Just Wing It

July 17, 2012

Running should be fun. It is not always. Like anything in life, if you do something over and over again, it can tend to feel like a chore. Even when running a route for the twentieth time, I always try to find something new about the terrain or just think about something different that makes the road feel fresh.

This past weekend I decided it was time to just wing it. Many runners in training have serious plans with prescribed mileage for each day. Having that is great, smart, and it works. Despite that, sometimes you just need to go out and run. It helps to not think about how far you are supposed to go, or how fast. Listen to your body, get lost on unfamiliar streets or just pick a favorite loop that makes you happy.

Here is how my “wing it” run weekend turned out. Friday evening I set out to my favorite local trail. There was one point when I decided to go a different direction than I normally do, and it ended up being a great 7.27 mile run. Seeing a new piece of this paved trail kept my mind active, but the familiarity with the general surroundings allowed me the freedom to push my pace a bit. Saturday I went out on one of my most frequent routes intending to change it up by taking a street that would stretch out the run to five miles, as opposed to the normal 4.3. When I headed up that new street, I quickly lost the sidewalk and then realized that there were no cross streets to take me back to where I had wanted to be. After finding my way back, I ended up doing my normal route, but backwards. This was not some intense, life-altering journey. It was just five miles and an easy way to break from routine and have an enjoyable run.

Then came Sunday. Since Saturday was a shorter day, this was going to be my long run. The most distance I had hit in recent weeks was ten miles, given recent temperatures soaring into triple-digits. Today felt different though. Right before I left home, I decided to run to a nearby monument that was almost exactly 6.5 miles away… and back. It was unclear if I would make it all the way, but that was what this weekend was all about for my running. Lace up and see what happens next. Heavy heat and the lack of a proper breakfast contributed to a challenging run, but I made it there and back—13.28 miles total—successfully. Midway through I let myself stop to rest, enjoy the scenery around the monument, and grab a quick water break. Even though it was considerably slower than even my long runs, it still felt great to appreciate the day, the location, and my total distance.

Regardless of how you define winging it, runners can always benefit from changing it up sporadically. It is the same reason why fitness trainers should encourage different exercises to target similar muscle groups at the gym. The mind and body can both benefit from this type of workout modification. Again, this could be doing something completely out of the norm like attempting a trail run if you are used to the streets. Or it could be something simple like changing a few turns on a common route. After going on a run or two for the sole purpose of enjoying the outdoors and your own company, then you can return to the structured training plan feeling refreshed.

Do you like to wing it? What are some of your best memories from unplanned running?



  1. I’m getting back into running and am starting to think that sticking to a strict schedule isn’t for me. So, I’m going to try winging it for a little while and see if that helps get me back into my groove.

    • Whatever it takes, everyone is different! As long as you are enjoying it, getting something out of it, and staying healthy, best of luck!

  2. You did not specify which monument, I know you have run by the Iwo Jima statue, which others – of course there are so many where you live. Do they allow, and have you ever, run thru the Cemetary?

    • It is one of the lesser known, hidden gems of DC, the Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria. A beautiful area and amazing monument. And I have never run through Arlington National Cemetery, but not sure about the rules either.

  3. Great post! Sometimes a break from the structure is a great thing! I actually found myself winging it with yesterday’s run when I had a running partner I didn’t know I would have.

  4. Winging it sounds like fun. I never do it, a creature of habit I guess. I think it is a good idea to try it though. It would make things a little more interesting. Everytime I run my routes backwards, I always feel a little off!

  5. You are so right. It makes such a difference to step back and run what you feel like running sometimes, rather than being enslaved to a plan. That’s the best way to pull me out of a running funk- and I’m ready to go again.
    I’ve been battling a grumpy shin this month so my mileage has been pretty sad… now that I’m hopefully past it, I’m so ready to get back into training… hoping I can hold back and play it smart!

    • Thanks Laura, I totally agree!! Good luck getting past that injury, you can do it. Just be smart, and enjoy your running!!

  6. When I was running a lot and training for the Hood to Coast relay race, I total “winged it.” I was never into rigid training plans and they just didn’t work for me. I think winging it takes the pressure off, too.

    • It definitely makes it less intense if you are not following strict rules for an entire training cycle. There is definitely some middle ground to be had, but I too enjoy the plan-less training from time to time.

  7. This was a really great post. It is good to take a step back and just relax with our work outs and enjoy the ride. I have a tendency to forget to just have “fun” because I am always planning. This was a good reminder

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