Running is one of the best sports out there. You can do it anywhere, it doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment, it’s something that can be done on your own or with a group, and it’s a great way to clear your head. It can also be really challenging and not that fun. You have to physically propel yourself, step by step. You don’t have the controlled environment of a class and an instructor to keep you going. It can hurt, a lot. And it’s so easy to just stop and walk. But when it’s good, it’s one of the best workouts around. So how do you make running feel easier and more enjoyable? Read on for our tips!
Get the Right Gear
I’ll take any excuse to shop but when it comes to running, it’s so important to make sure you have the right gear. Running shoes that don’t fit your body type and gait will slow you down and lead to injury, which nobody wants. Shorts or leggings that don’t fit properly or feel good on your skin when you sweat will make you feel uncomfortable and annoyed, which will make you want to call it quits earlier. Headphones that don’t stay in your ears are frustrating. And having to hold your phone while you run just doesn’t work.
So go to a shoe store that specializes in running and ask them to do a gait analysis. Then get the sneakers they recommend. Buy clothing that wicks away sweat—it really makes a difference. Get some great noise-cancelling headphones that fit so you can really get in the groove. And going hands-free is critical. I swear by my SPI running belt because I can’t even tell that it’s there while I’m running. If that isn’t your thing, try an armband. You’ll be surprised how much more you enjoy running when you’re comfortable and can focus on the task at hand.
Create a Kicking Playlist
Good music is a really great way to improve your workout. According to an article in Scientific American, it “distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency.” When people listen to music they also “run farther, bike longer, and swim faster than usual—often without realizing it.” Music is also a great way to change up your run and make it feel more fun. Add some faster songs and incorporate some sprints and throw in some mellower tracks for your cool-down. Music can make your run feel less like work and more like fun, so give it a try.
Run Somewhere Pretty
The treadmill is great when the weather doesn’t cooperate but it can get pretty monotonous. Likewise, running in a concrete jungle can start to feel boring after a while. Instead, lace up your sneakers and head somewhere beautiful. If you love the beach, find a place where it’s in view most of the time. If the woods are your thing, hit the trail. Or just make your way to your favorite park and run around it. When you have beautiful scenery to distract you, your run will go by way faster and feel much more enjoyable. And that will make it feel easier—even if you ran really hard.
Mix It Up
Let’s face it: we can all be creatures of habit. And that’s especially true when it comes to working out. Maintaining a routine is a critical component to ensuring one exercises regularly. And it’s nice to settle into a running route. But it can start to feel boring after a while. And when you know exactly how much longer you have to go on a run you may find yourself counting the minutes until it’s over, which makes the run feel like a chore and can impact motivation. So mix it up. Turn left instead of right. Try running up a new hill or into a different neighborhood. You’ll notice the run goes by way more quickly and feels a bit more exciting.
Go With Friends
Running alone can be cathartic and it’s one of the reasons so many people love the sport. But it’s also nice to go with friends. It’s a great way to catch up and group sports can be super motivating because you’re accountable to someone else. Also, if you have the lung capacity, being able to talk to someone while you run makes the time fly by. And when you have a buddy it’s easier to feel inspired to run a little faster or go a little longer.
Sign Up for a Race
It’s nice to settle into a groove of running a certain number of miles every time you run. It sets a baseline that you regularly achieve and it makes tracking your performance easier. And running for running’s sake is great. But setting a long-term goal with incremental milestones is a great way to maintain a sense of motivation and purpose. So sign up for a road race! It’ll give you something to work towards, you’ll build a sense of community, and you’ll earn bragging rights when you beat your best time.
Make Sure You Have Energy
Running on an empty stomach is a recipe for a miserable run. People often want to work out without having eaten beforehand because they think it’s an easier way to burn fat. I, myself, used to engage in “fasted cardio” all the time. It wasn’t fun. I felt like I was dragging the entire time and then I’d be ravenously hungry when I finished my run. It was not ideal. And it turns out, I was mostly wrong about the benefits of “fasted cardio.”
The truth is, your body loves to hold onto its fat stores. That means it takes a while for it to start breaking down fat. In the meantime, it actually uses sugars from your muscle tissue before turning to fat. Now, this isn’t necessarily true when you’re doing an intense workout; In that case, your body will use up its stockpile of carbohydrates and will begin to burn fat within about twenty minutes. But engaging in high-intensity workouts on an empty stomach can put you at risk for hypoglycemia, which can cause people to faint. The better approach is to eat small portions of the right foods before working out: complex carbohydrates like apples and hummus and proteins like eggs. It may take a few turns to figure out what the right balance is for you, but once you do, you’ll find that you have more fuel in your tank and you may actually work out harder and feel better once you’re done.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Even though it feels really good when you exceed a goal or push yourself harder than you thought you could, it’s not always a good idea. Listen to your body and if you’re feeling tired one day, keep it short and sweet. If you’re being consistent with how often you’re running, a lighter day won’t make a difference in the end. In fact, it could actually help your body recover and make your next run feel even better.
How do you make running feel more fun? Tell us in the comments below!