10 Simple Ways To Enjoy Running

A few easy tweaks and handy tools can shift your entire attitude toward your workouts.

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Though he became a professional trail runner, he didn't naturally love the sport, David Roche, two-time national champion, told Health

"I will always remember my first run when I went out the door. [I] got 200 yards and had to stop because I was so winded," said Roche. "I was sore for three days afterward."

The more he ran, the easier—and more fun—it felt. Eventually, Roche quit his job as an attorney to run and coach a team called Some Work, All Play with his co-coach and wife, Megan Roche. In 2018, the couple published a book, The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer.

"You don't have to run. But if you're going to run, it should be joyful," said Roche. Even if you don't plan to leave corporate life for the trails, you can still reap running's emotional and physical rewards.

Read on to learn about 10 tips that can help you enjoy running.

How To Enjoy Running

Trying one or more of these strategies can help turn running from a chore into a hobby you love.

Bring a Partner

Running with friends makes the miles fly by, said Roche, and there's no better way to multitask than catching up while getting your miles in.

Need help finding a friend who's willing to stride with you? Head to your local running store or even search online for group runs. Groups often start their runs at local stores, bars, and gyms. You might meet a brand new friend who's just your pace.

Listen to Music

Music can move you—literally. In a study published in 2015, runners clocked a faster 5K with less effort when listening to calm or upbeat melodies than others.

It may help to choose different songs for different purposes, Kaitlin Gregg Goodman, professional runner and coach, told Health.

"Relaxed if you're trying to chill out on an easy day, a pump-up playlist for hard workouts," recommended Gregg Goodman. Podcasts work, too, and often come in workout-friendly 30- to 45-minute episodes. 

Stay aware of your surroundings if you're running outside for safety purposes. For example, consider using just one earbud or keeping your volume down so that you can hear what's going on around you. Remain vigilant and avoid traffic. You may want to avoid running with headphones when it's dark outside.

Whether you're running inside or outside, keeping the volume at less than 60% of the maximum to protect your hearing is best.

Practice Mindfulness

Though training partners and music may serve as welcome distractions, actually tuning in to what you're doing can also help you enjoy it more, Mackenzie L. Havey, a Minneapolis runner, coach, and author of Mindful Running, told Health.

"Research shows that mindful athletes tend to exhibit greater optimism, higher self-confidence, and less anxiety," said Havey. To start, Havey recommends doing the following:

  • Spend the first few steps of your run doing a full scan of your body, mind, and the world around you.
  • Notice the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the sounds of birds chirping, and the top three thoughts in your head.
  • If you notice your mind wander—and you will—gently bring it back to the present moment.

"You'll find that fully immersing yourself in the run by focusing on your environment, body, and mind boosts enjoyment, even on the days you're feeling less than inspired to work out," said Havey.

Remember What It Feels Like To Finish

When you can't convince yourself that you like running, remind yourself how good you'll feel when finished. 

"After the morning run, I'm going to be happier, I'll be more productive, and my husband says I'm a better spouse," said Gregg Goodman. "It's like having coffee. We're all much better people after coffee."

Set a Target

Give your running purpose by setting a specific target, like completing a 5K or improving upon last year. Reflecting on how much that goal means to you can help you appreciate every step in the process, said Gregg Goodman.

A target can also be an endpoint to your run. One study published in 2015 tested 22 runners, including 11 men and 11 women, under two conditions: running to an unknown endpoint and running the same distance while knowing the endpoint. It turned out that the runners who knew their endpoint ran faster.

You can also dedicate your miles to a loved one who can no longer run, raise money for a charity, or pace a friend in an event that's meaningful to them. 

"Sometimes running can feel like a pretty selfish endeavor," said Gregg Goodman. "Making it bigger than yourself can bring that joy back."

Show Gratitude

When the going gets tough, focus on the splendor all around you. 

"It could be the way the leaves have fallen on the path or passing a child learning to ride a bike, or—my favorite—dog spotting," Chris Mosier, a six-time member of Team USA in duathlon and triathlon and a coach in Chicago, told Health. Mosier also advised keeping an eye out for inspiring sights along your route.

Furthermore, research has found that tuning into external sights and sounds, rather than what's happening in your body, can make running feel easier and improve performance.

Havey recommended the following practice for improving gratitude during your runs:

  • Extend your positive vibes by writing down the things you're grateful for on the run on slips of paper. Those may include how fresh your legs felt or how fortunate you are to live near a running path.
  • Fold them up and put them in a used water bottle.
  • Pull them out when you lack motivation. Over time, you will likely be more tuned in to a sense of gratitude when you lace up your running shoes.

Slow Down

Most new runners start at a sprint and quickly flame out, much as Roche did. Now, he knows better. 

"If it hurts, you're going too hard," explained Roche. Your body needs time to develop aerobic fitness and adapt to the impact and repetitive motions running involves.

When you start, alternate easy running and walking—say, a minute each. Once you have gotten the hang of this, adjust your weekly intervals, running more, walking less, until you're steadily jogging. Even then, don't judge yourself on pace. Run by effort, and keep things relaxed. 

"Listen to your body," advised Roche.

Speed Up

For some people, steady slogging can grow monotonous, so try some tips to pick up the pace of your run.

Once you've logged a few continuous runs, try adding bursts of speed. For example, doing 20 to 30 seconds of faster running followed by at least a minute of slower running can help. Alternatively, find a hill and run up it quickly, then slowly jog back down. 

Start with two to four bursts or hills, then build up week by week. Besides making time pass quicker, those short hard efforts boost your heart rate.

Switch Your Route

Gregg Goodman stated that she often notices runners retracing the same routes day in and day out. 

"I'll put in their log: Your assignment for today is an exploration run," said Gregg Goodman. 

Try bypassing your well-trod boulevard and running on a new sidewalk, path, or park to add an element of excitement to your routine. Just make sure the area is safe.

It may also help to try out a destination run, a point-to-point course that ends somewhere fun, like a coffee shop or bookstore. If you wish, use a ride-sharing app to catch a lift home.

View Running as an Escape

Paying your bills, feeding your kids, booking visits to your healthcare provider. There's plenty in life you have to do. On the other hand, running is a conscious choice to improve your health, fitness, and well-being. 

"I really like to say that it's an opportunity, not an obligation," said Gregg Goodman. Therefore, revel in the chance to test your limits, zap stress, and escape the day-to-day pressure of a busy life.

Benefits of Running

Going for a run has many health benefits, such as:

  • Building strong muscles and bones
  • Burning calories
  • Decreasing the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Helping manage existing chronic conditions
  • Improving quality of life
  • Increasing life expectancy
  • Managing weight

Precautions for Running

Running can be a great way to help manage chronic conditions, but it's not necessarily safe for everyone.

When adding any exercise to your routine, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns or a chronic condition such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes. It's also best to ask a healthcare provider before running (or adopting any other form of vigorous exercise) if you're overweight, have a disability, or have been sedentary.

You may want to prepare by brisk walking and jogging for a few months before you add running to your routine. When you do start running, start gradually and respect your body's limits. As your body adjusts, you can start to run longer, faster, or more often.

Don't forget to warm up and stretch before each running session, and cool down with light stretches after your run. Here are some other precautions to keep in mind:

  • Avoid harmful traffic emissions by staying away from roads, especially during 'peak hour' periods
  • Avoid overtraining and injury by giving yourself at least two full days of rest per week
  • Buy appropriate shoes to avoid injury
  • Dress comfortably and in layers that you can remove as needed
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your run
  • Don't run when it's too hot outside
  • Reduce your risk of injury by running on flat, grassy areas instead of hard or loose surfaces
  • Use sunscreen (SPF 50 or higher) if you are running outside
  • Wear reflective clothing if it's dark outside

Carry your phone with you in case you need it, and let someone know where you're going and when you'll likely be back home. Stay away from dangerous, isolated, or dark areas. If you choose to wear headphones, keep the volume low enough that you can stay aware of your surroundings.

If you experience an injury, stop running and seek advice from a healthcare provider.

A Quick Review

Like all exercise, running is not always boundless fun. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks you can adopt to make running seem easier and even enjoyable. Reap running's emotional and physical rewards with these 10 tips for more joyful running.

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11 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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