9 Ways for Runners to Get Outside Their Comfort Zone

happy runner

It's all-too-easy to find ourselves in a running rut. As runners, we opt for what's familiar, and that usually means the same treadmill workout or the same local trail or neighborhood route day after day. It makes sense--it's convenient, it's easy and it's a mindless way to get your workout in and move on with your day. 

But as we ring in the new year, let's vow to mix things up. We're not saying to give up your go-to route or workout structure, but running as a sport is all about what you make of it. It's a great way to meet new people, push your boundaries and explore new areas--all while getting into shape. 

Try all nine of these ways to get out of your comfort zone or just choose a few, whatever you're most uncomfortable with (in a good way). 

Join a Gym 

This may sound blasphemous to many a runner, but consider joining a gym in 2020. The act of running is a repetitive, linear movement, which can cause muscular imbalances and mobility issues over time. Mixing up your workouts and infusing a few strength exercises into your training schedule will help combat these effects, and keep you healthy and at less of a risk of injury. Not sure where to start? Try these 14 running-specific strength training exercises

Go Online

We've already covered the magic of Zwift for cyclists, but did you know Zwift works for runners, too? Zwift is essentially an indoor running workout combined with an online video game. For those of us who can't stand running indoors, Zwift keeps dreadmill sessions less dreadful by running through immersive worlds and with remote athletes in real time. Don't knock it 'till you try it--learn more about Zwift for runners, here


We all know the ol' adage: If it's not on Strava, it never happened. While we're all for tracking runs and keep tabs on our progress, try disconnecting for a couple runs a month and run solely off feel. It's surprisingly liberating, and instead of worrying about your splits or your heart rate (or your cyber audience), you can enjoy the simple act of running as we did when we were kids. It's a great way to rekindle a love for the sport, not to mention reduce our all-too-high screen time. 

Find a Local Running Club

If you only run by yourself, you're missing one of the most valuable aspects of the sport: community. Most cities have at least one running club (usually through a Facebook group or attached to a specialty running shop), and it's a great way to meet likeminded people who enjoy getting out and logging miles. It's also an easy way to get into shape, whether it's through committing to workouts (can't back out when people are expecting you to show up) or running with people faster and more experienced than you. The best part? Most running clubs conclude a workout with a coffee stop or a celebratory pint. 

Go Long

We'd wager most casual runners run about three-or-so miles per workout on average, and we challenge you to go a bit longer in 2020. Sign up for a marathon or half marathon if you've never done one (or if you haven't done one in a while), and include longer, slower miles in your training plan. Trust us, it's not as scary as it sounds.

Go Short

Conversely, if you're a long-distance runner who specializes in marathons and half marathons, we recommend picking a few shorter-distance races this year. There are tons of 5K and 10K races to be found, and they're a great opportunity to work on top-end speed and strength that will directly translate into long-distance runs. Check out these speed workouts for beginners to get started.   

Pick a Destination Race

Remember what we said about only training on local routes? This also applies to racing, so break the habit and include a few "destination" races in your race schedule. Destination races are essentially races you have to travel to and spend the night nearby, and it's a convenient way (and good excuse) to plan a vacation around a race. Load up the family and your running shoes and go! 

Set (and Achieve) a New Goal

Sure, we all plan to hit a yearly mileage goal or PR whenever we toe the line, but let's actually do it this year. No matter if you're looking to stay healthy, increase mobility, beat your previous time, etc., create an actionable plan to get you where you want to be--and follow it. Let's not make flimsy new year's resolutions, only to abandon them three weeks later. For tips on how to become a consistent runner and nail new PRs, click here. If your goal is to simply start running again, try our ultra-popular Couch to 5K app

Go Off Road 

It's no surprise trail running has exploded in popularity in recent years, but if you haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon, 2020 is the year to do so. There are more organized trail races than ever before, and it's a fun way to run without dealing with traffic or the wear and tear of pounding the pavement. Click here for six tips on how to start trail running, or if you still need a bit more convincing, here are five reasons why you should try trail running.

READ THIS NEXT: New Year's Running Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Discuss This Article