A year or so ago, a friend responded to a survey asking him to state the one word that best encompassed what running means to him, and he said, "routine." There is a lot of power in that concept, as it's the attitude of creating a running routine (and therefore a habit) that gets you out the door every day (or most days). And since consistency is the key to long-term success as a runner, regardless of your goal, making your running a routine can be a real asset.
But there can be a point where a running routine becomes limiting. The negative connotations of the word include boring, repetitive, unexciting. So it should be easy to see that too much routine can lead to getting into a rut, or to burnout. Worse, when you have tunnel vision about the manner in which you train, you can miss opportunities. This can lead to shortfalls in your performance, as it is often new opportunities that bring the biggest growth.
How to ramp up your performance:
- Set new goals in new types of races
- Adopt new training techniques to reinvigorate your development
- Find social opportunities via a team or running partners
- Get help from a coach to realize your full potential
There are at least five aspects of your running where routine can quickly become limiting.
Time of Day
At first, establishing a routine around running at a certain time of day goes further than any other step in helping to make it a habit. You carve out a specific time of the day and become pretty good at defending it, and your family and perhaps co-workers learn to respect this time. Or, if you are a predawn runner, it provides the ongoing motivation to get up early, which is a hard habit to establish.
Eventually, running at or near the same time every day can become an issue for several reasons. First, if a temporary or permanent schedule change is forced on you, it can be difficult to react, as you might not be comfortable with changing the time you run. Also, if you participate in races, they may not be scheduled at the time you typically like to run (I've had a devil of a time finding a predawn race). As such, you may not know how to fuel properly, manage your energy levels to give your best possible performance, or be acclimated to different temperatures.
Solution: Make it a regular practice to run at different times of the day. Doing so once or twice per week can be enough to help convince you that it is possible, and to understand how you need to adjust your diet or attitude to do so successfully.