At the time of the initial publication of this post, social distancing due to the COVID-19 virus necessitated solo runs. Running alone in April 2020 is a social obligation, a small sacrifice for the greater good. (If you are reading this during the pandemic and still running with a buddy or group, please considering running alone for the next few weeks.)
Solo runs, however, occur all the time. Your schedule, training plan, or the weather may warrant solo runs. Solo runs can be enjoyable, even if you prefer to run with a group. Making the run enjoyable, understanding your motivation, having small goals, and finding virtual running communities can all make solo runs enjoyable, even for the most extroverted of runners.
Engage Your Mind on the Run
For extroverts and socially-minded runners, solo runs can seem boring and monotonous. However, a run is only as boring as you make it. Whether you want to enjoy the run or mentally zone out, you can make a run more interesting – even a solo run.
Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook
Music does not provide the same mental stimulus as a podcast or audiobook. Songs are short, which can make you too aware of exactly long you have been running. A podcast or an audiobook has a longer format. You can let your mind engage with an interview or story and will likely find that the miles pass by quickly.
Unplug and Enjoy Nature
Exercising in nature is scientifically shown to improve your mood. Leave your headphones at home, pick an unfamiliar or interesting route, and enjoy the scenery around you. If you often run on roads, try a nearby trail or park is you have the option.
Understand Your Why
Why do you currently run? Why did you start running? When you have to start running alone, it is worth revisiting these questions.
Do you run for relief from stress and anxiety? For physical well-being? For personal improvement? Any of these reasons will be enough to motivate you through solo running. Most likely, your why will provide you with a reason to keep running, even when you have to run alone.
If you run purely for the social aspect and absolutely dread it without a buddy, now may be a good time to consider an extended break from running. Take a few days off. If the itch to run arises, then go for a run. Don’t force yourself out the door and instead, find other wayss to be active.
Set Daily or Weekly Goals
Need motivation to run alone? Set some personal goals: running a certain weekly mileage, completing an interval workout once per week, or training on hilly routes. The goal should be something focused on the short-term – such as weekly goals – not the long-term. Short-term goals provide more immediate focus, which is helpful when you need the motivation for right now.
Maintain a Social Aspect to Your Running
The most valuable aspect of a running group is socialization. While you do miss the in-person part of that, solo runs do not mean runs isolated from a community. There are simple yet effective ways to engage with a community even when you are running alone.
Use Social Media
Solo running does not have to be socially isolating, especially with social media. Strava, Facebook groups, and Instagram all support communities of runners. After your solo run, upload your workout, give kudos, and engage in supportive, uplifting conversations.
Call a Friend
If you rely on conversations to pass the miles, use technology to your advantage. Plug in your headphones and call a friend while running. An added benefit is that you will be able to maintain an easy pace without staring at your watch!
Have an Accountability Partner
One benefit of a running buddy or group is accountability. You do not have to sacrifice accountability just because you are running alone. Find another running friend and text each other daily about your runs. Join a training group on Facebook. Hire a running coach so you know someone will be keeping you accountable no matter what.
Like anything in running, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. So stick out those solo runs. You may find yourself not just tolerating them, but enjoying them.
Do you prefer to run alone, with a single partner, or in a group?
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