Why is running so hard?! When will running start to get easier?!
If you’ve ever found yourself with these thoughts, you’re certainly not alone. Just about every runner, from beginners to seasoned and advanced athletes alike, find themselves struggling on occasion.
Why is running so hard some days?
Well, running is hard. The physical activity is designed to strengthen our muscles, cardiovascular system and mind, so by definition, it should be challenging at times.
However, most runners can agree that running does begin to feel easier as time passes. But there are still those days (or weeks or months) when running just feels so hard. Many times we can’t pinpoint the reason for this sudden increase in difficulty, which only adds to our frustration.
If you’re a seasoned runner and are finding that running suddenly feels hard, it might be a sign that your body is working hard to recover from a slight illness, infection, stress or exhaustion. If you’re a new runner and find that things continue to feel challenging, stay consistent and cut yourself some slack.
Is running supposed to be hard?
Running certainly isn’t supposed to feel like a piece of cake all the time, but if it continues to feel hard (or get harder) after consistent efforts, it might be a sign that something is off.
Most runners will tell you that the key to long term success with the sport is finding that sweet spot in terms of the effort you give on a run. The sweet spot is where running doesn’t feel miserable and you’re confident you can keep going, but are still pushing your body (and mind) just a tad out of their comfort zone.
If you’re struggling to find that sweet spot and finding that running continues to feel hard – don’t give up. Running does in fact get easier, and the more intentional you are getting there, the faster it will arrive.
15 Ways to Make Running Easier
Run/walk when necessary
The run/walk method is a great strategy for beginners who are hoping to increase their distance and build endurance. It’s also a great strategy for seasoned runners who are facing an especially difficult time during their training.
If you’re struggling on a run, give yourself a break and walk for a minute. Take a quick walk break and then get back to it, or plan regular walking intervals for the rest of your run. Sometimes our bodies are trying to communicate that they need a break, and the best thing to do is to listen and adjust accordingly.
One of the main reasons that running is hard, for both beginners and seasoned runners alike, is because you are running too fast. As a new runner, it’s easy to anticipate a pace that you expect to run, only to find out that it feels nearly impossible when you actually begin to run.
Forget about the pace you think you “should” be running. If running is feeling way harder than usual, or has felt hard for many runs in a row, it’s a sign that you need to slow down.
Ignore your pace and slow way down until your body feels comfortable. Your pace is bound to get faster with time and consistency, no matter how slow you start.
Include cross training
Sometimes running feels hard because we simply don’t have the strength or endurance needed to sustain the activity for as long as we would like. Focusing on adding cross training or strength training workouts to your weekly training will not only improve your physical strength, but your cardiovascular efficiency as well.
Cross training is a key element of any training plan, and essential for preventing injuries as your mileage increases. If you notice that running is hard all of a sudden, you might want to increase your cross training while maintaining lower mileage until things feel easier.
Don’t overlook rest days
Another reason running might be feeling especially difficult is because you’re not getting adequate rest or recovery time. When running feels hard, it’s often a sign that we aren’t fully recovered from the previous run or workout.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new training plan or use those rest days to catch up on missed mileage early on. However, if running is feeling hard, maintaining at least one rest day each week is crucial for helping your body recover.
Warm up beforehand
Many new runners are unknowingly skipping out on a key element of running: warming up. Completing a warm up before running helps get your muscles loosened up and ready to go.
Sometimes those first few minutes of a run feel so hard that we quit or get discouraged right from the start. Often, though, all we need to do to avoid this is to spend a few minutes preparing our bodies and minds for the run.
In this case, your muscles are likely still recovering from previous runs or workouts. Stretching helps flush out built up lactic acid which can speed up the recovery process. Making an effort to stretch after running will help prevent heavy legs to make each run feel easier.
Fuel and hydrate well
Lack of fuel or water can have a serious impact on how you feel during a run. You’ll likely need to experiment a bit to discover what types of fuel work well for your body, and learn how to time your pre-run snacks or meals.
Water, however, is necessary for all of us. If you notice that you’re recovering slower than usual or feeling especially sluggish on a run, try increasing your water intake during the day.
No, not literally naked. Rather, run naked by running without your watch.
It seems that just about every runner has some sort of smart watch these days. Whether it’s a Garmin, Apple Watch or one of the many others, we all love tracking our mileage and pace during each run.
However, sometimes the easy access to stats can unintentionally cause us to try to keep up a pace or effort that is too much for our body. If running is feeling exceptionally hard, trying leaving the watch at home and basing your pace on how you’re feeling instead.
Listen to music or podcasts
Occasionally, it can be tough to differentiate between whether running is hard or running is just boring. One of the best ways to take our mind off the difficulty and make things a little more exciting is to listen to something you love while running.
Music, podcasts and audiobooks are all a great way to bring a little more joy to a difficult run. Save your favorite podcast to listen to on your run, or make a playlist with all of the best songs.
Another way to make running feel easier is to get outside. If you’ve been stuck indoors on a track or treadmill, the monotony might be tricking your brain into making running feel harder than it actually is.
Find an easy loop in your neighborhood, or mix things up by heading to a nearby park or trail. The change in scenery might help the run go by faster and feel easier than it did before.
Sign up for a race
Races can help running feel easier simply because of their supportive, energetic environment. The combination of other runners, a new course, cheering fans and running with a specific goal has a transformative effect on our minds.
In such an exciting environment, the distractions and purpose help us ignore or downplay struggles that might otherwise have consumed us.
Invest in proper running gear
Running can feel so hard if you don’t have the right gear. Improper shoes might cause heavy or sore legs for every run, while ill-fitting clothing can cause chafing or make you feel too hot or cold in different conditions.
Investing in a few pieces of high quality running gear will help ensure you are suited up for success on the run. Take the time to get fitted for running shoes that are best suited for your feet and training style. Try on your gear before you buy, or return anything that doesn’t fit.
Run with a friend
As much as we all hate to admit it, sometimes running feels hard only because our brain is tricking us into thinking so. Whether we’re just unmotivated, tired, stressed or simply bored, our mental state can really change how our body is feeling.
Running with a friend of similar fitness ability can help you push those negative feelings out of your head and focus on the actual run. Conversation will likely prove to distract you when running starts to get hard, and keep you motivated to push through the difficult moments without dwelling on them.
Avoid the comparison trap
When running is hard, the absolute worst thing you can do is compare yourself to all the other runners you might know. It’s important to remember that every runner struggles at some point, whether they show it or not.
Comparing your worst run to some else’s best run will set you up to feel even more miserable and hopeless than you might have before. When running is feeling a bit rough, try to distract yourself with other outlets besides social media.
Listen to your body
More than anything, the best thing you can do when running is hard is to listen to your body. Is it trying to tell you that it needs rest? Does it need a break? Or are things feeling difficult because you’re working hard to accomplish a new goal?
Take some time off if needed, and learn to differentiate between the warning flags and the moments that might just be out of your comfort zone. Once you begin to understand your body’s signals, it will be much easier to learn why running is hard and how to get through it.
When does running get easier?
The ultimate question! If you’re just getting started, running will start to feel easier with each run. The more time and consistency you put in, the sooner it will start to feel easier.
If you’re a seasoned runner and running is feeling exceptionally hard lately, remember that it is just a season. This too shall pass, and it likely will within a few runs. Slow down, cut yourself some slack, and focus on rest and recovery during this time.
With a little perseverance, running just about always gets easier.