People say that once you start running, you’re hooked. Claims of euphoric feelings, daily progress, quicker times, and runner’s high all circulate. And if that’s your experience. That’s great. But not everybody falls in love at first run. For many, running is this monotonous, boring, painful, and lung crushing activity.
You might have decided that running is just not for you. There are plenty of other ways to develop aerobic fitness, thank you very much. And you’d be right. But if you’re desperate to love running and for it to love you back. Here’s how you can catch the running bug.
What is there to love about running?
It helps to understand what all the fuss is about first.
Running is probably the most straightforward and most accessible activity to get started with. There is no hefty cost. You don’t have to travel anywhere. Or do it at a specific time. You can literally step outside your door and start running. The freedom this can bring to your fitness routine is hard to match.
It’s also easy to progress with running. Most aspects of fitness are focused on progression. Improving flexibility, building muscular strength and endurance, increasing muscle mass. These can all take some forward planning to make sure you’re making continued progression. Markers of success can be hard to pinpoint, and improvement can be slow. With running, it’s easy to jump from one achievement to the next. Each kilometre is a new goal. Each second shaved off your pace is a little win. You can feel like you’re making progress every day, which is a brilliant motivation to keep going.
Running offers escape. One of the biggest reasons cited for those who run religiously is the mental health benefits. It’s time dedicated only to yourself, away from others, and away from the everyday stresses of real life. Get into a rhythm on your run, and you can find yourself zoning out for a big chunk of time. It can be the daily escape you need when you’re constantly surrounded by noise. When it offers you that, it’s something you’ll be eager to get involved with.
Problems and solutions
There are a few common complaints about running that tend to come up quite a lot in conversation. Pinpointing what they are and finding a solution to them is the only way to start to enjoy the experience a little more.
Problem: It’s boring
Probably the most common. When there’s nothing else to focus on except putting one foot in front of the other, it’s very easy to give in to fatigue and tiredness quicker than your body really needs to.
Solution: Distract yourself
There are lots of ways to distract yourself while running. The most common tactic is to listen to music or a podcast. Something that’s enough to keep your mind focused on another one of your senses without removing the enjoyment from the experience itself.
Another way to do it is to make your route better. If you’re running up and down main roads or empty streets with nothing much around you, it can be hard to stay motivated and carry on. The antidote to this is making your route a little bit more scenic. Find areas of green, local landmarks, impressive vantage points, or river paths. Explore new places you’ve not seen before. Tap into one of the main reasons people prefer outdoor running to treadmill running and enjoy being outside.
If none of this is working, get friends to join you. You’re much more likely to go running when it feels like a social occasion than just hard work. You’ll encourage each other, keep pace with each other, discover new routes, and find it more distracting than going alone.
Problem: I run out of breath
A common complaint. It’s all going well. Then gradually, the tension builds up in your chest, and you start to feel as if your lungs are going to pop. It’s not fun anymore. It just hurts. Time to stop. Never doing that again.
Solution: Break it up
If you’re still developing your stamina and your cardiovascular fitness, be gentle with yourself. Getting frustrated and giving up because you’re not happy with your progress is just going to slow it even further. As you increase your distances, try running for a little bit, walking for a little bit, then running again. It’ll help to show you that once you’ve caught your breath, you’re able to carry on. Alternatively, just slow it down. It doesn’t mean you’ll stay at this pace forever, but it will give you the chance to go a little further without feeling like your lungs are about to explode.
Problem: Everything aches
It might not be the tightness in your chest that’s irritating you, but the tightness in your body. Muscles start to ache, the core feels strained, and lets not even get started on the knees.
Solution: Build your strength
An essential and often overlooked part of running is making sure you have the muscles to support the movement. Without any muscular strength or endurance, you’re likely to develop soreness and niggles in many different areas. Make resistance training a part of your weekly exercise schedule too. We’re talking squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, and push-ups. Building full-body strength is the crucial way to keep the correct running form and make sure your muscles can support the impact on your joints.
What is runner’s high?
A concept that often is talked about, but nobody really knows what it is. Maybe everyone’s version is different. Maybe only certain people feel it. Or perhaps it’s all a huge conspiracy theory. Probably not the latter, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding it. But when you know, you know. It’s enough motivation to want to catch the running bug alone.
Runner’s high is a feeling that occurs when in the rhythm of a good run. It’s going well, the pace is on point, you’re feeling energised, strong, and just really positive. The feeling lasts long after exercise and can be why people love to start their day with a run.
Research suggests it’s a feeling you get when your body is being pumped with endorphins. Hormones are known to make us feel a certain way. This combined with the sense of achievement or reward of having accomplished something. A recipe for a buzz.
How do I get started?
There’s not much you need to do short of trying. Then trying again.
But if you want to get really into running or make it a big part of your fitness routine, some things might help.
Fitting it into your day is the first. We’re all busy. It’s hard to find the time. It doesn’t help if you resent the run because you’d rather be doing something else with your free hour. Getting it done rather than enjoying doing it. Try out different times of day to do your run. If the morning doesn’t work for you, run home from work. Go out on your lunch break if you can. Save it only for Sundays. Whatever suits you and your schedule best.
Find your preferences. If you prefer to be on your own, go on your own. If you like running with friends, then ask them to join you. If you like listening to music, grab your headphones. If you enjoy the quiet, leave them at home. It’s all about finding out what makes it the best experience for you.
Accept the bad days. Nothing comes easy. We already know that. Every new day won’t be better than the next, and sometimes you just won’t feel like going for a run. That’s okay. Progress will come. But it might come slowly. Avoid comparing yourself to friends or others and focus on making it your own. Celebrate each little win and listen to what your body is telling you rather than your head.