Running is a great form of exercise because it can be done anywhere, at anytime, and it’s free! We wrote previously about how running is one of the sports that burns the most calories (here), and have even previously given you tips on how to increase your running endurance (here). Today, however, we thought it would be a good idea to give you all some tips to make running easier, so you can build and excel at it even if you are just starting out.
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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Remind yourself why you run
If you’re having a tough time keeping your head in the game, think about why you’re running. What are your goals? Is it race related? Is it health related? Are you trying to PR, or just finish the race? “Whatever that goal is, keep it in mind throughout the run to stay present,” Fitzgerald says. “For example, if you are training for a race, visualize yourself succeeding in that race. If you run for fun, then just get lost in your run and have fun with it. Enjoy the process and the journey of becoming and staying a healthy, strong runner.”
Tips to Make Running Easier – Take walk breaks
Bottini suggests going for a run/walk, especially if you’re a beginner. There’s no shame in switching back and forth between the two, and eventually, you’ll start to feel comfortable running for longer. I used running expert Hal Higdon’s training plan when I trained for my first half marathon, and he is a big advocate for walking breaks. They really help, seriously.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Ignore your watch
It’s tempting to constantly check in on your pace or the mileage you’ve covered, but “sometimes that can play games with your head,” Bottini says. Like, when you think you must be running so fast, but then realize you’re totally not. Womp womp. “Don’t pay attention, just run according to how you feel,” she says.
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Get the right shoes
This is so important. Go to a running store for your shoes, where they can guide you to the best fit based on arch, and your individual stride. They’re professionals who can point you in the right direction, plus you can try on several brands to see how each feels.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Follow the 10% rule
Only increase your distance by 10% each week. If you increase your speed quickly you are really prone to an injury. There have been multiple studies done proving that you are less prone to injury if you are only increasing your mileage by 10% each week.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Practice Correct Breathing
Most runners follow a 2-2 breathing pattern: two steps while breathing in, then 2 steps while breathing out. You can also try 3-2 breathing. 3 steps while breathing in, then out for 2 steps. Trail and error is best in figuring out which works best for you.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Take shorter strides
This will make running feel easier. A new study also suggests that this technique can make you run faster and longer. If you shorten your stride when you race, you can increase your sub-maximal speed and maintain it for a longer period of time- which means that you can run longer and farther.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Weight training
Specifically training the quads and core will benefit runners most. The quadriceps are key to lifting your legs off the ground. Here’s a little exercise that can help, and be done at your desk. Put one ankle over the other, then lift and straighten the lower leg 10 times. Do several sets. You’ll feel it just above the knee and it will help with running.
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.”
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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!
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – Breathe
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.
Tips to Make Running Easier – 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.