A friend this week thanked me for "letting him play" with his running. It took me back a bit. We had been creatively brainstorming training options (see post: Creative Downhill Training: Flatlander Style), which was kind of fun. I told him that running SHOULD be playful and creative. That's how innovation happens. And then Sarah Seads posted something about playing in the woods (as she always does). And it got me to thinking...again.
The next time you are at the park, watch little kids play and run. They run for pure joy - chasing each other around, playing tag, twirling and dancing, holding hands and skipping. As adults, we forget how to play. And we forget that simple human movement is easiest way to play.
Playfulness starts with a mindset. It starts with gratitude for the ability to run, and acknowledgement of the gift of the moment. It starts with putting a smile on your face as you head out the door, and keeping it on as you run. It continues with leaving the data-trackers at home.
Here are several ways to bring play back into your run:
- Get off the road. Find a trail that winds up and down, around and around. Don't worry about getting dirty or wet. Jump in the puddles, get muddy. Break your own trail in the snow. Leave footprints that will make the next person wonder what in the world you were doing!
- Fartlek. Fartlek means "speed play." Add variety to your runs by changing speed continually like you would if you were a kid playing tag. Better yet, play tag with your running partner!
- Use music. Put your entire music collection on shuffle and see what comes up. Change your style of running and your pace based on the song. You will run completely differently to Thunderstruck than you will to Barney's Christmas. Just saying....
- Dance. Seriously. This works especially well when running downhill on a trail. But even on the flats, don't be afraid to add a little wiggle or a twirl when you're running...even if you have to wait until there is no one watching. I love dancing.
- Wear something crazy to a race or just for a training run: a funny hat, a tutu, a shirt with a funny saying. Elicit a few laughs and you will feel playful.
- Smile and say hello to EVERYONE you pass. Even if you pass them 3 times. Hold out your hand for high fives. The surprised smiles you get in return will brighten your day.
- Stop to make snow angels, appreciate your neighbourhood Christmas lights, or the roaring waterfalls. Wherever you happen to run, look around you.
Longevity in running requires recognizing there is a time and a season for everything. There is a time to be serious and train hard; and there is a time to lighten up and play. Variety is a key element needed to run healthy, mentally and physically. I need to remind myself of this regularly, especially now that it seems my whole life revolves around running.
So make this your December Challenge: to bring the play back into your life. Get outside and let the rain fall off your eyelashes and the snow fall onto your cheeks. And don't forget to smile :)