How to Plan Your Next Running Route
Now that we’re in the early weeks of spring, you’re probably itching to get back outside for your runs instead of feeling stuck inside on the treadmill. To avoid boredom or monotony in your workouts, it’s important to find routes that will sufficiently challenge you during your training sessions. Furthermore, if you plan to take part in any virtual races this season, you’ll need to find a running route that’s both long enough and interesting enough to keep you motivated on race day.
No matter where you live, it’s easier than ever to discover new running trails, create your own routes, and calculate the exact distance of every run you take. The free apps listed below offer simple tools to help you create your own running routes or view routes created by other enthusiastic runners in your area.
- Google Maps provides a free feature where you can create and share accurately calculated running routes straight from your Android or laptop. Simply open up Google Maps, and right-click on your desired starting location (if you’re using a computer) to open the Measure Distance feature. As you build your path, the distance will automatically update accordingly.
- Map My Run requires users to create a unique profile after downloading the free app, but this feature allows people to save their pre-made running routes for future use. Map My Run also had a few additional tools that Google Maps doesn’t offer, such as the ability to view elevation changes and add more labels to each map.
- Runkeeper by Asics is a multifunctional free app that can work for both running and cycling. It can track your pace or speed, calculate how many calories you burn per workout, and show you your average time per mile. This app is especially great for beginners, as it has built-in training programs to choose from if you want to get in shape but aren’t sure how to get started.
- Strava is like a social media platform and a fitness app rolled into one. Runners can join virtual clubs or groups to engage with other people who share their fitness goals, find routes in their area, and even follow members they’re inspired by. Strava has a built-in GPS tracking function that automatically records your time and distance for every run, so you can make sure you’re meeting the distance requirements for your virtual race or regular training sessions.
Route Planning Tips
As you plan for your next running route, remember that the distance of the run is only part of the equation. Your top priority should be defining what you really want from a running route. Do you want a challenging dirt trail with plenty of hills to give you a full-body workout during your training, or would you prefer to run on a mostly flat sidewalk to help you break your personal records during a race? By identifying your own personal goals first, you’ll be able to seek out more suitable areas and routes to meet these aspirations.
As the weather changes and continues to warm up this season, be sure to think about practical aspects, such as:
- Running surface. Pavement is best if you’re aiming primarily for speed, but running only on hard surfaces can be particularly hard on your body. Switching to a dirt path running route or wooded trail once in a while can help ease the stress on your joints and work different muscles as you jog over obstacles like tree roots, branches, or rocks.
- Weather. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of rain during the spring, or if the weather is generally unpredictable during this time of year, be sure to plan accordingly for your runs. Dress in layers, bring water, and try to plan a few different routes you’re comfortable with for race day. If the weather starts to negatively affect your run, you can switch to a more covered trail or an indoor track instead.
- Other runners. The warmer weather is sure to encourage more people to get outside to enjoy the sunshine and start exercising again. While this is great news for people’s mental and physical health, it’s not so great if you prefer to run solo. By using one of the apps suggested above, you can find less well-known trails, but just make sure you let someone know where you’re going if you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar.
If you’re looking for a goal to keep you motivated during your workouts, there’s still time to sign up for the Big Dam Run! This 5K virtual race can be completed anytime between April 10 and April 17, giving you plenty of time to find a day and route that works best for you.