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21 Ways to Make Running Easier

As a long-time runner, I can confirm running can be hard. Really hard, sometimes. But I’m also proof that it does get easier, in many ways, over time. But there are challenges that pop up regularly, including burnout. And there are days where we don’t have explanations––it just hurts and isn’t fun. That’s part of being active. (Even professional runners will echo that sentiment!) Exercise takes a toll on our body, but it’s almost always worth it to get out the door. (Unless you’re running through injuries and making things worse… don’t do that.)

Thankfully, after running for as long as I have (over 20 years), you learn a thing or two about what makes running harder and what makes it easier. And that’s what I’m going to share today!

Let’s jump into a few ways to make running easier.

21 Ways to Make Running Easier

21 Ways To Make Running Easier

These are my favorite running tips if you want your runs to feel a bit easier.

1. Eat the right foods beforehand

Fueling is just as important as your running itself! Many new runners don’t know what they should be eating before, after, and during their runs. This is another topic I go into detail on in my online running course! I have a blog post that talks about exactly what to eat before a run, but the short answer is something you can digest easily! And what works for you won’t work for everyone else. You learn what works best for you as you try new foods before your runs. This post also has a few ideas of pre-run snacks.

2. Make sure to warm up

If you’re not doing dynamic stretches before your run, you should. These are the stretches I do before each run. These stretches warm up your muscles and lubricate your joints. This will make your run feel much better since your body won’t feel quite so stiff and it will also reduce your risk of injury.

3. Start slow

I always take the first 10-15 minutes slow and easy, to allow my body to warm up.  If you jump out of bed and start your run without warming up, you’re bound to get hurt. I was able to get away with that more often in my 20s but now that I’m nearing 40, a warm-up is mandatory. I’ll talk about warming up more below, but starting your first 1-2 miles at a slower pace will get your body better prepared to enjoy the rest of your run.

4. Use a walk run method 

A walk-run method is one of the things I talk about in depth in my online running course (which might be a good fit for you if you’re getting into running for the first time!). Essentially, you walk for 2 minutes and run for 30 seconds. Then repeat until you’ve completed 20 minutes. You will gradually increase the ratio of running to walking over time.

5. Don’t forget to cool down

Just as important as warming up is cooling down! While a cool down won’t change the run you just completed, it will make your next run feel better. When you run, lactic acid builds up in your legs, often producing muscle soreness, to give you a painful situation the next morning. Cooling down helps rid your legs of some of that lactic acid (as does warming up before your next run), which will help make back to back runs more enjoyable. A cool down is simply running slower and/or walking for 5-15 minutes before you come to a complete stop (so the opposite of your warm up!). The length of your cool down will vary depending on the length of your run. Then, stretch! These are the stretches I do.

6. Eat afterwards

What you eat after your run is equally important. Aim for a ratio of 4:1 or 3:1 carbs to protein. There is more information about postrun fueling in my running course.

7. Build up your mileage smartly

One of the issues lots of beginner runners experience is running too much too quickly. Starting out easy and short will make your runs feel better, which will help you run further and faster as you get more experience and improve your fitness. It’s a good rule of thumb to do only one long run per week, and to keep the others shorter. Don’t try to make every run the exact same distance and don’t try to run further and further with every run. That’s a recipe for burnout, discouragement and injury.

8. Listen to music 

Nothing makes running more fun than a great playlist. You can even use Spotify playlists that are created to stay on beat with certain steps per minute, so you can let the music drive you. If you’re bored with your playlists, try my favorites.

9. Run with a buddy

I just said nothing is better than music, but I take it back. NOTHING is better than running with your friends! A run with friends goes by so much more quickly than a run on my own. Some of my closest friends have come from running, and we’ve gotten to know each other SO well because of the countless miles we’ve run together in the mornings. If you don’t have running buddies yet, reach out to your running store and see if they have groups! Most of them do, and those are great places to start.

Running with someone faster than you will ultimately help you run faster, and running with someone slower will help you keep your pace a little slower (which is great if you need to recover!).

10. Wear the right shoes

Yet, another topic I address in my online running course in detail. You should get fitted a running store for shoes that are designed for YOUR feet. Not your mom’s feet, sister’s feet, husband’s feet…YOURS. This is the best thing (tied with fueling appropriately) that you can do to make running easier. It’s crazy how many brands make shoes that are so different. This is a great thing because it means there IS a shoe for you. You’ll be amazed by how much a good running shoe will change how you feel on your runs. These are the shoes I wear and this is how I break them in and help them last longer.

21 Ways to Make Running Easier

11. Hydrate hydrate hydrate

Make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces, daily. More if you’re running long distances. If it’s hot out or you’re running for more than a hour, add electrolytes.

12. Run on soft surfaces

If you’re noticing knee or foot pain after running for a while, and you’ve already made sure it’s not a shoe issue (or wearing the same shoes for too long), then try switching from pavement to softer surfaces. If you can run on a trail where you live, this is a great option!

13. Break up the distance

If you’re planning to go out on a long run, try to break it up with fresh scenery, a new running buddy, a different playlist for the second half of the run, or if you have to, walk for a little bit in between to rest your body! There’s no harm in walking. Don’t let anyone tell you there is.

14. Run a new route

I always find that my runs go by so quickly when I’m running somewhere new. This is because I’m focused on enjoying the pretty houses or view, making sure I know where to turn, etc. I’m hardly ever thinking”when will this be over!?” (It’s a great way to stay healthy while traveling too!)

15. Dress comfortably

Make sure to wear appropriate clothes for the season you’re running in! If it’s hot, this is what I wear. And here’s what I wear in the cold or rain! Make sure to wear things that prevent chafing (since that’s a surefire reason to quit mid-run!) and socks that don’t cause blisters.

How make running feel easier

16. Use the restroom beforehand

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than getting a mile away from your house and needing to use the restroom. And while some pregnant runners or postpartum runners will still struggle with incontinence even if they use the restroom before running, usually going right before your run will let you log miles without need a mirun pitstop. Keep in mind that if you’re drinking coffee before your runs, you might need to wait 30 minutes to an hour to *cough* process your coffee ;).

17. ALWAYS RECOVER

Recovery runs are SO important, and most people run them much faster than they should. Easy runs should be easy. My running coach wrote a guest post on this exact topic, and talks about how slow you should really go, here.

18. Get a sports massage

This is a great option if it’s in your budget. If you’re local, I love Ger at Therapeutic Body Care. If you can get massages monthly, it will help greatly with your alignment and muscle tension, which are leading issues for pain while running. For an at-home option, make sure you’re stretching daily, and maybe pick up a Hypervolt massage gun when it goes on sale.

19. Incorporate strength training 

Yes, running works your muscles but dedicated strength training will also help running feel easier.  Adding two or three days of strength training to your training plan will make a big difference. This post outlines simples exercises to work the muscles running uses. Bess Carter (code TERI20 will give first time users 20% off their first month!) and Amanda Brooks both have great strength training programs as well.

20. Work on your form

Another way to make running less painful is to think about your form, and especially your posture when running. If you notice you’re holding lots of tension in your shoulders, make an effort to relax your body while you’re running. This might mean unclenching your fists, jaw, rolling your shoulders down your back a few times, and just shaking out your body. It’s easy to tense up unknowingly while you’re running.

21. Shorten your stride

Shortening your stride, which means taking more steps per minute, reduces the tension and force on your joints, which then reduces pain! It can also help distract you if you count your steps for just a bit. Aim for 150-180 steps for minute. (The faster you run, typically the faster your cadence is.) Count your right footfall for 30 seconds and then multiply it by 2 to get the 60 second total and then double it again to get the total for both feet, i.e. your cadence. (Some GPS watches, including mine, will display your cadence while you’re running.)

I hope these tips help your runs feel a little easier and less painful. Remember that it’s 100% normal to have some hard runs, but that the easier ones are bound to come back soon. And always give yourself the rest you need!

Happy running!

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