Whatever your workout routine is, chances are you’re always striving to get better. Whether that means running faster, covering more distance or both, you need to push yourself to reach your goals. Challenges help to keep things exciting and even if there isn’t a prize or medal attached to it, these personal challenges work to motivate you and could be key to your future running success. Whether you’re looking for group running challenges to compete with friends or solo adventures to really push yourself, here are the best seven challenges for runners.
Create a Running Bucket List
What are the top things you want to do in your running career? Whether you’re a professional or not, it’s essential to have a bucket list of running achievements and goals. For many, it’s running a race in different cities or states or different lengths. Whatever the case, having a bucket list of races and goals is vital to keep you motivated and have something to shoot for every time you lace up your running shoes.
Think about the incredible accomplishments you’d like to achieve at some point in your running career. Maybe it’s running in one of the biggest marathons in the nation or it could be organizing a charity run in your hometown. Whatever the case, shoot for the stars and you’ll be more determined to make it happen.
Run Every Day for a Month
One of the most common challenges for runners is completing a streak. This means running a set distance every day for 30 or so days in a row. Even if it’s just 1 mile each day, which might seem easy at first, chances are there might be at least a few days along the way that you’d like to skip.
If you want to make it especially challenging, many runners like to schedule this streak month during a time when their willpower will be tested, such as around the holidays or during summer. Don’t let excuses or other plans get in the way of your daily run. Once you reach the end of the streak, you’ll have not only a lot of miles under your belt, but also a renewed discipline having kept at it for an entire month.
Stop Running with Headphones
For many runners, their playlist is everything. You’ve spent hours meticulously assembling the right set of songs to match your pace and keep you grooving throughout the workout. Are you ready for a real challenge? It’s time to say goodbye to your favorite playlist and put the earbuds away.
Not only is it safer to run without headphones when on a busy road, but it can also help you focus more on the connection between your body and the pavement. Without fast-paced music to set the pace, it’s all on you. Focus more on your breathing, the sound of your feet hitting the sidewalk and the world around you as it can help you reconnect with the part of yourself that loves the way you feel during each run. If you run a scenic route, hearing the sounds of birds or rushing water can be even more gratifying and inspiring than music.
Master a New Terrain
It’s easy for us to get caught up on the same running terrain. We all have our favorite running paths and if you’re an avid runner, you likely have the exact cracks in the sidewalk practically memorized at this point. As a challenge, you should take a break from the usual and try something new. It’s easy to get caught up in the same routine and your progress might suffer if you never switch things up.
If you always run on a track, you won’t know the intense workout that running hills provides. Or if you’ve always been a treadmill person, you could be missing out on the thrill of being miles away from home with the only option being to finish the full run to get home. Also, many runners enjoy leaving the concrete jungle and running trails a couple of times per week to help improve their balance and agility. Whether you’re lacing up your walking shoes for a long walk through town or your trial running shoes for some hill sprints, challenge yourself to try something new.
Try Running Negative Splits
Common sense and personal experience might tell you that your pace generally slows down the longer your run lasts. The first mile might be 8 minutes and the fourth might be closer to 9 minutes. Negative splits flip that theory and you’ll actually pick up the pace with every additional mile. This style of training can do wonders for your endurance. If you’ve struggled to conserve your energy on longer runs, negative splits can help keep you fresh for the second half of the run.
To run negative splits, you first need to know the pace per mile you’d like to ideally maintain. At the start of the run, slow things down by around 10 to 25 seconds per mile. In the middle third, try to stay right on pace and then in the final third of the run, bump it up to 10 to 25 seconds faster than the goal pace. If all goes well, you’ll have reserved your energy and can push through to finish on pace. While this might not be the ideal way to run in an actual race, for training, this can help your body adapt and find the pace perfectly come race day.
Get a Friend Into Running
There are few feelings as satisfying as passing the torch and showing your friend the ropes of running. From starting out taking long walks in walking shoes to pacing them in their first race, being a mentor can be even more gratifying than completing a race yourself. Running is meant to be shared and although there are definitely times when we’d rather run solo, taking a buddy along for a weeknight jaunt is a great way to spend time and share the magic of running. So, if you have a friend that’s been talking about how they’d like to get into running or become more fit, offer them your time and expertise and show them how fun and enjoyable running can be.
Plan for a Scary Race or Challenge
Finally, the biggest challenge is going to be the one that scares you the most. Maybe it’s planning to run a marathon in each state in your time zone. Or maybe it’s connecting with a coach and working on going pro, with an endorsement from your favorite running shoes brand and everything. Whatever scares you the most should be on your bucket list and list of challenges. Even if you don’t hit the goal exactly, you’re bound to make incredible progress.
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