I hate running. It’s too hard. I’m a bad runner. I can’t do it. Why do my legs feel so heavy? Omg, it seems like I’ve been running forever . . . oh, wait, just two minutes. This is the worst. Does running get easier?
Sound familiar? Welcome to the mental script of every runner, at least once in a while. As much as running can be an amazing stress reliever and a path to physical fitness, it can also be incredibly challenging, both mentally and physically.
However, running does get easier—eventually. Here’s how to get the most out of every run without dreading putting one foot in front of the other.
Accept that it’ll always be hard, to some degree.
The definition of what’s “hard” simply evolves the more you run. It depends on pace, length, and your personal goals. Also, every single time you begin a run, your body needs a little bit of transition time. Your heart beats faster and your blood vessels dilate to bring more oxygen into your blood, and then to your muscles.
“I half-jokingly say that running never gets easier—you just get faster or go longer,” says running coach Kyle Kranz. “For a new runner, an 11:00 pace may feel moderately easy, but two years later a 9:00 pace may feel just as moderately easy.”
Chances are also high that the first mile of every single run will probably feel slow, frustrating, or even bad, but that’s perfectly normal as your body warms up.
Give your body a moment to shift into an aerobic state, and ease into your speed with a steady focus on your breath. A pre-run warm-up can help with this considerably. Over time, you’ll find your perfect training pace while training on the side to increase running speed.
Above all, remember that running is a workout and some days will be tougher than others. You’ll get tired during long distances, feel a lack of motivation before your first race, suffer through side stitches, and/or want to puke during sprints. But, you’ll also have runs that make you feel good and ready to conquer the world.
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Trust that running will get a little easier, over time.
Like anything else, the more you do a certain activity, the more your body gets accustomed to it. Running consistently means that at some point you’ll probably start to know what to expect, at least in a physical sense.
You’ll find a comfortable pace that you can stick to for miles upon miles, either on a treadmill or outside, and explore runs at various times of the day to see what works best for you, in terms of energy and performance.
You’ll discover your favorite Aaptiv trainers, tunes, or podcasts to listen to, which will help the time go by faster. You may notice how after a long, tough day some runs can be therapeutic, while others will be difficult from start to finish. Regardless, you’ll trust that you can get through any run as long as you keep moving.
Most of all, the mental ups and downs of running will likely become more tolerable. Running builds your confidence, and that goes hand-in-hand with achieving your goals.
A 2015 study says mental fatigue is one of the biggest roadblocks to running performance. This is because negative thoughts trick you into thinking that your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is higher than it actually is. But soon you’ll learn to focus more on what you can do, versus what you think you can’t do.
Understand that setbacks happen.
Even though you may be frequently running to a certain destination or mile mark, there’s actually no final endgame with the sport itself. You may get to a place where running is “easy,” then experience a setback.
Major life events or injuries can derail your progress and force you to “start over.” Or, as Kranz mentioned above, you might find one part of running has become easier (you successfully trained for your first 5K!), but now something else feels much harder (now you’re aiming for a half-marathon).
Trust that no matter what, you’ll find your groove again. “When returning to running after a period of rest, it’s important to be aware that while it took a long time to build up your fitness, and the fitness goes away pretty quickly upon a long rest, it also comes back fairly rapidly, as well,” advises Kranz.
“While you may not be in PR shape a month back into running, in most cases, this is plenty of time to get back into the swing of things for your general running fitness.”
Give yourself at least three months to see progress.
Usually, the first thing beginner runners want to know is exactly when running will get easier. It’s different for everyone, but most people discover a turning point once they can run for about 30 minutes consecutively.
“To see larger fitness gains, rather than habit or training improvements, I generally require a three-month commitment from new clients so [that] the training stimuli we expose the runner to has time to show itself,” says Kranz.
Try to avoid running too hard, too fast, too long—or too much.
If running feels ridiculously hard all the time, most experts agree that it’s probably due to you doing too much, too soon. Research shows that your body “hits a wall” when it’s depleted of glycogen stores in the muscles and liver, which results in fatigue and low energy.
Why does this happen? Overtraining and low blood sugar.
Additionally, if running is the only thing you do, you may want to think twice. Effective runners utilize cross-training, such as other forms of cardio, as well as strength training and yoga, to stay fit and avoid injury. Aaptiv has strength training and yoga workouts you can do in app now.
They also practice self-care, in terms of getting enough sleep, skipping workouts if sick, using a foam roller to release tight muscles, eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and taking rest days, when necessary.
“Being able to run consistently and frequently over time is a key to improvement. The best way to make this happen is to make sure most of your running is done at an easy conversational effort,” says Kranz.
“Always end a run before you feel the drastic need to end it. You left a little in the tank, and this will be a good start for your recovery towards the next jog.”