Whether you’re just starting to run or have been running for years, you might find yourself wondering why running feels so hard. We all have bad days once and a while, but if you’ve been struggling to make it through one run after another, it might be time to find a few ways to make running feel easier.
Many beginner runners start out with the idea that running gets easier after the very first run. Before they’ve even had a chance to get into the sport, they find themselves frustrated and wondering if running ever gets easier.
Luckily, each run doesn’t have to feel like a challenge.
So when does running get easier?
It can get easier right now. These 9 simple tips are easy to incorporate into any training plan and will help you make every run feel easier than before.
9 Surprising Ways to Make Running Easier
No matter how long you’ve been running, it takes your body time to warm up and adjust to the activity each time you begin. Starting your run at full speed often brings aches, pains, and discomfort as your body suddenly transitions from sedentary to active.
Be intentional about starting your runs slowly. Incorporate an easy warm up into every run, especially hard workouts. Slow down your pace and focus on giving your body a chance to adapt to the activity. After a few minutes or miles of slow, easy running, you can transition to your normal running pace.
If running is feeling like a struggle day in and day out, your body might be telling you to slow things down all the time. When running feels hard, it is often because we are pushing ourselves to run faster than our current fitness level. Take the time to slow things down for a few runs now, and before you know it, your pace will naturally increase.
Include a warm up.
Just like it’s important to start out slowly, it’s also important to start off with a warm up. Heading out the door with cold, tight muscles is a recipe for aches and pains. Running will always feel hard if you don’t take the time to mentally and physically prepare for the activity.
Luckily, a warm up doesn’t have to be time consuming. Completing a few dynamic warm up exercises for just a minute or two before beginning your run is probably all it takes to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for a pain-free run.
Listen to music or podcasts.
In seasons like these, making running feel easier involves a bit of creativity. Try distracting yourself with some external sources of motivation, such as music or podcasts. Providing your mind with something else to focus on besides the pain and challenge of running might help things feel like they’re going quicker.
Find some really upbeat music, or listen to podcasts that really draw you in throughout each run.
Incorporate strength training.
Many times, running feels hard because your muscles are not quite strong enough to complete the activity. Beginner runners often find themselves lacking in strength throughout those running-specific muscles, simply due to the fact that they haven’t been used much before.
Similarly, runners who have been running for a long time often find that their body has adapted to muscular imbalances by overcompensating with certain muscles and neglecting others. Both of these situations lead to less than ideal strength on the run.
A beneficial way to make running easier is to incorporate strength training exercises on a regular basis. Strength training helps keep your muscles balanced and strong in the long run (literally).
Run technology free.
Whether we admit it or not, it’s so easy to compare ourselves to other runners. Seeing social media posts, pictures, and announcements of others’ accomplishments can be motivating at times, but they also provide us with endless sources of comparison.
Sometimes running feels hard because we are pushing our body to do more than we are capable of at the current time. Hearing how easy a certain pace or distance is for another runner might make us feel like we are not doing enough. And with a never-ending supply of tracking electronics, it’s hard not to analyze each and every run we complete.
When you’re struggling to be present and focus on your own body, try running technology free. Ditch the watch and smartphone at your house, and head out the door for a run completely based on feel. Listen to your body, and slow down when you want things to feel easier.
Get fitted for running shoes.
Running is known for its simplicity throughout the sports world. Compared to many other sports, the equipment required for running is very little. However, finding the right pair of running shoes is essential for your enjoyment and health on the run.
If running hasn’t felt easy for a while, it might be time to get fitted for a new pair of running shoes. Head to your local running store and take the time to test out different brands and styles, as well as talking to someone who works in the store.
Our feet change throughout life, so just because you’ve been fitted for shoes before doesn’t mean that they will always be the best match for you. If running hasn’t felt easy and your feet or muscles have been hurting lately, it might be time to get fitted for some shoes.
Increase your cadence.
Another reason that running often feels hard for beginners is because they are over-striding. When your stride is too long, each step can feel like a literal pain. Even runners who have been running for years can fall into bad habits and wonder why running no longer feels as easy as it used to.
If you’re searching for a proven way to make running feel easier, try shortening your stride and increasing your cadence. This strategy may take some time and patience, but more often than not, once you’ve increased your cadence, running will begin to feel easier and less uncomfortable.
Use your arms.
However, our arms actually play an important role during a run. When you’re feeling tired on the run, try pumping your arms and intentionally using their strength to propel you forward.
Putting so much emphasis on leg movement and strength throughout the run can lead to tired, sore muscles, which make running feel less than enjoyable. Try to balance your movement between your arms and legs and see if it makes running feel any easier.
Break up the distance.
No matter how consistently we stick with our training schedule, we all experience those runs where things feel hard for no reason. A 6 miler one week may feel like a breeze, while the same 6 miles the following week leave us gasping for breath and struggling to make it through.
It’s natural for running enjoyment to ebb and flow over time. Those bad runs will pop up every once and a while no matter how prepared we are at the time. When difficult runs arise, a simple way to make them feel easier is to break up the distance, either mentally or physically.
If your 16 mile long run sounds intimidating, trying breaking it down into four 4 mile paths. If your upcoming 10 miler will be the farthest you’ve ever run, don’t be afraid to take a physical break after each “section”. Split the run up into two 5 mile runs and take a short break after the first half. Use this time to refuel, hydrate and mentally prepare for the rest of the run.
Running, just like anything else in life, is never perfect. No matter how much we prepare, there is always something that could go wrong or derail our progress. But just because we’re bound to have bad days doesn’t mean that running never has to feel easy.
When running has been feeling hard, try mixing things up with a few of these strategies to lift your spirits. Before you know it, running will be easier than it ever has been before.
More running tips:
- How to Start Running: 6 Steps for Beginners
- 10 Tips that Every Runner Needs to Know
- How to Conquer the 4 Biggest Running Obstacles