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Why Is Running So Hard? 13 Tips to Make it Easier

One of the hardest parts of establishing a running habit is getting over the initial idea that running is hard. If you’re new to running, or are thinking about getting into running, you might not like it all that much. The getting out of breath, the sweating, the worrying that everyone is faster than you or that you’ll be seen as a beginner.

And then there’s the time and distance. The thought of running more than a couple miles, when you haven’t done it before, can be daunting. Running for over an hour? No thank you!

Fortunately, as you run more and keep these 13 tips in mind, you’ll start to find that running is actually enjoyable. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to your next run rather than wondering if you can avoid it.

1. Slow down to easy, conversational pace

If you find yourself out of breath and exhausted during your runs, there’s a good chance that you are running too fast and pushing yourself too hard. Try to slow down to an easy, conversational pace and you might find yourself enjoying running more.

If you’re training for a race, the idea of slowing down might seem counter-intuitive. You want to make sure that you’re ready for race day, and that means running fast, right? Not necessarily. Research shows that making sure that up to 80% of your running time is done at an easy pace will actually help you run faster (and like running more!). Running at this pace also helps build endurance more effectively.

2. Don’t overdo it

While you might be very pumped when you first get into running, and have ambitious goals for what you can accomplish, make sure that you move at your own pace. Don’t overdo it. Avoid running too far or more often than you should right at the start.

Now, it can be challenging to know when enougb is enough. Running coach Laura Norris recommends considering three factors to see if you’re overdoing it:

  • If you have intense fatigue and pain versus your normal discomfort
  • If your easy runs start to be slower than usual
  • If you finish feeling like you could not possibly do more

Even when you are an experienced runner, big jumps in mileage or effort can be risky, leading to injury or exhaustion that ends up setting your training back.

3. Run/walk, if necessary

While most runners don’t want to take walking breaks, it may be necessary to help build up your fitness. It may help you enjoy running more, and might even lead to better performance in the long run. I know when I first started running that I had to run/walk in order to put in the miles and get better.

Some of the benefits of run/walk training include a decreased chance of injury, increased speed over time, reduction of fatigue during your run, and making running more tolerable mentally because you know that you’ll get walk breaks.

4. Wear good shoes/clothing

Uncomfortable shoes and clothing can make running seem harder or less enjoyable than it should be. Just updating your shoes and clothing may fix the problem.

Good running shoes are absolutely essential to aid in preventing injuries, and can help improve performance. Plus, if you like to shop, you will feel great getting to purchase new shoes and clothing!

5. Make sure to warm up before you start

If you go straight into your run before warming up, you’re just asking for injuries and discomfort. You need to give your legs and lungs a chance to get warmed up and stretched out, and you’ll feel better when you’re running.

Your first mile (or really any mile!) doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. If you take the adequate time to warm up, you’ll increase your heart rate, which supports blood flow and delivers oxygen to systems in your body. Plus, you’ll go faster and get injured less.

runner hydrating with water

6. Stay hydrated and fueled before you run

If you are under- or over-hydrated before you run, have eaten too soon before you run, or are too hungry, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience cramps, GI distress, and/or other discomfort.

The simple solution is to make sure that you have enough hydration and fuel before your run. By making sure that you’re prepared, you’ll experience increased performance and overall better health. If you are out for a longer run, make sure to take along a few calories and some water to keep your tank topped up.

Click here to see the best running water bottles.

7. Find flat, easy running routes, or change up routes to avoid boredom

Sometimes running can be hard because your routes are too challenging. I experienced this when I was training for a hilly race. I did most of my training on hilly routes, and I was tiring myself out. So I decided to add a flat, easy route every so often to make my easy days easier and more enjoyable.

On the other hand, you might be running the same route every time and getting bored. Switch it up! Find a new route that you’ve never run before, and you may find yourself much happier running.

Similarly, you might consider running at a different time during the day to vary your runs. You might consider trying to run early in the morning or later in the evening so that you can see the sun rise or the sun set. That might bring joy to your running again!

8. Listen to music/podcasts to distract yourself

Sometimes the easiest way to make something more enjoyable is pairing it with something you already enjoy, or finding a way to distract yourself.

Psychologists note that one of the best ways to develop a new habit is to pair it with something you already like. You can easily do that with running and podcasts.

Some running coaches recommend having an audiobook/podcast/music that you only listen to while running, to encourage you to put in the miles. If you’re really excited about that book/podcast/music, you may find yourself looking forward to runs because you get to listen to that next installment you are eagerly anticipating.

9. Run with a friend or partner at the same fitness level

If a good podcast you like doesn’t motivate you to keep on getting out the door, how about a good person? Friends can be very powerful motivators. If it’s cold and rainy outside, you might not want to get up at 6am. But if you know that a friend will be there with you, chances are you’ll get up.

Another option is joining a running club. You can spend time with other people as you’re getting into great shape. Plus, you may find yourself stretching yourself and running faster because you have extra motivation. Before you know it, you’ll be one of the experiences runners a newcomer is looking up to.

The important thing is to make sure that you’re training with someone who isn’t going to push you too hard or push you too little. Ideally, you would run and train with someone who is just slightly faster than you so that you can improve without exhausting yourself.

10. Get motivated by signing up for a race

Another great way to make running more enjoyable is to get yourself motivated by signing up for a race. When you feel like you are a rutt, knowing that you have a race in the weeks and months ahead may keep you going.

If you’re still discouraged and find running challenging even after signing up for a race, consider signing up for a new distance. If you’ve been running half marathons, try a 10k or 5k.

Switching up your race length (or race location!) may do the trick. If you’ve always wanted to visit a particular part of the country or a specific state (or even an international location), sign up for a race there.

Click here to see the best half marathons in the United States

There’s a good chance that if you sign up for a race in a place you’ve wanted to visit, you’ll be more motivated to run more. I personally am thinking about running my first marathon internationally because I love to travel, and I know that will keep me going.

Finally, you might consider signing up for a race with a friend. Bonus points if you sign up for a race in a place you’ve always wanted to visit and you get a friend to go with you!

11. Cover the treadmill display with a towel so you don’t stare at mileage or pace

Putting in the miles on a treadmill can be incredibly boring and make running very challenging. Still, treadmills are valuable training tools, especially to keep you running when the weather keeps you indoors. Figure out ways that you can make treadmill running more enjoyable!

One of the best ways is to cover the treadmill display with a towel so that you aren’t seeing the seconds slowly tick by. Time always passes extremely slowly when you’re staring at the clock.

12. Only look at your running watch once every mile

When I first started running and got my Garmin running watch, I used to check it quite frequently during my run, and it just stressed me out. I was trying to make sure that I was keeping my pace, but I found that constantly monitoring it was too much.

I decided to start looking at my watch only when it buzzed after finishing each mile, and this worked wonders in helping me enjoy runs more. And, I actually started running faster. You start being more grateful for the scenery around you and focus more on nature rather than on your watch.

13. Be grateful

One of the surest ways to make anything more challenging than it needs to be is to focus on what you don’t have. If you start focusing on what you do have, there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier and enjoy life more. This goes for running as well.

I try to think less about any pain that I’m feeling, and more about the very opportunity I have to run. I don’t want to take my good health for granted. Some people in my family have difficulties even walking due to age, and I’m just so grateful I can run.

I find myself enjoying my runs more when I think about all the things I’m grateful for. And smile when you’re running! You’ll look goofy, but you’ll feel better.

All in all, running can be hard, but so can life. And the way to fix either problem is to start thinking outside of the box, mixing it up, and focusing on what you do have. Running will start to become more enjoyable, and maybe even easier!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner