I love running. It’s the best cardiovascular exercise out there. It’s so convenient that it can be done anywhere by almost anyone, it takes almost no investment of money, and there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get after you’ve completed a great run.
I could go on and on about the benefits that running has to offer, but that’s another subject for another day. The truth is, running sucks when you’re a beginner or just getting back into it.
During the early weeks and months of training, running can take a toll on both your body and your mind. That’s why a lot of people have such a hard time when starting out. It’s also why many give it up too soon.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few tricks and strategies that have helped make running a lot easier, and today I’m going to share with you some of my favorites.
1. Start Slowly
To start on the right foot, ease into your runs. This is the most valuable piece of advice I could give a beginner, and it is especially true for those who are starting from scratch or getting back into running after an extended layoff.
To train within your own fitness level, stick to what’s known as a conversational pace. This means you should be able to run while keeping a conversation going, with no panting every step of the way. If that’s not the case, then you’re overdoing it, and you need to slow down.
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2. Take Walk Breaks
Adding walking breaks into your runs will help you keep things under control. It also builds endurance without the risk of doing too much too soon.
It’s easy to tell when to take a walk break – it’s whenever you’re winded while running. When that happens, slow down and walk until your breathing and heart rate are back in control. Then, and only then, pick up the pace and start running again.
You can still call yourself a runner, even when you’re taking plenty of walking breaks.
3. Pair Up
I was lucky enough to discover the benefits of a training buddy early on. Misery loves company, so don’t suffer alone!
A training partner not only provides you with encouragement and support but also hold you accountable for your action (or inaction). Accountability is what’s going to help you stay consistent over the long haul.
Pair up with a friend, a family member, a coworker or anybody else who is interested in being your training buddy. Schedule at least one or two running sessions with them per week.
One important thing to remember: You should be both on the same page when it comes to running goals and fitness level.
4. Reward Yourself
I’m a big fan of using incentives to increase motivation while running. This simple act has helped me overcome many an obstacle. I can’t recommend it enough.
That’s why I encourage you to come up with a list of enjoyable activities. It can include everything from going on a vacation or a fun night out with friends to a message, or even a new pair of running shoes.
Next, once you’ve reached a particular running goal, refer back to your activity list and reward yourself. Your accomplishment might be achieving a specific mileage goal or speed, losing a certain amount of weight, making it into the top ten in your age group in a race — you name it.
One important rule is that food should not be on your reward list, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Food can have lots of emotional baggage, and using it as a reward can do a lot more harm than good. You can’t outrun a crappy diet, no matter how fast you get. I cannot emphasize this enough.
5. Strength Train
I’ve discussed this in other posts, and I’ll keep saying it: weight training is key for runners. It adds strength and power to key running muscles, including the glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and core. This added strength makes running much easier.
Do at least two strength sessions per week, including plenty of squats, deadlifts, planks, walking lunges, and burpees.
Here are five strength routines to try:
6. Smile and Relax
Did you know that even if you fake a smile, your brain responds as if it’s real? It releases all kinds of feel-good chemicals, reducing stress and promoting happiness.
What this means for runners is that you can smile your way out of running pain. This is especially true if your first reaction to pain is the appearance of tension in your face.
Next time you go out for a run, make a conscious effort to keep your face relaxed by pasting on a subtle smile.
Also, be wary of tension. Lots of runners don’t realize that they’re making themselves tense up by making a fist. Imagine you’re holding a butterfly in each hand, and while you’re running, you’re giving each of them a ride.
7. Proper Shoes
More than often, making running easier can be as simple as opting for the proper trainers.
So how do you find the right sole-mate?
Simple. Head to the nearest running store and let their specialists guide you to the pair that’s best for you. Some determining factors include running gait, individual stride, and foot type.
Though a running specialty store’s shoes may cost a bit more than you’ll pay at a big box store, the investment in their expertise will be well worth it – and once you know what works for you, you can search for a bargain next time.
8. The Right Playlist
Want to learn something about me?
One of my favorite quotes is from the late Bob Marley. It goes like this:
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
This quote is especially true when it comes to making exercise easier. Music helps distract you from fatigue, boosts your mood, and can even reduce your level of perceived physical exertion.
According to a study conducted at Brunel University in London, exercising while listening to music can help you run farther, bike longer, and push harder than you would do otherwise. Lead researcher Dr. Costas Karagerghis went so far as to refer to music as a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.
Want to see if it works for you? Make up a playlist of the songs you love the most, or check out RockMyRun or TempoRun to help you match songs to your running pace.
9. Stay in the Now
Another thing that can make running feel easier is to keep your mind on the mile you’re in rather than on how far you still have to go. I call it meditation in motion. I’ve learned that worrying about how much farther I have to go achieves nothing but a chain of negative thoughts—the kind that compromises both training performance and enjoyment.
By focusing on the mile you’re currently running, you can make the most out of your workout while enjoying every step of the way. So keep your mind focused on the moment right now and what’s right in front of you. Use your five senses. Look intently. Listen intensely. Feel and appreciate the air on your face.
Breathe deeply. Feel the fabric of your clothes, and look in front of you so you can absorb the scenery surrounding you. Study the faces of the people you pass and admire the dogs, and birds if they’re there.
In other words, lose your mind and come to your senses
10. Stay Consistent
Last but not least, if you’re serious about making running easier, you have to stick to it. There are no tricks, no shortcuts, and no silver bullets. It all comes down to good old hard work.
Like any other skill, running requires a lot of practice over a prolonged period.
Running regularly strengthens key running muscles while improving your endurance and efficiency. It also helps your body get used to the high impact nature of running.
This means that instead of being a sporadic runner, you need to design a weekly plan and stick to it regardless of weather conditions or any other excuse that might stand in your way.
Need a rough guideline? Plan to run three to four times a week, four weeks a month, and 12 months a year. Schedule your runs the same way you plan an important work meeting or family event. Making running a priority matters.
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There you have it! The above tips are all you need to help make your runs and workouts way easier, which, in turn, can help you stick with training for the long haul.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong