It’s probably safe to say that most people struggle a bit when they first start running. Running might not feel good or enjoyable like you had hoped. It just feels hard, and that can make running difficult to like.
If you’re just starting out as a runner, or coming back after time away, your body has quite a bit of adjusting to do. But there are ways to like running even as you’re getting used to the sport.
Here are 7 of the best things you can do right now to start liking running:
- Run in an area you like.
- Slow down!
- Listen to a favorite podcast or playlist on the run.
- Run by time, not mileage.
- Set small goals for yourself and track your progress.
- Have a running support system.
- Make it fun!
Running is an incredible way to stay healthy and get more out of life. So let’s start with a quick overview about why it feels so hard in the beginning and then give you the simple changes you need to make running something you like, and maybe someday even love.
Why is running so hard at first?
The main reason you likely don’t enjoy running is because it doesn’t feel easy. Running feels physically hard because it elevates your heart rate and increases your breathing rate. Even a few steps will have a new runner feeling uncomfortable when this starts to happen. Our article, “Why Is Running So Hard? (And Will It Ever Get Easier)?” goes into more depth about the physiological and psychological effects of running and how your body will adapt over time to these new demands.
Running may also seem hard at first because many people try to do too much, too soon. One example is by jumping from zero running into a full-blown training plan. That jump is really, really hard on your body and poses a huge risk of injury. Running too fast all the time is another way that runners do too much, too soon. Avoiding these is a step in the right direction of liking running.
So, how do I start to enjoy running?
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told people that I am a runner, and their response is some version of, “Ugh! Running is so boring!” or, “Running is so hard! How can you enjoy it?”. A few short years ago before I was a runner, I used to ask those questions myself! But now, as a runner, I want to let non-runners and new runners know that it IS possible to love running, and it DOES get better over time.
If you find yourself struggling to enjoy running, here are our 7 best tips to help you move past the hard part of running and start to enjoy it!
The 7 Best Tips on How to Like Running
If you don’t like running from the get-go, just know it takes a bit of time and patience. Here are a few pieces of advice to get you out of that funk sooner rather than later!
1) Run in an Area you Like
When starting out, it importatn to run in an area you like to be, and feel comfortable in.
It’s normal to feel self-conscious about being seen running when you’re a beginner. You might be worried about someone judging you for how you look or for taking walking breaks. (Although I promise, nobody is actually judging you!) Find a nice and easy route where you feel most comfortable running. Maybe it’s a short loop around the block where you live. Or maybe it’s a path through a quiet park where there aren’t a lot of people around.
Over time, your worries about being seen will melt away, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds around you and going to new places will bring new excitement to running.
2) Slow Down!
This is popular advice for runners and for good reason.
Running too fast is common running mistake, probably because many of us associate running with going hard and fast when we were in school growing up. I spent years believing that running was supposed to be painful and difficult, after some traumatic middle school running experiences. But here’s the deal: the act of running shouldn’t be so hard that it feels like punishment all the time. If it does, you need to slow down. Walking breaks are encouraged, too!
So, how slowly should you be running? A slow jog is a good place to start. There are two simple ways to check if you are going slowly enough: if you can sing the verse of a song or recite the Pledge of Allegiance to yourself without becoming breathless; or if you can easily chat with a friend who is running with you, then you are going slow enough.
If after slowing down you still find yourself feeling breathless, then try taking walking breaks. And it’s normal to feel this way in the beginning – there is nothing wrong with you! Your body just needs time to adapt. Plus, taking walking breaks does not make you any less of a runner! Former Olympic distance runner Shalane Flanagan, who ran 6 marathons in 6 weeks in fall of 2021, took a walking break during the London Marathon, saying that walking helped rejuvenate her! She is now a big proponent of runners taking walking breaks during their runs.
There are many ways to take walking breaks. Some runners only walk when needed, whereas other runners take regular, timed walking breaks, as taught by Jeff Galloway’s popular Run Walk Run method. Over time, you can gradually reduce walking breaks as you gain fitness, or you can continue to utilize them forever! Do what works best for you to stay nice and slow.
3) Listen to a Favorite Podcast or Playlist on the Run
Special music playlists, podcasts, or audiobooks that you save only for listening to on your runs are great tools for turning your run into a positive and not a negative. If you’re looking forward to hearing the next podcast episode, or a certain song come on, you will be more likely to look forward to your runs. (Watching a favorite show works great, too, if you are utilizing a treadmill!)
Looking forward to your runs creates a positive association with running, which can help get you past feelings of dislike. Having something enjoyable to listen to on the run also helps combat the boredom that many people feel when running.
One bonus to listening to podcasts or audiobooks while running? They help you maintain a slower pace than an uptempo music playlist which will help you with tip #2!
4) Run by Time, Not by Mileage
Running by time helps take the pressure off of yourself to run a certain distance. Instead of feeling like you have to go out and run X amount of miles today, just tell yourself you’ll run for 10 or 15 minutes.
Running by time eliminates comparisons to other runners and concerns of how far you “should” be going. It also helps you to become less worried about pace, and to naturally slow down.
“Running by time is a way to feel success, rather than frustration and disappointment,” says Tina Muir, a retired professional runner and the host of the Running for Real podcast. By feeling successful after every run, you will start to like running more and more.
5) Set small goals for yourself and track your progress
Setting small running goals for yourself, and accomplishing them, is a great way to enjoy running. This will make the day-to-day process of running become more exciting than if you didn’t have any goals at all.
So how small is “small” when setting running goals? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Run for 5 straight minutes without stopping for a break
- Run/walk for 30-minutes 3 times a week for the next month
- Run for 1 minute longer than your last run
It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come on your running journey. Tracking your progress allows you to look back at the past weeks, months or years of running and feel proud of your achievement. Tracking what you’ve accomplished helps keep you motivated to keep going.
To monitor their progress, many runners wear running GPS watches, which collect data on paces, distances, total mileage, and heart rate, just to name a few. All of this data can then be viewed in the connected app. Great starter options are the Garmin Forerunner 55 or COROS Pace 2. If you’re not ready to commit to a GPS watch yet, Runkeeper is a great app for your phone that contains the same tracking features. And if you’re more the paper-and-pen type of person, try using a bullet journal system to motivate you.
6) Have a Running Support System
A support system, especially one that includes fellow runners, is a huge benefit. Runner friends can encourage, motivate, commiserate, provide accountability, and keep your spirits up on your running journey. If you don’t know any other runners yet, here are some places to start:
- Your local running store – stores often host free group runs that are open to runners of all abilities and experience levels. Group runs are a great way to meet people and learn more about the sport.
- Online – there is a large presence of running groups online. Check out social media platforms such as Facebook or Reddit. You can find local groups and national or international groups alike!
- Coaches – running coaches are for everyone! A running coach can help guide and support you, even if you’re new to the sport. Check out Coach Jane’s running coach services here.
Just remember that if the first running group you try doesn’t align with what you need, don’t give up. Though it can be hard to put yourself out there and try something new, it will definitely be worth it when you find those welcoming runners who are sure to be your next biggest fans.
7) Make it Fun!
Just because you’re starting to take running seriously and have committed to the sport doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun along the way. In fact, finding ways to make running fun will help keep you positive and motivated. Elite runner Brittany Charboneau is a huge believer in incorporating fun into her high-mileage training by having themed training weeks where she and her coach wear costumes and other themed gear for her runs!
While you don’t necessarily have to wear a costume to have fun on the run haha, you can still incorporate fun by:
- Wearing gear that is meaningful or makes you smile
- Noticing wildlife and scenery around you
- Exploring new parts of town
- Switching up your terrain: for instance, if you’re a road runner, try running on dirt trails (we compare and contrast these different types of running here)
- Playing around with variations in speed
- Having family or friends meet you afterward, or run or bike along with you
Like many things in life, running is what you make it. If you look at it with a positive light and allow it to become a meaningful part of your weekly routine, you will have no choice but to start enjoying it! Though we’re not saying you’ll probably ever love every run…in time, forming a love for the sport has a high probability!