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Why Is Running So Hard? 15 Tips to Make it Easier

Running seems pretty easy, right? All you need is your feet and shoes, then just get out there and move faster than a walk.

But if you’re new to running, you might be surprised at how hard it can be.

In this article, we’re exploring why running is so hard. What makes this seemingly simple activity so tricky for newbies?

There’s a lot more that goes into running than you might realize. Fixing a few small things can take running from being a chore to being the thing you look forward to the most.

Here is an explanation of why running is so hard in the beginning, as well as our top tips for making your runs easier and more fun.

Why Is Running So Hard?

If you’re new to running, it’s highly likely that your body isn’t used to the mechanics of running. While it’s one of the most natural things you can do, doing it more often and intensely than you have before can be hard on the body.

Running is a high-impact sport, which can put a strain on your joints if your feet aren’t adequately cushioned as well as stress on your joints, the muscles involved in running are undergoing more exercise than they have before.

When you run, like any exercise, your muscles are being broken down. Exercise creates tiny “micro-tears” in the muscle, which heal during recovery, making your muscles stronger each time.

But in the first few weeks of exercise, this process can be painful, and you’ll notice that your muscles are stiff and sore, especially the day after a run.

At the same time, your cardiovascular system is being challenged and working harder than usual. Every part of your body adapts to its new activity levels, and it’s likely to feel tired and achy initially.

Running gets easier over time when your body is used to it, and you’ve made sure to protect your joints. But there will still be days when it feels hard, which is your body telling you it needs a break.

How to Make Running Easier

Thankfully, you can take steps to make your runs easier and more fun in the beginning. It’s easy to give up in the beginning when you haven’t formed a habit yet.

But if you use these tips, you should be able to get into a running habit more easily and prevent fatigue, pain, and a loss of motivation.

1. Slow Down

As beginners, it’s tempting to run at a fast pace. But this can tire you out quickly, increase muscle soreness, and lower your mileage.

If you’re exhausted while running, you may push yourself to go too fast. You don’t need to compete with anyone else on the road, so slowing down could be the key to making running easier.

Running at a pace you can still hold a conversation is the best way to start. This pace will help you reach your desired mileage before getting tired and builds endurance. The more your endurance, the better you’ll do on each subsequent run!

2. Don’t Overdo It

Overtraining is a common cause of fatigue for new runners. You may have found a running plan that seems to suit you, but if you’re feeling worn out by the time you reach your fourth run of the week, it’s a sign that you’re doing too much.

Rather than jumping straight into a serious training plan, listening to your own body for the first three or four weeks might be worthwhile. Starting out with three runs per week, with a day of rest between each one, is a good plan for new runners.

This might seem like less than you would like. But running more than this exposes you to injury as your body doesn’t have enough time to rest between sessions. And if you get injured, you may have to stop running completely as it heals.

3. Don’t Be Afraid To Walk

If you find that running an entire mile without stopping is difficult, you’re not alone! Many new runners—unless they have a great fitness level before starting—struggle to run for long stretches on the go.

There’s nothing wrong with alternating between running and walking. You can start off running and slow down to a walk when you feel that you can’t run anymore. As soon as you start to feel stronger, run again until you feel that you can’t anymore.

This will help give your body a bit of time to rest between the higher-intensity exercise periods. As time passes, you will find that you walk less and can run for longer periods before you get tired.

4. Wear the Right Gear

Wearing the right shoes and clothing can significantly impact your running. Wearing the wrong things can increase the risk of injury and discomfort while running.

Make sure the shoes you choose are right for your feet. While most people will wear a neutral shoe, those who overpronate—whose feet fall inwards towards the arch while they walk or run—will need a stability shoe.

The shoe should also have enough cushioning to dampen shock on your joints. These are crucial features if you’re serious about running, as they’ll protect your feet as much as possible.

Your clothes should also be comfortable and soft. Make sure there’s no chafing anywhere. If there is, you may want to consider using anti-chafing cream or rub.

5. Warm Up

You might think you don’t need to warm up if you aren’t running fast, but that’s not true. Every runner needs to get their muscles warm before the activity so that once you start, they’re loose and have less chance of injury.

You only need a few minutes to warm up. Do some dynamic stretches, high knees, butt kicks, jumping jacks, and bodyweight squats to activate the muscles in your legs and prepare them to run.

6. Don’t Run Hungry or Thirsty

If you aren’t properly fueled or hydrated before you go for a run, you will have less energy and feel fatigued much sooner. Eating something light and making sure you’re hydrated before you start can solve this problem.

You need to be careful here, as eating or drinking too much before you run can lead to GI distress or discomfort. But eating a piece of fruit or something light about 15 minutes before your run and staying hydrated throughout the day will help.

As you improve and can run longer distances, you may need to take some running fuel with you to boost yourself on the road.

7. Choose Your Route Carefully

Sometimes, running can be harder because of the route you’re taking. Perhaps the place you’re running is very hilly, or the surface is difficult to handle.

The simple solution here is to find an easier route. Finding a flatter route is in your best interest if you can’t handle the hills. Finding a less slippery route may be a good idea if you’ve been running on gravel. You may want to find out if there’s a track nearby you.

If you already run a flat, comfortable route, boredom can make your run harder. You may want to find two or three routes that you can alternate between to avoid getting bored with the same route every time.

8. Listen to Music or Podcasts

Listening to music can be a great motivator! You may find that your legs feel less wobbly when a good song comes on, or it keeps your mind distracted enough that you don’t notice your fatigue.

Listening to podcasts is a good idea if you’re not a music person. This way, you aren’t just running; you’re learning something simultaneously. It’s also a great idea if you struggle to find the time to listen to your favorite podcasts during the day.

9. Run With Someone Else

Running with a friend or family member can be a great motivator. This way, you have some accountability—you might not want to leave the house for yourself, but it’s easier to do it for someone else! The conversation can also help you avoid overdoing it in terms of pace.

If you don’t have a runner friend or family member, you may want to consider joining a running club. This will help you to meet people with the same interests as you, and you may be able to find a running partner.

Whoever you run with, ensure they’re on a similar level to you. They shouldn’t push you too hard, but there should be some challenge. An ideal running partner will be slightly faster than you, so you can challenge yourself to keep up.

10. Sign Up For a Race

Once your body has adjusted to your new activity level, you can add some extra motivation by signing up to participate in a race. Starting small is best, even if you feel confident. A 5K is a good race to begin with.

It’s a good idea to download a training plan for your specific race to prime yourself for it. But having an event to look forward to can help add some excitement to your running.

You can do this alone or with your running friend. It could be even more motivating if you sign up together because there’s a small bit of friendly competition!

11. Don’t Get Caught Up In Data

Most of us have a smartwatch that tracks various data when we run. As a beginner, it’s tempting to check your watch often while running to see how fast you’re going, how far you’ve run, or check on other details.

If you’re improving, this can be motivating. But the biggest improvements in fitness are made during recovery, so eagerly checking your watch while running can be more demotivating than anything.

It’s a good idea to set your watch to vibrate every mile so you know how far you’re going. But we suggest not peeking at your data until you’re home so you can compare it to previous runs if you wish to see progress.

However, keep in mind that progress is not usually linear. While there may be some improvements, especially in the beginning, the best way to check progress is over weeks or months of data.

If you can, forget about tracking data in the beginning. Rather, focus on how you feel while you’re running and if it feels like it’s getting easier each time.

12. Fix Your Form

Poor form can make running harder. Make sure that when you run, you’re keeping your torso up—standing tall—relaxing your shoulders, staying light on your feet, and trying to land with your pelvis over your front foot.

Correct form can help to reduce strain on the muscles and joints, making running easier, especially over time.

13. Alternate With Cross-Training

As we mentioned, we recommend running three times a week initially. If you want to build your running muscles and increase strength and endurance, you can do cross-training on your days off.

Strength training will help to build muscle and give you more strength in your lower body. You can also do cardio-based cross-training, like swimming, cycling, and rowing.

If you cross-train between running and start to feel unusually fatigued or your running begins to suffer, reduce your cross-training to once a week.

14. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself for reaching running milestones can be a powerful motivator! Don’t go overboard, but it can be something small like if you run three times this week, you’re going to watch three episodes of your favorite TV show on the weekend.

You can make the rewards bigger as you improve. For example, if you reach your goal mileage by the end of the month, you can buy yourself a new running shirt. Get creative, but make sure not to reward yourself with unhealthy food unless it’s in moderation!

15. Remember Why You Run

Why did you start running? Was it for health reasons? Was it because you needed a way to relieve stress? We all start running for our own reasons and remembering why you started can be a good way to motivate yourself to continue.

Also, remember it takes a few weeks before you’ll start to feel comfortable running. Patience is also important here, but keeping your end goal in mind can help you to push through when running gets tough!

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner