Whether you already run 20 miles a week, or are just ready to start, adding fun and variety to your runs can help build enthusiasm and keep fatigue at bay.
Cardio such as running a treadmill or running track is one of the best ways to support your endurance and overall health. Running offers various health benefits including supporting muscle strength, a boosted health, sleep quality, and more.1-7 The problem is that many of us find running to be some combination of exhausting, dreadful and dull, all reactions which zap our motivation and enthusiasm for our workouts. So, whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced fitness enthusiast, try some of these simple tips to better enjoy running.
Tips For Beginners To Enjoy Running From The Start
Enjoying your runs depends on moving toward habits which provide motivation and structure, while staying away from behaviors likely to cause injury, which can deplete your enthusiasm:
Good Habits For Beginner Runners
Help Avoid Injuries By:
- Get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new exercise routine. Running can cause some stress on the body, especially the joints. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether or not it is a safe option for you.
- Being realistic about every aspect of your fitness program. Speak with your doctor for advice on hydration and rest days, as well as getting hold of proper technical, apparel, and running shoes.
- Start slowly and don’t expect too much from yourself at first. Most early setbacks are caused by an unwitting collision between the mind’s good intentions and the body’s aversions and fears. Your introductory workouts should be easily accomplished, to give you the motivation to try something more challenging.
- Eating carefully before your workout. The stabbing pains of muscle cramps in your side – known as “runners’ stitch” – is thought to be a result of eating too much fiber in the 2-3 hours before running. Stitch might also be a result of an insufficient warmup.8
- Being consistent. Running 5 miles once a week is in ways less valuable than running 1 mile five times a week. Once running becomes a natural and expected part of your day, your body will get into a routine and the ‘fear factor’ will begin to lift.
- Warming up properly. Dynamic stretching is the current recommendation for runners, instead of the old-fashioned static stretching.9 Warm up by walking, then jogging, gradually increasing over 5-6 minutes until you’re at your target pace.
- Investing in some good-quality running shoes and keeping an eye on wear and tear.
Add Interest And Variety By:
- Planning your workout as part of a weekly schedule. Remember to include some strength training to support your running, and at least one active rest day each week.
- Varying your challenges. Schedule a mix of distance goals (2 miles, preferably without slowing down in the middle) and speed goals (2 miles in less than 25 minutes, without feeling terrible afterward). Include these variations on your training plan.
- Hydrating. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run.
Good Habits For More Advanced Runners
If you’ve been running for a while and just need a way to take things to the next level, it might be motivating and enjoyable to mix things up. Try some of these ideas to re-energize your attitude toward running, and maybe put a little more spring in your step:
- Grab a fitness app and see how it can help, especially when linked to a pedometer. From recording your footfalls, pace, and endurance to measuring heart rate and hydration, modern apps are great sources of good information about your fitness progress.
- Introduce lots of variety. Many treadmills have settings which let you vary your ‘route’ to include different gradients and speed challenges. Try running during different times of day; maybe plan your run so you can skip the rush-hour noise and pollution.10
- Pre-plan your running routes. If you enjoy trail running, grab a contour map of the area and figure out how you can add some elevation gain (or maybe just ensure a downhill section at the end, when you’re at your most exhausted).11
- Plan your running schedule in detail, but also in pencil. Intentions can be thrown off by your body’s reaction to a workout, by the weather, or by other unforeseen events.12
- Run with friends. Whether virtually or in person, being part of a running community is a powerful motivator, offering accountability through social media on one hand, and shared experience and accomplishment on the other. Try to find a running group which keeps their group runs to a conversational pace, or turn your shared fitness session into a ‘bRUNch’ date, eating a healthy meal together afterward.13 Grab email addresses or social media contacts to stay in touch.
- Freshen up your playlist. Plenty of commercial music services now offer curated treadmill playlists, but you can make your own. You could even make choices to suit the pace of your workout, with high tempo music for the fastest sections.
- Practice positive thinking. Imagine yourself at the finish line or passing a waypoint; bring to mind a little of how awesome that will feel, and use that sensation to keep on going.
How To Choose Running Shoes
The question of which running shoes to buy is unfortunately clouded by myths, suppositions, and guesswork.14 There is no one ‘right pair’, nor is it likely that one brand will consistently serve you better than others. Finding a successful running shoe depends more on the mechanics of your running style, and this means the best advice could come from a podiatrist, physiotherapist, or high-level personal trainer, or perhaps a well-versed salesperson at your local running store.
Take your time and try out as many pairs as you want, until you have a feel for what’s available and how your foot reacts in different situations. Another important thing is to work out whether you have any kind of pronation, a postural habit where you shift weight to the inside of your foot.15
Consider wearing and trying out several different types of shoe; it might be good for your musculature to alternate shoes – one pair for short workouts and another for distance. One common ‘no-no’ is wearing cotton socks – they bring added friction, so choose an alternative.16
Let’s Say You’re Not A Big Morning Runner, What Are Some Things Somebody Can Do To Overcome That Hurdle?
For younger runners especially, it can be a real challenge to get out of bed and exercise before the day begins. The grogginess does recede with age, though, and most older adults are morning people.17 Feeling sleepy and tired first thing can be offset by going to bed earlier, and a gradual approach might be best – go to bed just 15 minutes earlier per day for 7 days (i.e., 105 minutes in total) and suddenly you’re asleep an hour and a half before your usual dozing off time.
Also, boost your morning emotions with plenty of natural light (and open windows to grab some fresh air, if you can), a glass of water, and some physical movement to get your circulation going – some knee bends, stretches, or yoga poses.
Are There Any Physical Benefits For Running In The Morning Instead Of The Evening?
This depends on your body and your schedule in equal measure.
Our morning bodies are not set up for physical activity, because our muscles are still stiff and our energy stores are low. It might feel particularly hard to get up to your usual speed or complete a certain distance. Although it has an energizing effect on your day, morning runs might prove physically very hard.18
Avoid some of these issues by running after work or in the evening. At this time of day, your core body temperature, breathing capacity, hormone levels, and reflexes are all reaching their peak, making some easy running more likely. Give yourself at least 2 hours between lunch and your workout.19
Do What Works And Do What You Enjoy
Of course, there’s no need to suffer. If you find you genuinely hate running, and that it’s making your everyday life miserable, then consider closing out your running journey and switch to another aerobic fitness exercise like cycling or swimming.
Running places demands on our bodies and minds, requiring us to push through barriers that are both mental and physical, and both real and imagined. Adding variety, fun, and extra people to your running can increase motivation and reduce your reasons not to just ‘get up and go.’
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