There’s nothing like doing something very hard and challenging. After a good, long run, I feel like I can do anything. But if I’m being completely honest, going for a run almost always seems near impossible.
Normally, I’m a group exercise kind of girl. I do everything from boxing to pilates to barre and yoga, just to name a few. Lately, I’ve found that running is a great addition to my schedule, since it can be done wherever, whenever and without much planning involved. As a recent convert to running, I can tell you, though, it’s hard!
As you may have conjectured from my erratic workouts, I get bored easily. In order for me to stay engaged, work harder and run faster, I need newness and variety. Last week, I ran in Toronto, Denver and Seattle. Today, I ran in Midland, Texas.
I am a flight attendant, and I see many different cities, suburbs, terrains and landscapes over a matter of days. I’ve found that one of the best ways to get myself to run (or, really, exercise at all) is to explore the new areas around these strange new places.
My pilots on this trip told me there wasn’t much here around the hotel. There isn’t any scenery or trees, we are far from downtown, and we are surrounded by highways. We are essentially in a desert.
I decided to run anyway. That’s right, this Northwestern Seattle girl went for a run in the desert in Texas. And it was so cool! It was exciting to traverse the rocky paths along the endless dusty highway. Not knowing anything about any type of wildlife that might be around, I kept my eyes on where I was stepping, wary of rattlesnakes and scorpions. I heard strange noises in the grass. Lizards skimping away, birds chirping and cicadas, or maybe they were crickets…
The sun beat down on me as I passed in front of houses with cactuses in their yards, pounding pavement and cracked red terrains.
Changing up your running scenery allows you to explore. It allows you to see things and experience environments around you that you may have never otherwise noticed. Running, for me, is a meditative experience (Abbie Zulock writes about running as meditation here). It forces me to be in the exact moment. It forces me to breathe in tune with my body and feel my feet hit the ground with every step. Running forces you to see the spaces around you, feel the atmosphere and be present in your body with all of its sensations, good and bad. During the act of running, you experience your environment fully by hungrily breathing in the air, absorbing the energy from the ground and feeling the vibrations of the place around you.
If you are more bound to the place in which you reside, you can still implement variety into your routine. I live in Seattle, and I generally like to run near my house (which happens to have awesome parks and beautiful views, which I am so grateful for!) Last week, however, I decided to go somewhere else. My run in Seattle near the University of Washington went by so fast, I was ready for some lunges and squats on the lawn when I got back!
I can’t explain the elation of doing something new, exploring a new place, and accomplishing a goal, even if it’s a little one. Nearing the end of my run today, like a mirage, I spotted my hotel. A tiny lizard popped out of the shrubbery and traversed the path like he was showing me the way or congratulating me, almost skipping on his hind legs.
You don’t have to go to a new bar or new restaurant to explore a new (or familiar) city, town or suburb. You don’t even need anyone to do it with. All you need is a pair of shoes and a (safe) new place to run in. Here are some must-know tips for changing things up with your running routine, wherever you are:
1. Always be safe. Check with someone who knows the area, and make sure it’s sound. Avoid going at night, and seek well-lit areas. If you can, bring pepper spray, or some other self-defense mechanism. Make sure you stay in areas with good reception. I always bring my phone and make sure it has a charge, both so that I can call someone in case of an emergency and because I usually get lost.
2. I use an app called MapMyRun which shows me exactly where I’ve gone, so that I can find my way back. It also shows the distance you’ve gone, your pace, and calories burned (I don’t use the calorie function; I find it distracts me from my other goals: mainly distance and speed.)
3. Be aware of weather and climate hazards. Stay warm in the winter, hydrated in the summer and properly nourished year-round. This is especially important if you plan on a long run lasting more than an hour!
4. Make sure to use sunscreen and/or bug sprays. Exploring new trails will be a lot less fun if you feel the back of your neck stinging from the sun–or find yourself swatting at bugs. Apply ample amount of natural, vegan, waterproof sunscreen wherever you are exposed, and wait 15 minutes for it to absorb before heading outside. If you are exploring the outdoors in an area with mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects, make sure to spray on natural, DEET free insect repellents like Tick Tock Naturals. (Remember, innocent-looking forests in the Northeast have deer ticks, which cause lyme disease.)
Most of all, have fun on your running adventures! Please share with me some of your favorite cities and spots to run!
Also by Chase: My Life as a Flight Attendant