I recently heard about a study that demonstrated something quite interesting, especially if you are a runner…
This study investigated the level of happiness or joy a person experiences after a run or a walk. The key factor was that the people being studied regularly walked or ran a particular route or path. Some people never changed their habitual pattern as they felt comfortable with their routine.
The interesting thing that the study found was that when the participants changed their route, even slightly, it caused significant improvements in their post-exercise mood. Those that took a completely new path without really knowing where they were going had a massive spike in measurable happiness afterward.
This got me thinking about why I always try to vary my runs and it reaffirmed for me what my real motivation for running is – I’m running to make me happy.
Sounds obvious right?
For those of us that are long time converts, it is a no brainer that we feel better when we are running regularly, but perhaps it is worth noting that there are things you can do that will actively improve those outcomes for you.
Another way of looking at it would be, when you are next struggling with your motivation for getting out on the road or the trail, have a think about what you are doing – or not doing – that could make all the difference. Personally I love nothing more than running on a trail I’ve never been on before, with just a vague idea of where it might take me. The time passes more quickly, the effort is replaced with a sense of adventure and discovering new places becomes the focus. It really sharpens your attention and makes you more present.
So what if you are training seriously for a race and need to run on a pre-set course that has been measured and chosen for specific reasons? Providing you are still having fun and enjoying the process, there is of course no problem with this, but do pay close attention to your mood and your enjoyment levels over time. It is when we lose touch with the passion, the reason why we started out in the first place; it is then that injury is also more likely to hit. Losing that connection can be the reason people fall out of love with running and find it difficult to stay in the groove.
My advice, regardless of your intentions as a competitive runner or not, would be to find time to regularly get lost on a run. Lose your regular path, lose your watch, lose your preoccupation with pace and lose your expectations.
Let it all go, and find your happy!