You know those people who wake up in the morning looking forward to the next time they get to run?
I am not one of them.
I wake up looking forward to eating, dancing around in my underwear, and getting to crawl back into bed in 17 hours. [Not necessarily in that order.]
Seriously, though, I am not a running enthusiast. Heading out for a jog or doing a 5k is not my idea of a great time. When I run, I have a bad habit of shoving socks down my bra and/or getting lost and getting heatstroke. There’s a lot of sweat and jiggling and it’s just not fun for anyone. [Mostly me.] But I know that running has significant health benefits, and with a family history of heart disease, keeping my cardiovascular health top notch is a big priority of mine.
So I run. Sometimes. More often, I do plyos, and circuits, and other fun things that make me sweaty and jiggly and dry-heave-y. And I actually love it, aside from the running.
Lately, though, the running has started to suck a little less.
Now I wouldn’t say I’m falling in love with running. Definitely not “L”-word territory. Not even “like.” But it’s growing on me, like Neville Longbottom grows on you during the Harry Potter series. Running still has its man boobs – we’re not at sexy grown-ass Matthew Lewis status [yet?] – but it’s not the whiny mouthbreather that it used to be.
Moving on from the nerd analogies, here are the things I’ve found that make running slightly more enjoyable. Or at least enjoyable-adjacent. So if you hate running, give these tricks a shot, and you might find that running starts to suck a little less.
Stop tracking every run.
If you are someone who keeps a spreadsheet tracking the time and mileage of every run, it’s time to give yourself a break. Unless you’re getting paid to run or your job requires you to pass a PFT, your run time doesn’t matter. The health benefits are there at any almost any speed. But if it’s a personal goal of yours to become a faster runner, that goal will be much more achievable if you enjoy running to some degree. Try running by feel. Allow yourself to go at a pace that’s on the border of natural and pushing yourself. First fall in love with the movement of running, then if it’s important to you, start working on speed. Tracking runs can be a great tool – for instance, do a handful of benchmark runs each month that you track for pace/distance – but most of us will be fine running most of our miles by feel.
Have a kickass playlist.
Studies have shown that music can have a significant impact on running speed, quality, and perceived exertion…and for most of us, personal experience has shown that music can take a workout from stale to stellar. So don’t get lazy with your running playlist. Pay attention to what songs get you fired up, and use them when you run! [Maybe even have an album or a few tracks that you only listen to while running, so that you associate running with the positive reward of listening to some of your favorite music.] Fine tune your Pandora stations. Invest in Spotify Premium. Dig up all your old Backstreet Boys CDs and put them on your phone. Download some podcasts, if that’s what cranks your tractor. And also, invest in a real armband. I spent almost a year using my jerryrigged “phone holder” on runs [aka wrapping my phone in a sock and shoving it down my bra]. I got an actual armband for Christmas, and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference having your phone on your arm instead. Running is surprisingly more enjoyable when it doesn’t feel like there’s a dead rodent all up in your boobs.
But, you know, the music is really important, too.
Play with it.
Just because you’re running doesn’t mean you have to just run. Changing things up can make running exciting – if your usual mileage is getting boring, throw in some sprints, hills, or speedwork. You can set aside time for a dedicated hill/sprint/speed workout, or if you’re
less neurotic more freespirited, just add intermittent sprints or hills into your normal route. Or take your non-running workouts and add a little running. Using a mile jog as my warmup and cooldown for my strength workouts helped me to stop looking at running like this big, scary endeavor, and I eventually found that it could be a neat time for me to get in the zone [warming up before a workout] or truly zone out [cooling down afterward]. I also have a lot of fun heading down to the local high school or middle school on the weekends to use the track and bleachers. I like to incorporate calisthenics and plyos for a circuit-type workout that feels more like playing than running. [Thinking about sharing one of my favorites in the next week…let me know if you’d find that helpful!]
Remember that you do not have to run.
It is a privilege to have a body that is whole enough and well enough to run, no matter how slow or clumsy or ugly it may be. When you run, you are choosing to exercise that privilege. If you truly hate running, you don’t have to run – it’s not a prerequisite for health. But if you choose to run, whether it’s a daily habit or something you’re “trying out” for a week, own that choice. Revel in that blessing that is the choice to run, as well as the choice to enjoy it. Your perspective can be your most powerful tool.
Whether you’re a non-runner [let’s start a club…] or one of the chosen ones who enjoys running and is good at it, I hope these suggestions help you find more joy when you hit the pavement. After all, the best kind of training is the kind you love.
How much do you love/loathe running?
What do you do to make less-fun workouts more enjoyable?
Best running/training songs?