Trail running is one of the most efficient and entertaining ways to stay in shape, but even if you’re passionate about trail running, eventually it can get stale or tedious.
If you keep running the same routes, or if you find yourself unable to make progress on your goals, it’s easy to get frustrated, and/or want to bail on the hobby altogether.
But before that happens, there are some strategies that can help you have a more positive, engaging experience while trail running.
10 Ideas to Keep You Motivated as a Trail Runner
#1. Try New Trails and Distances
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s one trail runners often neglect out of laziness. We tend to run the same trails over and over, because they’re close to home or because they have our favorite features, but if you’re always running in the same locations, eventually, you’ll grow tired of them.
You can shake things up by experimenting with new trails and/or new distances. Try starting the trail at a different point, or trying a trail in an entirely different location. You can also run shorter or longer than usual, or change up your distances each day of the week.
#2. Make a Trip of It
It’s even better if you can take your trail running as a trip. Head to a deep forest or mountainous area where you know there are trails you’ve never tried before, and take a few days to enjoy yourself there. Take a portable garage to keep your vehicle in good condition, and consider camping while you’re in the middle of nature. Running while on vacation can remind you why you started this hobby in the first place, and acquaint you with much different terrain.
#3. Run With Partners
If you aren’t used to running with people, consider joining a running group or finding a partner you can run with on a regular basis. Having company on the trail can make you feel better about the experience and give you the distraction of friendly conversation while you’re running. It can also be good motivation to keep you going when you’re at your lowest points; you’re much less likely to flake on a run if someone is counting on you going with them.
#4. Take Your Dog
If you haven’t yet ran your favorite trails with your favorite pooch, perhaps it’s time to teach your best friend a new trick. Obviously your dog will need to be able to keep up so if you’ve got a Chiwawa or Yorkie, the little guys unfortunately just aren’t going to be able to make the cut. However, for those of you with a bigger dog, taking them trail running with you is a great way to boost your enthusiasm by adding a new element of fun to your runs. Running is also obviously a great cardiovascular workout for your dog so it’s a win-win for both of you!
#5. Learn to Meditate
Mindfulness meditation is one of the best skills you can develop as a trail runner. It takes a long time, and significant practice to be able to filter out distractions with nothing more than the power of your own focus, but once you do it, you’ll have greater mental and emotional control in every area of your life. While running, if you can block out distracting and deterring thoughts, you can focus more on the present moment, and enjoy the experience of running, rather than getting too focused on the tedium of your route or the physical strain of the journey.
#6. Invest in Better Gear
You can also spark new motivation by investing in better gear. A new pair of running shoes or some high-tech legwear can make a huge difference in the quality and comfort of your run, especially if you’re used to running in harsh conditions.
#7. Attempt New Challenges
Try to challenge yourself with some unique achievements. You could try to complete a certain loop in a specific amount of time, or use obstacles in your path as an additional challenge. You could even pretend you’re running from zombies, or try to collect items along your route, scavenger hunt style. Any additional “challenge” element here can be useful.
#8. Run With a Toy
Your run can get much more entertaining if you have something other than running to occupy your attention. For example, if you’re running on a paved trail, you can bring along a tennis ball and bounce it as a secondary challenge, or you can use a yo-yo or a fidget toy to occupy your hands.
#9. Run Without (or With) a Gadget
There are pros and cons to running with music, so whichever approach you’re used to, try the opposite. If you’re used to running to the same old playlist, try running without the music and listening to the ambient sounds of nature. If that’s the approach you’re used to, try to put together an energetic playlist to be a source of new inspiration.
#10. Take a Break
Finally, consider taking a break from trail running altogether. Sometimes, a few weeks away from the hobby is all it takes to rebuild your enthusiasm. It’s much better than burning out entirely and coming to hate the sport.
The Bottom Line
It’s perfectly natural to feel bored or tired of running if you’re on the trails often enough, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim of that boredom. Try one of these strategies or one of your own, and keep experimenting until you can reawaken your passion.