6 Ways to Kick Your Run Up a Notch

POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock
POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock

Somewhere around the first of your three-miler, it hits. You're bored. Or maybe you're hungry. Actually, you have a cramp. Whatever it is, the ugh thoughts start poking in. You begin to wonder if it's possible to continue on or if your time is better spent turning right back around for a rain check with Stranger Things. Maybe it's because you're sore from yesterday's workout or perhaps this is your fourth day in a row of running. Maybe you're just not challenged enough.

Not to fret: stave off boredom for good with these expert tips to kick your next run up a notch.

1. Toss in some strength training.

Some runners like to be just runners. Morning miles, every damn day. The problem with that? As runners, it's common to fall into some sort of quad-dominant scenario where the powerhouse muscles — including the back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves — are placed on the back burner. By incorporating strength work, you can strengthen these important mover muscles and build a more balanced body. This will not only help you become a stronger runner, but will also help prevent injury. Try incorporating strength training in at least once per week to start, suggests Jess Movold, coach at New York City indoor treadmill studio Mile High Run Club. She suggests this circuit, for starters:

Goblet Squats: 4 sets, 12 reps
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed slightly out. Hold your dumbbell at chest level with both hands. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your elbows touch your knees. With your weight focused in your heels, push yourself up to the starting position.

Bent-Over Row: 4 sets, 12 reps

With a pair of dumbbells and your feet hip-width distance apart, bend at the waist. Keep your back parallel to the floor with a neutral spine, not rounded. With a slight bend in your knees, hold your arms and the dumbbells extended out in front of you. Engage your abs and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring the weights to your torso. Be sure to keep your elbows in and pointed upward. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep.

Push-Ups: 4 sets, 12 reps

Come into plank position with your arms and legs straight, shoulders above the wrists. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your chest toward the ground. Stop as soon as your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Inhale to straighten the arms. This counts as one rep.

2. Stop running forward.

You can be one of two types of treadmill runners. The first type sets a speed and incline right off the bat, zones out, and likely flips the in-unit TV to HGTV or some other mindless show for 45 minutes. The other type uses the treadmill to their full advantage, playing with everything from backward hustle-ups to side shuffles.

"On the treadmill, I love to add side steps, backwards runs, and hustle-ups into my routines," says Lindsey Clayton, trainer at Barry's Bootcamp and cofounder of Brave Body Project. "We move our bodies in 360 degrees of motion, not just forward and back. Adding in some lateral movement will challenge your balance and agility." Clayton suggests adding in side steps as an active recovery to treadmill workouts instead of walking. If you're brave enough to hustle backward, shift the incline to between six and eight percent and then backpedal or do high knees for 30-second to one-minute intervals.

3. Register for a race.

When you find that all of your motivation is totally zonked, whether its with running or a to-do list item at the office, you can renew your sense of purpose by setting some goals. "Finding a race and hitting the 'register' button is a huge motivator," says Movold. "It gives you something to work toward. Get that race on your calendar and set your sights on it!"

4. Find some fun in a fartlek.

OK, the word fartlek is funny. We get it. For the unaware, "fartlek" is the Swedish term for speed play, which means changing your speed for varying distances while out on a run.

"There aren't really any rules to designing a fartlek," says Clayton. "If you're on that track, you could do one slow loop and then sprint for quarter loop, then repeat that 10 times. If you're out on the street, it could be jog until someone says, 'Sprint to that stop sign,' and you go all out. It's a fun way to mix up your training and it's surprisingly hard!" (For more ideas, check out how to do a fartlek run.)

5. Pick a destination that sends you running through new places.

How many times have you suggested to a friend that you go check out a new brunch spot or peep an upcoming museum exhibit? Make your adventure next-level by running to your destination. I recently did this with my boyfriend, heading to an outdoor graffiti exhibit of sorts in Brooklyn. Our route had us weaving through parts of New York City (specifically Queens and Brooklyn) neither of us had explored before, and loads of cool art and crisp brunch ciders were waiting for us at the end of our five-miler.

6. Hit that interval, hard.

You'll be amazed at how fast time goes by when you're constantly varying your speed and overall intensity. Plus, just one minute of sprint intervals can give you a similar cardiorespiratory gains as 50 minutes of traditional endurance training, despite a dramatically lower exercise volume and time commitment, according to one McMaster University study.

Clayton suggests setting your treadmill for 10 minutes and crushing sprint repeats. "Jog for 30 seconds, sprint for 30 seconds, recover for 30 seconds, and progress your sprint by adding speed each time," she says. "It's hard AF, but it will noticeably improve your speed work in a short amount of time."