While being a runner boasts major advantages, it also has its own set of challenges.
The fact is, and if truth be told, anything without challenges is boring and not worth the effort.
In fact, as the saying goes “ If it doesn’t challenge, it doesn’t change you”.
Couldn’t be more true when it comes to running.
And I won’t lie to you.
Running is hard, demanding, and sometimes a lonely endeavor.
Sticking a regular running program is no easy feat. After all, there is an abundance of potential challenges and obstacles—time, injuries, lack of motivation, boredom, sickness, you name it—that can stand in the way of our running success.
Still, it’s worth the effort. Your fitness and health will be forever in your debt.
That’s why today I decided to share you with you, my dear readers, some of the most common hindrances we runners face, along with a few practical and down-to-earth tips on how to go through (or over) them, unscathed.
So are you excited? Then here we go…
Master The 9 Biggest Obstacles to Running
Without further ado, here are some practical strategies for overcoming the 9 most common obstacles to running.
1. Not a Morning Person
I’m an avid morning runner, but I wasn’t born one. That I’m sure of.
In fact, I had to learn, the hard way, how to become an early bird (check this post for more).
Becoming a morning runner is not an easy feat—especially if you are a late night owl. Plus, the early hours of the day are tough since your body temperature and heart rate are their lowest.
Nevertheless, mornings are ideal for running and here is why.
According to study, runners who run first thing in the morning tend to stay more consistent with their training program for the long haul than those who do it later on. Not only that, a morning run will boost your metabolism, increase mental focus, and help you be more productive to take on the rest of the day with ease.
Prepare yourself for an early morning run the night before.
First of all, go to bed early—early to bed, early to rise. This will not only help you become a morning runner but also ensure that you are getting enough sleep.
Therefore, turn off the TV, and computer at least an hour before hitting the sack—the absence of light increases the release of melatonin, which is a hormone that aids sleep.
Also, get your running clothes and gear out, and lay them where you can easily see them. Having your clothes and other gears right there will reduce the morning debate and make it much easier for you to get dressed for the run.
By doing this, you are setting the stage for success…
For more on this topic, here is my full guide on becoming a morning runner.
2. Lack of Motivation
“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”
― Zig Ziglar
Running has a repetitive nature, especially if you are doing it solo and in a monotonous manner.
Hence, if you don’t spice it up enough, you are more likely to lose the motivation.
Therefore, you will really need to learn how to CONSCIOUSLY motivate yourself; otherwise, you will be at the mercy of the peaks and lows of your own mind.
You will be a slave to your own mind.
The best way to boost your running motivation is by setting a public goal.
Sharing your goals with others creates a sense of accountability, which can force you to stay committed to your goals. Peer pressure can do miracles—when used right.
Therefore, write down a specific running goal—Running a 5K, shedding 10 pounds, completing a marathon, whatever gets you going—and tell all your family members and friends about it.
Just make sure that your goals are realistic and are within your reach—otherwise, you are setting yourself for a major setback.
Also, you can broadcast it on Facebook and Twitter.
What’s more? You can also run with friends, neighbors or co-workers. A running program does not have to be a solo activity. And according to study, working out in groups leads to better consistency and more pain tolerance, which is good for performance and overall health.
3. Side Stitches
Mostly taking place on the left side of your body, precisely in the lower abdominal area, the stabbing cramps known as side stitches can stop any runner in their tracks.
The primary cause of the pain is yet to be disclosed. But most experts believe it’s believed the result of bad pre-run food choices, shallow breathing or low endurance conditioning—that’s why beginner runners are more prone to suffer from side stitches.
What you eat before a run seems to have an effect here.
Therefore, make sure to steer clear of high-fiber foods—they take longer to digest—in the two to three hours before a workout.
Experiment with different pre-run foods and find out what works the best for you.
And whatever you do, make sure to eat lightly and give your digestion system plenty of time to do its job.
Also, start your runs with a proper warm-up. Invest at least five minutes of jogging, then gradually work into an easy running pace.
Skipping the warm-up may shed time on the watch, but it can also lead to an irregular, rapid-fire breathing patterns, which increases the risks of the side stitch.
Doing so helps your body get ready for the task ahead
4. Shortness of Breath
Breathlessness is a common hitch—, especially among beginner runners. In most cases, if you are breathing heavy, it usually means that you are doing too much and might need back it off.
If you are a beginner runner, then expect to be short of breath as a part of your training program.
But to make things easier on you, make sure to stick to a conversational running pace— about a six on an intensity scale of one to 10.— during the first weeks of your running program.
If you can run and carry on a conversation with ease, then you are doing it right; if you are sucking wind and panting for breath on each step you take, then you are running too hard.
Make sure also to practice deep breathing whenever you can. Most runners are chest breathers, but this shallow method of breathing is inefficient since it does not deliver ample amounts of oxygen into your bloodstream.
To breathe deeply, make sure that your abdomen also rises and falls with every breath you take. It’s breathing just like a new born baby.
To make sure you are doing it right, put your palm on your abdomen and see if you feel it moving.
5. Lack of Time
“Time management is a misnomer the challenge is to manage ourselves” – Stephen Covey
Lack of time can a be major roadblock toward achieving your running goals.
But that’s not the whole story here…
Time is not the issue here. How you manage yourself is the real problem.
It’s really a question of priority here. What do you value the most in your life.
After all, values determine how we use up our time
You can’t have enough time, but you can “create it.”
You can start setting your priorities straight by allocating plenty of time for running. For starters, schedule your runs the same way you schedule an important work meeting or a family event.
If running is a priority in your life, then you are more likely to find time for it.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but it is what it is…
It’s really a question of values. What you value the most in your life. Values determine our priorities.
Plus, keep this motto in mind: “A short run is better than None.”
In other words, if you don’t have the time for a full hour run, then opt for a short run—nothing less than 15 minutes. At least you’ll be burning some calories, and be re-enforcing the habit of running into your daily schedule.
6. Tried Running and Failed
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill
Starting again with running is really challenging after a failure, which can be an injury, burnout or any other painful setback that stopped you from running.
Taking up and claiming your running mantle after a break is HARD…
Yes, it’s hard but isn’t your health worth another try.
Just don’t throw the towel yet. There is still hope for you.
Re-evaluate what went wrong and learn from your mistakes. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
Set realistic goals. That’s all you have to do. Most beginner runners push it too much and end up getting injured, burned out or both.
Don’t promise yourself that you are going to run for a full hour every day, and then get down on yourself when you fall short—which will eventually happen if you got on that road.
Your goals have to be small and achievable, such as running for 20 minutes three times a week for the first month.
Don’t shoot over the top. And remember to pace yourself, then gradually build it up for more intense running.
7. Too Tired To Run
After a long day at work, mental fatigue can wreak havoc on your running program (that’s one other reason I prefer running in the morning).
During the evening, dopamine levels—a brain chemical that helps you feel energized—hit their lowest.
Add to it the blood sugar plunges during the late evening, then no wonder that you don’t feel like going for a run.
The truth is that running—and any other form of exercise—can help you increase energy levels and might be the exact thing you need to reboot your system and feel alive again.
Start your day with a run.
For me, that was the silver bullet.
Not only running in the morning will get you in shape, but also increase your energy levels for the rest of the day, helping you stay fresh and mentally alert.
Also, don’t confuse mental fatigue with physical fatigue.
In fact, short-term mental fatigue has no impact on physical functions, according to a study by Bangor University in Wales.
So it’s your mind—not your body—that calls for rest and “time to kill.” And running is the best antidote since it lifts up your nervous system, which boosts your sense of alertness and makes you feel more refreshed.
As a result, prep for your post-work run by packing your running gear, changing at work, and heading directly to the trail. It’s really all about building a momentum then sticking to it.
This painful skin irritation is every runner’s nightmare.
Chafing is caused by repeated motion—mostly when the skin rubs against the wobbly fabric.
The bra line (women), nipples and inner thighs are some of the most common areas where chafing occurs. Sweat can only make it worse.
First of all. Get rid of the source of the friction—experiment with different clothing in different fibers or different sizes.
Secondly, steer clear of cotton, because once it gets wet, it stays wet and gets soggy. If you have seen any runner with bloody nipples, then know for sure that they are wearing a cotton shirt.
The solution is to opt for synthetic materials such as CoolMax that wick moisture away from the skin, and you will be better off.
If chafed thighs are a common issue, then use Body Glide or Vaseline on your thighs (or any other vulnerable area), and opt for short Lycra tights to minimize the friction.
If you are a woman, then opt for a synthetic sports bra with smooth seams. My girlfriend swears by them.
For treating bad cases of chafing, apply talcum powder to the troubled area and cover the chafed spot with a bandage to prevent any further pain.
9. Runners Knee
When the iliotibial band—a large tendon that runs down the outside of the thigh—becomes tight and starts to rub on the bone at the knee, that’s the onset stage of the dreadful condition known as “Runner Knee.”
Runner’s knee usually manifest as intense pain around or behind the kneecap, mainly where the kneecap and thighbone meet.
With time, this band becomes swollen until running gets very painful.
Almost any physical activity can lead to pain: walking, running, squatting, kneeling, biking, jumping or even sitting.
The condition happens mainly due to overuse trauma, direct trauma to the knee. It can also be the result of weak thigh muscles—mostly muscles imbalances in the lower body—and also problems with the feet, like overpronation and fallen arches.
At the first sign of trouble, cut back on your running mileage and/or take some time off from running. The earlier you spot the problem, the better. You can always cross train by exercising your upper body and avoiding any knee-bending and/or high impact activities that can hinder the healing process.
Make sure also to stretch your iliotibial band regularly.
In most cases, a tight iliotibial band will invite in more trouble.
Failure to stretch the iliotibial band properly can lead to another instance of the condition once you go back to running again.
Also, stretching your hamstrings and calves regularly can help prevent overpronation and slash the risks of runners knee.
What’s more? You can also work on increasing strength in the quadriceps to improve patellar tracking and correct other muscle imbalances in the lower body.
Other preventative measures include running in proper shoes, running on softer surfaces, sticking to the 10 percent weekly mileage increase, and developing good running form.
Please feel free to leave your comments below. If there are any other obstacle to running that you are facing, feel free to send me your questions, and I’ll surely reply ASAP.
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.
Image Credit – Bastiaan Heus