forever, isn't how I'm going to chip away at my 5K time. As much as the math side of my brain wants to know where each mile ends, I think the second I start to consciously pin specific areas to the end of a mile/beginning of the next, that's when it's going to be time to change the route again because I'll start falling into Aerobic-only-running again. Not on purpose, but because I've grown comfortable with the route.

Sahara sitting on stairs in her running clothes smiling at camera with a peace sign

In a way, changing your running route is challenging, and in my case helps me maintain a middle ground between Aerobic and Anaerobic running, but it also can make you a better racer - when you're racing you don't visibly know where each mile ends. When I race, half my mind is always trying to figure out how much longer until the next mile marker because I don't know my surroundings to know the answer to that question. And I think that's how it should be not based on that oak tree Mile 2 is almost done which means I should probably pick it up now. 

If you also run, let me give you this one tip to start flying: Let your chin lead your chest while you run- this gives you a forward lean. 

Also, just so we're all on the same page here: I have my recovery 5K runs and I also have my let's-pick-it-up-today 5K runs - and it's important for me to make that distinction because going your fastest all the time is how to find yourself waddling like a penguin with ice packs. I linked an earlier article from On Running, and I found it fascinating because based on that article, a good chunk of my runs should be at a chill-slow-but-not-slow-slow pace. And this is what I need to work on on the days I'm not going all out on my runs - going slow on my runs but not slow-slow. I don't meant to go slow-slow on my runs, it sort of just happens?

I like going fast, trust me when I say my favorite thing is sprinting on the track, but slow running allows your body to recover and you need that recovery for your let's-pick-it-up-today runs. 

I also like knowing exactly where each mile ends so I have a general idea of where my run will take me. The runs where I don't know how far into Mile 2 I am are going to take a while for me to get used to, but I look forward to seeing if race-day-me will be thanking me in the future for alternating my running route often.

How often do you change your running route? Do you find you stick more to Aerobic Running?


16 comments:

  1. This was so interesting to me. 1) You're sooo lucky to have track access. I'd give a limb for that. Maybe not, but you get my point. I hate running outside because of the constant stop/ start for traffic etc. I find it a lot harder to find my rhythm when I'm constantly on high alert about my surroundings. HOWEVER, when I do run outside, I'm the complete opposite. I love knowing where my mile markers are. And because I hate running outside, I'm constantly pushing myself to race to meet them faster. It's funny how our brains process the same situation so differently. But I always feel way more inclined to give up if I'm not feeling it and can't figure out exactly how long I have left. To the point where there's a route near my house that's exactly a mile and sometimes I just run loops of it 😂 x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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    1. I swear it is now just coming to my attention that public access to tracks isn't like a normal thing?! By me, anyone can use the track - of course there are the odd days that there's a football game or soccer game practice but it's generally free for you to use! I wasn't aware that wasn't the case in the UK!

      I 100% relate to the constant stop/start for traffic - it's usually a mission to sprint-cross the street when having only 3 seconds left of walking it before the light turns green. I used to be like that!!! Always wanting to know where my mile markers are to visibly see how much longer I have to go in the workout.

      When I'm doing my long runs I always do them alongside the Nike Run App guided runs only because I know myself (I think of it kind of like an interactive podcast?) and I'd probably be very ???? wondering how much longer until my long run is over because I don't recognize areas as mile markers haha.

      BAHHAHAHAHA the loop by your house - but at least you have a spot you can 100% go to if you decide to take your runs outside with no traffic lights to stop you!

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  2. I love running so I really enjoyed reading this post. I run both on the treadmill and outside but I think it's fun to mix up my route a bit when I'm outside, just for a bit of variety!

    Nicola
    http://nicshealthylife.co.uk

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    1. YAY - running really is the best sport and I say this mainly because it's something anyone can do, just grab your sneakers and run :) It's super fun to change the route - see different scenery AND possibly get more used to random inclines too!

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  3. I love your thoughts on this! I have been wanting to get out and run and see how it works for me instead of my usual nightly exercise routine. Changing up the route sounds like a great thing to do occasionally just to vamp up one's awareness.

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    1. Thank you!! I really can't recommend running as a form of exercise enough (paired with core workout, leg workout, arm workout etc. days as well!) - it moves every part of your body :) YES - changing the route is a great way to keep aware of your surroundings + not get too comfortable!

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  4. Great post! I've actually been looking at 5K races near me. I'm not in the best cardiovascular shape so I've got a long way to go before I run any 5k's, but this post is super helpful. Thanks

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    1. YAY - great to hear!! 5K's are super fun and the best part is that there's always a few happening every weekend - thanks so much for reading!! I hope you're having a fun time training for a 5k!

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  5. Fun post! We're not runners, but your training is impressive!

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  6. That was so interesting to read and very relatable. I always run on the same track (haven't run in ages though). And true that when i take another route, i go faster and i also discover new tracks and places. I am running a 5k soon and really need to train ahah

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    1. YES - so glad to hear you've found the same thing when you change your route, you go faster! It's just so mind-boggling that not knowing when each mile ends pushes us to go faster :) YAY hope you have an awesome time running your 5k!

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  7. I've started the couch to 5k, and this has some really helpful pointers for me, especially about the slow running!

    Love, Amie ❤


    The Curvaceous Vegan

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    1. Awesome to hear!!! I've heard such great things about couch to 5K training plans from friends of mine getting started in running. Slow running is so so important, and I wish more runners knew/remembered that!

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  8. I loved this post! I really enjoy running outdoors and love the benefits it has to our mind and body. I have started taking part in local park runs which are 5k and so much fun! x

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    1. YAY - thanks so much for reading! I love running outside in nature and exploring, nothing better than running outside (time always goes by slower when on a treadmill, personally!). YESSS so glad to hear, joining local running groups is a fun way to keep motivated!

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