Breaking the Running Loop

As much as I hate to admit it, my life has become rather repetitive.

  • Wake up
  • Long commute to the city
  • Work
  • Long commute home
  • Eat dinner
  • Evening entertainment — TV, internet, book, etc.
  • Sleep
  • Repeat

My co-parenting schedule breaks up the monotony a bit – with my son some days, not with him on others – and, of course, there’s running.

While training for a half marathon helps give each week a certain flavor based on the distance of my weekend excursions, the truth is running has also become quite repetitive. Each week I run on the same days — Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday — and usually at the same time, mornings with afternoons sometimes sprinkled in on the weekend. The repetition is further accentuated by the fact that my schedule and locale often requires me to run the same streets over and over and over again.

It can be a bit boring.

This winter I became hyperconscious of these ‘loops’ within my life while watching Westworld. For the uninitiated, this HBO show focused on a futuristic theme park where people could live out completely immersive storylines in the wild west. Artificial lifeforms known as ‘hosts’ were programmed to execute narrative roles within the park, repeating the same events over and over and over again for new visitors. These were referred to as their ‘loops.’

The show was fantastic (I’m a sucker for stories that involve artificial intelligence becoming sentient) and often focused on the theme of loops, both for the hosts and the humans who visited the park; their adventurous vacation being their only break from the monotonous routine of everyday life.

WW3
Uh oh. Looks like this cowboy broke his loop.

As a man in my forties, I’ve certainly settled into some loops of my own. I don’t know that they’re as existentially vexing as those encountered by Westworld’s characters, but they’re definitely present. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to break free from the tiresome routine of everyday life, being a responsible adult makes that difficult. I still have to commute and work and be a husband and a parent. However, there’s one thing I can change whenever I want. One thing I have complete control of…

Running.

As I move into the meat of 2017, I’m trying to break out of my running loops and thinking of ways to keep my outings fresh and less repetitive.

Course Variety
Because of my tight schedule I usually run close to home. I have standard courses around town for a variety of distances, but I’m trying to create more. Instead of doing an easy out and back course, I’m winding through different neighborhoods or running down less scenic streets. And when I’m too lazy to lay out a new course, I simply run my usual courses backwards. It’s not exactly a game changer, but at this point I’ll take variety wherever I can find it.

More Playlists
Over the last few years I’ve cultivated a decent library of playlists, each correlating with a particular distance. The ease with which Itunes allows me to throw together my running soundtracks means I should be adding more playlists regularly. I could also choose to do something completely crazy and simply hit the “shuffle” button once in a while.

Schedule Changes
There are a couple reasons I’ve gravitated toward morning running. One is that it always feels good to get it done and out of the way. The other is that by the time I get home from a long day, I’m tired and it’s cold and dark outside. But thanks to last weekend’s national ritual of moving the clocks forward, I now have an extra hour in the evening and the overall amount of daylight is steadily increasing. As spring moves slowly into summer, I’ll have more opportunities to run when I get home… after a long day at work… while I fight the urge to sit on the deck with a vodka tonic.

Trail Running
One of my goals for 2017 was to do more trail running. I bought a pair of bright red Brooks and everything. This weekend I embarked on my second trail run of the year and loved it. Everything about it felt different from the usually mundane routine of pounding the pavement. The change of scenery and the journey into a natural environment was great, but what I really enjoyed was the change in running style. Instead of slogging along a straight, flat road, there were ups and downs and turns and mud and rocks and trees… I moved much slower, but felt more engaged with the running.

red brooks
I’m hoping dangerous wild life aren’t attracted to the color red.

Changing the variables of how and where I run will probably not have a profound effect on my life. It will not alter the trajectory of my existence or change the way I look at the world. But it will be less boring. And it will hopefully make running more enjoyable. It’s not as exciting as being an android that achieves consciousness and becomes self-aware, but it’s something.

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