Why is running so hard? 35 tips to make your runs easier!

Whether you’re new to running or experienced there are days when we find running to be hard. Finding running hard and difficult is more closely associated with new runners starting out, however, experienced runners can get a case of the “I don’t feel like running today” as well.

Why is running so hard?

Running seems more difficult in the beginning stages of a new runner’s career. Internal reasons why running can be hard are associated with their body not being ready to run, trying to run too far too soon, unrealistic expectations, and limiting beliefs about the individual’s capabilities. External reasons why running can be hard are associated with improper running gear, distance, weather, and terrain.

Although running can be hard at times, here are 35 tips to make your runs easier:

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1. Your body isn’t ready yet

If you’re not an athlete and you don’t exercise frequently, running will hurt at first. When you walk, one foot stays on the ground at all times during the gait cycle. When you run both feet are off the ground for a split second. When you run you have to use more force to push off with than when you walk.

Look at this way, if you’re a brand new bodybuilder that has never lifted weights before, you’re not going to attempt to single handly curl an 80-pound dumbbell. You need to start off with a much smaller weight, and progressively increase your weight load over weeks of training.

Why is running so hard - tibia fibulaDuring the first 3-4 weeks of running, your leg muscles are tearing down and possibly replacing muscles, and tissues that attach to and surround the tibia and fibula in your calves. Yes, you will feel some discomfort when you first start to run, however, this shouldn’t be sharp, throbbing, or enduring pain. If you’re feeling severe pain it’s possible that you’ve tried to run too much too soon.

Let your body get used to running and develop some running muscles before you try to run too much too soon and quit.

2. Running is an impact sport

According to Health Harvard, when you run, each time your foot lands it carries with it the impact of 3 times your weight. It’s no wonder why runners tend to have nicely sculpted legs. When you walk your knees move into a locked position to swing your body forward to the next step. When you run the knee is unlocked and your foot is preparing to absorb the impact of each subsequent foot strike. Look at look like this, try to picture yourself running with your legs completely locked – it just doesn’t work out.

3. Don’t perform speedwork in the beginning

If you don’t get anything else out of this article, please pay attention to this point. When running is difficult or hard for you to partake in, the last thing you want to start doing is intervals, threshold runs, VO2 max runs, and fartleks. Yes, these types of training are important to intermediate and seasoned runners that are trying to get faster. The biggest difference between you and them is that they have a higher weekly volume of miles run (their base). It all starts with building a base (check out this article I wrote that describes what base miles are).

4. Leave yourself motivating notes

The perfect use of a sticky note besides reminding yourself of something you need to grab on the way out the door. Write yourself a short motivating message such as, “today I will rock my run!” Stick the note somewhere you’ll see it the next day.

5. Dawn your running gear

This little trick can help you get your butt out the door and run. Even if you don’t want to run because it’s hard, having put on your running attire and shoes you might feel a little more motivated to get those legs moving and your calories burning.

6. Meditate

Meditation has been proven clinically that it can help lower your heart rate and improve your overall mode. It doesn’t have to be a long bout of meditation and your body does not need to be contorted in the lotus position. Heck, you can even meditate standing upright slightly rocking back in forth on the balls of your feet with your eyes shut. Aim for at least five minutes of meditative breathing. You can start doing this three times a day, even at work. Clear your thoughts and just breathe. If you’ve never meditated before it’s more difficult than you think to keep your mind clear of thoughts.

7. Affirmations

Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles gives a tiny framework of using affirmations to help drive your goals in the right direction. Affirmations in their simplest form, are small positive phrases you repeat to yourself once a day. For example, “today I will run one mile.”

To most people that have never used affirmations before, the whole idea sounds a little hokey, right? Every day your mind is in a constant battle with yourself telling you what you’re capable of and what you’re not capable of. This is just a tiny way to get an edge on the battle going on inside your head. You consciously get to choose to tell your mind what you’re wanting the mind and body to do. Try it out for yourself.

Think of affirmations as a deliberate interruption in your thought process to help guide you in the right direction.

8. Quit Drinking alcohol the night before you run

If you’ve got a hangover on the day you’re supposed to be running, a run could help you feel better. The reason why you shouldn’t drink heavily the night before a run is because your body’s number one priority is to get the poison (alcohol) out of your body. It doesn’t care about making you feel any better until the bad guy is expelled from your system. Also, drinking causes your resting heart rate to stay elevated for an extended period of time. A study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology found that drinking alcohol makes your rate race.

Put these both together – running increases your heart rate + alcohol increasing your heart rate = a much higher heart rate as well as putting yourself in a crabby mode.

9. Plan your run when the weather is cooler

The last thing your body wants to do is be forced to go run in the hottest part of the day. If you run when the weather is cooler, such as the morning, you’ll be able to run further without sweating so soon.

10. Quit running fast

I had to reinforce point number 3, you don’t need speedwork in the beginning. I wrote a great post posing the question, do I need speed work as a beginner runner?

11. Get some decent shuteye

If we’re not rested, we need to concentrate on getting more sleep. When we’re sleep deprived we tend to be more agitated more easily. Trying to go for a run when your body would rather be taking a nap isn’t going to get you far. Start making sleep more of a priority coupled with less alcohol consumption at night so that you can wake up in a better mood. Who knows, you might actually like running that day?

12. Run/Walk

Using a run/walk technique forces you to slow down which could be the answer to your question, “Why is running so hard?” By using a run/walk, where the emphasis is on the running, and a walk/run, where the emphasis is on the walking, your giving both your mind and body a much-needed break. While you might not be burning quite as many calories, you’re still able to log your miles. A run/walk technique can vary anywhere from 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking and repeating this until your total mileage is complete.

You can also use distance not time as the interval changer. In other words, you can run 0.4 miles (4/10 of a mile) and then walk for 0.1 miles (1/10 of a mile) with any variation in between. You can also combine the two and run for 1 mile and then walk for 60 seconds. Experiment with these to see if one of the techniques works out for you.

Walk/Run Technique

You can swap the columns if you perfer to run more than walk. Also you can simply walk for a certain distance and then run for a specific time such as: walk 1 mile, run 1 minute then repeat
Walk (minutes)Run (minutes)
91
82
73
64
55
46
37
28
19

13. Warm-up to prep your body

Warming up can be as simple as walking for 5 minutes before you begin to run. You can also throw in some dynamic stretches such as knee hikes or butt-kickers to help get your body ready to perform a run. When you’re warming up the body, you’re also preparing your mind that it’s about time to start running. Once your mind is convinced that it’s about time to fire up the legs, the act of actually running becomes a little bit easier.

14. Easy Terrain = Easy run

Keep your runs easy especially if you find running hard. There is no need to go and beat yourself up by running hill sprints when you’re struggling with running. Keep it flat. If you’re running on pavement and need a break, head out for an easy trail run in the shade. You don’t need any special shoes when you’re running on flat trails with no technicals on the path. Technicals can be anything from large limbs, logs, trees, rocks, animals, etc. If you’re off running technical trails you missed the whole point of keeping your runs and terrain easy.

If you plan on going for a run on a trail and you’ve never been check out this article I wrote – Trail Running for beginners – 8 things to know before you go.

15. Run with someone else

  • running with someone slower  – Running with someone slower helps you out in a couple of ways. First, it eases the stress of having to run faster. You get the chance to take it down a notch and enjoy a casual conversation with a running buddy. When you run with a partner the time seems to tick by much quicker. Secondly, you get to run with someone you would probably have never run with, partially due to ego.
  • running with someone faster –  Don’t run with someone faster until you snap out of the “running is hard” lull your in. Stick with running with someone slower or about the same speed as you.

This boosts your ego and naturally slow you back down to an easier pace

16. Walking is a great form of cross-training

Walking is great to get some extra miles and steps in for the day. Especially if you’re running partner doesn’t run, this can give you a great excuse to burn a few more calories and spend some quality time with your loved ones. You get to still burn calories, yes less than running, but at least your exercising. If your fighting walking and want to run simply speed up your walk to a brisk pace.

17. Find a furry canine to be your running partner

I’m not advocating running a dog for 8 long miles, but rather taking a dog on a simple, smaller easy-going run. Dogs need exercise just a much as human beings. They have four legs so it’s a little bit easier on them than you. Just don’t get too envious of your dog and stop running altogether.

18. Listen to music

Sorry, I can’t listen to podcasts when I’m running. Something to do with the speed at which they talk conflicts with my running mojo….(who knows?). Music is a great way to keep you motivated during runs. Try to listen to something upbeat. You should listen to these tracks only when you’re running. If you start listening to them everywhere ( the car, at home, at work ) then they’ll lose their effectiveness.

If you’ve been listening to the same music, try to slip in some new tracks. Whenever I get too used to my music playlist I switch up the order of the song and possibly retire a couple of tracks and add a couple of new tracks. Amazingly I feel less focused on the actual running and tend to enjoy logging the miles even more.

19. If you’re sore or tight – roll it out

foam rollers, massage balls, massage are all great tools to help penetrate deep painful issues that you could be experiencing. Don’t let sore muscles make running harder than it seems. If your body is new to running you’re going to experience some tightness from time to time as well as possible cramping. That’s why we have people that can give us a well-deserved massage. If the pain is sharp or is painful there could be something more severe going on and you need to get a licensed medical physician or sports therapist to have a look,

20. Set a motivation fire by signing up for a 5K race

When you signup for a race you’re putting a running commitment on the table. Along with signing up for a race comes a training schedule that should be followed to complete that race. Some runners feel too unfocused when they’re not training for something and tend to get groggy about running. If you’re one of these people try to switch up your races and align them so that you have a couple of weeks off between your races and then you’re on to your next training cycle.

If signing up for a new race doesn’t ease up the burden of running just a little bit, get a friend to jump in the fire with you. Now you don’t have an excuse when you don’t feel like training. Your accountability partner is counting on you to show up on race day.

21. If a 5K is too hard – participate in a 1K

Most 5K races have accompanying 1K or 1-mile races that start about 15 minutes prior to a 5K. If you’re still struggling to get to that 1-mile mark this might be a good chance to test out your new habit without jeopardizing any type of future running motivation. It’s a small win, but all big wins are just a bunch of consecutive small wins.

22. Hide your running data – from everybody

If you’re embarrassed about your running capabilities, don’t feel alone. It’s so easy to look at your progress and to start thinking that you should be able to do way better than you currently are. Growth – this is part of the human psyche and we as humans need to feel like we are progressing in feats and ventures we take part it in. Most people give up right before they are about to make a breakthrough. This is why so many people don’t accomplish even some of the smallest goals in their life.

23. 3 words every runner should know

Both determination and motivation are needed to make it past the first couple of months when your starting to run. You need to be determined to become a runner or at least keep running as a regular activity that you participate in. Although you might be determined to become a runner, you’re going to have days that you need that extra kick to get your running shoes on and out the door. This is where motivation comes in. You might be motivated to lose weight, check off a half marathon, or just get healthy in general.  Lastly, when you feel defeated and running seems hard you need the perseverance to guide you back to why you started running in the first place. This takes you back to being determined.

Determination is the firmness of purpose.

Motivation is the reason you act towards a purpose.

Merriam-Webster’s definition:

Merriam-Webster's Definition:

Perseverance: Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

24. Take a close look at your friends

Who do you keep company with? Do your friends lead healthy lifestyles? Do your friends love to do what you do? Sometimes, your friends are holding you back in an unfair way. I’m not saying that your friends don’t want the best for you. Sometimes their influence can pull you back to the status quo within your circle of friends. If the status quo isn’t to keep the healthiest of lifestyles, you can find your self back to square one when it comes to running and making it that much harder to run.

25. Use Meetup to find like-minded people

Meetup is now available around the world. There are running meetup groups and thousands more that are interested in things like you take a fancy to. There’s nothing like finding a group full of people that participate in the same activities as you.

26. Listen to your body

Listing to your body encompasses most of the points listed on this page. If you’re aware that you find running hard, then you need to listen to that specific cue your body is telling you. Sometimes simply being aware and listening to your body you can be proactive and stem off negative thoughts about running. If your body is telling you to slow down, then take it down a notch. If you’re feeling under the weather take the day off. The key is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Most running injuries could have been healed more quickly if the runner stopped when they knew there was a problem instead of running through it.

27. At a bare minimum get a decent pair of shoes.

If running is hard, it could be that you’ve got the wrong gear. Especially if the reason why you think running is hard is due to your shins hurting. Shin pain is a common side effect of poorly fit running shoes. If you think this could be the case, stop by a local running store and let them check your gait on a treadmill. If you don’t have a running store near you, have someone record you and look for an online coach. Upload the video and have a certified coach look it over for you. It’s important to record from behind and the side with the full body in the frame of the video. Your feet should be landing inside the video frame.

28. Stop comparing yourself to other runners

When you first start to run you start to notice all of the other runners everywhere you go. The runners are on the sides of roads, in the parks, in your neighborhoods, and in the gyms on treadmills. It becomes all too easy to start to envy and even compare our selves to other runners. At the end of the day, the real battle is between you and you. I know the competition is what gets under your skin, right? If you follow a training plan and progress slowly, building your base and becoming faster, you’ll naturally become a better runner. If you can’t help comparing yourself to other runners, check out this post on 6 things your running coach would wish you would stop doing.

29. Be wary of social media

Social media is a barrage of your fellow friends’ highlights. Rarely do you see a post like this: “My run just sucked. I ran for 30 seconds and I flat out failed. I quit!” It’s great to share in the victory and sharable moments with your fellow runners. Just be careful when you start becoming jealous of someone’s PRs and run times. when this happens it’s time to take a break from social media and focus on you and your capabilities. It might even be time to find a running coach to help guide you back on to a better training path.

30. Stop being impatient – running takes time

Running can take up to three weeks before you see even the slightest benefit or gain from running. In reality, it’s probably going to take you longer to really feel any benefit from running (maybe 5 to 6 weeks).

31. Slow Down

I can’t stress this enough, 80% of your runs should be easy. If you’re new to running 100% of your runs should be easy. I trained for and ran my first half marathon in 12 weeks, I didn’t perform any speedwork during my entire 12-week training. All of my runs including my base building and long runs were all done at the speed of 100% easy. I wrote a book about my first half marathon, you can get my training guide located here on my profile page – Coach Scott. The guide walks you through the entire process of starting out as a beginner runner and becoming a half marathon race finisher.

32. Track your progress

Review your log. This will show you how much progress you’ve made and how far you’ve come. Reviewing your log on a regular basis can help you mentally absorb the harrowing feats of running you’ve made it through.

If you’re new to running and don’t have a running log yet, go out and purchase a running log book. It’s a great way to help stay focused and aligned with your running goals. It might actually put you in a better mood.

33. Stop the I can’t and I won’t’s

Negative talk is a self-sabotaging pattern where your continually telling yourself you can’t or you shouldn’t do something. You have to start with simple reframing and start telling yourself that you can do something you really want to do. Practice your affirmations (Point #7) daily and star out slow. Log your progress in a runner’s logbook.

Whenever you use the word phrases “I Can’t”, “I Won’t”, “I don’t” your already setting yourself for a hard run. Your mind is already being inundated with negative thoughts surrounding your running activities. Instead use phrases such as “I Must” or “I Will” when you need to go run. Examples: “I will go for a run” or “I must go for a run”

34. You’re in the habit creating business

Start making good habits a priority. If you treat your runs like it’s something you must do at least 3 times a week, you might actually start accomplishing those small goals. Why is running so hard - Good HabitsDid you know that it takes 21 days to form a new habit? Actually, it doesn’t. There is no clinical research to back this up. Newer studies have been conducted and found that new habits take more than two months on average to form (check out James Clear’s book here, Atomic Habits Amazon affiliate link). This book totally changed my mind about how long it takes to form new habits.

35. You might need a break

Taking a break for some runners is like calling it quits. You’re a runner not a quitter, right? It might be a good time to drop your ego a couple of notches and take a vacation. I love to snowboard and when I’m on my small 4 to 5 day snowboarding trips I don’t run. I get all of my exercises from snowboarding, walking, and hiking. The best part is that I get to take a break from running. I love running but sometimes you just need a small break from the daily grind. After all of my trips, I come back more motivated and find running more enjoyable and less difficult.

So, when does running get easier for a new runner?

Running isn’t easy when you’re first starting out. If you go into running thinking that it’s going to be a walk in the park, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I love running, but it took me a couple of years. I used to bet hat person that wondered why in the world is that runner getting up at 6 AM to go for a jog. I totally get it. My journey was a slow journey. I love the fact that I don’t have to have a gym or anyone else near me to go out and see the world and get fit at the same time. You can get to choose your own path, your own distance and enjoy the solitude at the same time.

I recommend you give running a fair chance. At a bare minimum try to stick to some form of a running plan for at least 8 weeks (2 months). Again, it takes 3 to 4 weeks before you might see the slightest gain from running. if you need a plan to be able to run just 1 single mile check out my post that can get you there in 9 weeks. This plan is ultra-conservative and takes it nice in slow. There are two other plans included in the post that take you 5 weeks if you’re further along and 2 weeks if you’re almost there. The plans were written by me, a certified running coach, that has helped thousands of runners reach their goals. Here is the post -> How to run 1 mile if you’re out of shape.

What if I’m still not feeling the love for running?

Don’t despair, sometimes a love for running takes time. I’ve written an in-depth post that explores the reasons why you might hate running and 5 key strategies to turn your hate into love.

Another post you might want to check out is: Why your worst run could hold the secret to your best race!

RRCA Coach Scott Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach. He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 11th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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