By David Nogle, I.S.S.A. Certified Personal Trainer, I.S.S.A. Certified Nutrition Coach, UESCA Certified Run Coach, USATF Level 1 Certified Coach, US Boxing Certified, USAB Certified Coach, and Runner

Some people love to plan out a new route when running. Maybe you got a new gym, a new job, or moved towns completely. Time to learn the area! To do that, it may be tricky. Here are some ways that planning a route will make a run more enjoyable, some tips for that first try, and some websites to complement the process.

Why not just hit the bus route?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had a phase where we just don’t feel like overthinking things, and we decide to just hit the main road or trail, and never deviate. Why wouldn’t we just continue doing that?

  • It’s very repetitive, whereas different routes have a variety. It is rather boring to see the same scenery every day unless we run further than we’ve ever run before (which is not always an option). It’s especially bland to see things twice: that being the classic out and back. Out and backs are likely best for tempos or any workout where you want to be very accurate on distance. It’s certainly more motivating to have a loop to follow.
  • It makes the run go by faster. Especially in a loop, and one that you don’t do every day, you’ll find that your run goes by faster. This is because you have more for your brain to give attention too, aside from obsessing on distance.
  • Variety is good for you! Hitting different amounts of elevation, terrain, and changing up other factors in a run will help to differentiate what parts of your body- and aerobic vs anaerobic system- you’re working on.

So, what’s going to get me this exciting route?

There are a couple things you can do to compliment the route you create.

  • Start with main roads, then move away from them. Major roads are much harder to get lost on, and can be used as an anchor and reference to not get lost. The downside to main roads is the lack of exciting scenery, and frequent stops (not good)! Unless you really fall in love with your route, try to broaden your directions so that you can find some hidden gems.
  • Let somebody see your route, and ideally do it with somebody. Two people are more likely to stay on course and not stray, and it’s much safer to be lost with a friend versus alone.
  • Bring a phone or GPS. A pretty obvious one, until you really know the roads well. This really comes in handy when your new route has a closed road due to something like construction.
  • A nice approach when making new routes and exploring a new area is to get onto a website or two and plot out some maps and save them. You could make one for a mile, two miles, three miles… and so on up to whatever distance you desire. 

Ok, I tried Google Maps but it just brings me to the shortest route…

Nope, I didn’t mean Google Maps! Try these websites that are intended for routing recreationally for walks, running, cycling, and other activities!

mapmyrun.comThis is probably the most popular of web pages to plot a route. Map My Run is free to use, with many tools and add ons. You can use this tool for years without spending a dime, and look at others’ routes in your area for free. Map My Run also has a very popular app.

plotaroute.comThis is very similar to Map My Run. It is more simplistic in design which can be good or bad depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for specifics as in elevation and specific formatting and sharing- go with Map My Run. If you want something quick and easy to just get out the door, go with this.

Strava.comBy far the most popular running app, Strava is the Instagram (or Facebook) of running, and is much more popular on mobile devices. You upload runs (by linking a device that you record your activity on), which display your route and/or photo (you choose)- with the nice feature of hiding the start and finish (in case of any creepers on the app that want to maybe figure out where you live). It is very much used as social media, and is used to update friends on activities such as running, skiing, hiking, lifting, swimming, cycling, and so much more! Similar to the other listed websites, Strava is only as expensive as you want to make it. Strava is free at its core, with optional In App Purchases.

I’m ready to start!

Now that you are ready to make up a new route to make that next run exciting, feel free to check out the mileage board at Performance Running Gym! If you do any running from the gym, we have created several routes- and updated a few due to many local trail closures (as of July 2023). This can be found between the restrooms and recovery room.

Enjoy, and happy trails!