October 8, 2017, 11:47 am
Let’s be honest, running isn’t known for being easy. Even professional athletes who run for a living admit that yeah, sometimes it can be really hard. Of course, the more you do it and the more conditioned your body becomes, the easier running feels. But no two runs are ever the same, and some days, it can be really tough to get through a few miles.
The good news? There are things you can do—other than just calling it a day and texting a friend to meet for happy hour (though we definitely recommend doing that after your run, because, balance)—to make it easier on yourself.
Next time you're about to lace up, try these expert-approved tricks for before and during your run to make it feel a little bit easier.
1. Use your core.
Making a few small tweaks to your running form can make things feel easier, Corrine Fitzgerald, coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, tells SELF. "Focusing on running tall, being light on your feet, relaxing, and finding your rhythm will help," she says. Also, engage your core. "If your chest is going side to side, your energy is going that way. Pulling the core in and minimizing any side-to-side movement will keep all the energy moving forward," she explains.
2. Set mini distance goals.
If a set mileage or time goal feels daunting, set mini goals throughout your run. “There are so many different variations you can do. You can go by time, distance, or as you’re running you can say, ‘I’ll run to that building and then walk,’” Katie Bottini, a NASM-certified physical trainer and running and triathlon coach, tells SELF. You’ll feel a renewed sense of accomplishment each time you hit one.
3. Try a new route.
Sometimes running feels hard because you've fallen into a routine and it's become boring. "Find a different way or go on new roads that are more visually stimulating," Bottini suggests. "It may go by a little faster if you’re running and seeing new spots."
4. Warm up.
This sounds so simple, but it's surprising how many runners skip the warm-up because they think they don't need it. "To make a run feel easier, every runner should start with a 5- to 15-minute dynamic warm-up,” says Fitzgerald. “Getting your blood pumping, loosening up your muscles and heating up your core will make the first few miles easier on your body and also reduce the risk for injury.” A dynamic warm-up includes movements such as high-knee marches that stretch your muscles as you move. And don’t forget to cool down after, too!
5. Be flexible.
Sometimes, you go out planning to run 6 miles and end up really only feeling like you can do 4. That’s OK. “You need to be flexible in races and in your workouts,” Skechers Performance athlete Meb Keflezighi tells SELF. If you force yourself to get the mileage in, then it just becomes a chore. “I try to have fun as much as I can with it and try to be flexible once I get out the door and start running. Whether it’s a short or long run, focus on the exhilaration and excitement that you did it,” he adds.
6. Drink coffee.
“Caffeine can give you an energy boost and make your perceived effort go down,” ASICS elite athlete Sara Hall tells SELF. Research has shown that coffee can improve sprint performance and can also improve endurance because it delays the onset of muscle fatigue and central nervous system fatigue. Sip on a cup an hour to 30 minutes before your run so that the effects are in full force by the time you hit the pavement.
Of course you’re breathing. But Hall says that when a run starts to feel really tough, she likes to take “deep, cleansing breaths, to become more controlled.” Sometimes simply controlling your breath can make running easier.
8. Think about how cool it is that you can do this.
“Think about the people less fortunate than you who aren’t able to physically do what you can do,” Keflezighi says. A trainer I know ends every class by saying, “Take a moment to be thankful and grateful for the ability to move your body as you did today, because it is a gift.” I think about that when I’m running, and it always puts some extra pep in my step.
9. Slow down.
If you come out of the gates at full speed, it's going to be really hard to maintain. "Slowing down and adjusting your pace as you go is part of the art of running—you have to learn to listen to your body," Hall says. There's nothing wrong with slowing down when you need to and running at a pace that's comfortable. Over time, your comfortable pace will get faster.
10. Keep chafe in check.
“There's nothing worse than running with uncomfortable clothes,” Fitzgerald says. “The dreaded chafing can occur from having clothes loose in a certain area. When we're uncomfortable, we make adjustments to prevent that painful feeling. This is compensation, and can result in you running differently, with bad form.” Ditch clothes that rub or squeeze too tightly. You can also carry an anti-chafe stick (like Body Glide) or a small tube of Aquaphor.
11. Switch to strength.
If you're really not feeling a run, mix it up by adding some strength intervals throughout. "Run five minutes and then stop and do squats and push-ups," Bottini suggests. "Or even, if you're running at a track, run the stadium stairs. Not that it will make running easier, but it makes the run more fun." Running up and down stairs might not be your idea of fun, but it'll break up the monotony if that's what you need.
12. Think about literally anything else.
"Running is great because you can think about whatever serves you in the moment," Deena Kastor, ASICS elite athlete and American record holder in the marathon and half marathon, tells SELF. "Sometimes it’s my to-do list, other times I’m focused on my upcoming race goal or what craft I’ll do with my daughter when she comes home from school." Focus on whatever occupies your mind, but just make sure it's positive so you don't ruin your momentum.