If you always run alone and enjoy it, that's great. But runners who never sweat with company tend to experience more low-motivation days and miss more runs each year than those who regularly meet up with others.
Running with a friend, a group, your dog, or even a podcast can engage your mind and your body in ways that running solo can't. Here's how to choose the best match—or matches—for you.
When you know that you'll leave someone hanging if you skip a run, the guilt can help get you out the door. And once you're running, you'll find that conversation makes the miles fly by. The right running buddy—that is, one who's about your speed—can inspire you to forge on when you're struggling and keep you in check if you're going too fast. Working out with a faster friend is okay, but don't try to keep up on your recovery days. (Here are tips on choosing the best running partner for your goals.)
Running with a group of fun people who travel at the right pace for you can be a major source of motivation. After all, staying on the couch seems less appealing when you'd be missing out on a gathering of your friends. Try to find a group that matches your ability level—getting left behind, or leaving others behind, ruins the fun.
Canine companionship adds variety to your running routine and can help your dog become fitter and healthier. First, make sure your dog is the running type. See runnersworld.com/dogs to learn which breeds run best. If he is, take him on a test run. Many dogs tend to use a version of my run/walk/run method—jog/sniff/jog or sprint/sniff/sprint—so plan your workouts accordingly.
This isn't quite the same as having living, breathing company, but listening to podcasts can engage your brain in a way that's similar to listening to the chatter of running companions. Except with podcasts, you choose the topic, which guarantees you'll be interested. As you should whenever you use headphones, keep the volume low enough to be fully aware of your surroundings.