Training Tuesdays: Shake up your Routine with New Scenery

As I was dying on my Sunday run care of a three bad life choices (too much wine the night before, wearing all black, and running in mid-day heat), I was at least comforted by having absolutely no clue where I was or what my route was really going to look like. As a result, I somehow managed to stumble through 8.4 km of torturous hell. I am 100% certain that, had I been running my old familiar city routes, I would have thrown in the towel about 5 km sooner…and swung past Earnest Ice Cream for good measure.

As I’ve been trying to rebuild my running endurance, I’ve found that the more often I can branch out and run new routes, the better it’s worked for me. It’s not just about finding beauty. I mean, I live in Vancouver and have countless scenic waterfront, forest and urban routes to choose from.  The problem is, I know them all like the back of my hand.  And, on days when running feels hard, which really these days is every day, the familiar makes the run feel twice as long and painful.

In contrast, I’ve had some of my best rehabilitation runs in unfamiliar places.  So far, I’ve run a wonderfully scenic coastal route on Galiano Island, part of the Fort-to-Fort trail in Langley, a failed attempt to locate an unknown ridge around Skaha Lake in Penticton, and what I like to call the rural Langley horse-and-farm route (which combines my love of horses with my love of weeping willow trees).

Regardless of the location, what’s clear is shaking up the running locale is a good way to reinvigorate your training or workouts.  In my hardly-an-expert opinion, here’s why:

  • You don’t know every hill that’s coming or how long it is. Maybe it’s just me, but I dread upcoming hills. The longer the hill, the more I am filled with dread and the more I tell myself I’m not going to make it up the entire hill. On new routes, I never know what to expect in terms of hills, and I can almost always convince myself that any hills I encounter will be over soon. Even when I’m wrong and the hill goes on forever, it somehow feels easier.
  • I have no sense of distance. Yes, I run with apps that clock each kilometer, but on my home routes I also just know each kilometer’s landmarks. On new routes, I’m sometimes shocked and dismayed at how quickly a kilometer passes.
  • Distraction is a powerful tool for a mental game like running and new routes offer all manner of distraction be it stunning scenery, amusing signs, future running routes or potential dining options. In other words, if your brain doesn’t fixate on where it is, how long it’s been running, and how much farther there is to go, your body will go farther than you thought possible.

Personally, I’m going to make a better effort to run outside of my scenic comfort zone. I think even one run per week in a new place would work wonders for me as I try to increase my mileage and endurance.  I’m thinking White Rock might be a good next destination…especially if it involves fish and chips at the end…


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