Running has always been an important part of my physical and mental well-being. I’m sure on not alone on this one. But to be honest, I never really enjoyed running. I like the feeling afterwards, but never enjoyed it in the moment. I’ve always tried to play little mind games with myself to help get it over with as fast and painless as possible. There have been a few tricks that I’ve used to accomplish this. With these mental hacks, I’ve noticed running to be less of a burden in the moment.
The first bit of advice for those looking for a way to make running easier on them is to frame your mind correctly before you start. Don’t look at running as a race. Look at it as finding the right speed where your body and breathe are in harmony. When I used to train for basketball, I would run miles and miles as fast as I can. And for that, that was essential because I was training to increase performance as quickly as I could. But for most people who casually run, this level of training isn’t necessary and can be dangerous the older we get. Like me, after competitive sports is over you should try focusing on running for sustainability. The pain and suffering I endured through training so hard for so long made my relationship with running difficult. Since I had to push myself so much, I looked at running as a major burden. This made it difficult to transition into running for overall health and wellness. I had to readjust how I looked at running and change my focus on what I wanted to accomplish.
I wanted to change my mind on running to actually like it. I knew if I started to enjoy the process of it, then I would want to do it more often, therefore be in better shape. If I could just enjoy running in itself, I would be healthier.
Step one is to reframe your mind and look at it as finding your right pace where your body and breathe are in synch. Step two is to find good running shoes. This may seem obvious but it’s crucial. If you plan on putting in a lot of miles, then you need the right shoes. I recommend Brooks because they are specialized in running and can get you customized equipment. Having the right shoes on your feet is extremely important. It can help your performance and, more importantly, help you avoid injury. Another plus to the right running shoes is that it may give you something excited to run for. New equipment can have that effect.
Another tip that I have to those trying to enjoy running more is to listen to your body. Especially if you are early in your running experience. When you are starting out, you don’t want to discourage yourself from running by going too hard to the point where you hate it. Take it nice and easy in the beginning. Ramp up your miles over time by giving your body time to adjust to the new conditions you’re asking of it. This is another way to avoid injury as well. Instead, run hard enough to the point where you feel pushed. However, if you start to hate it more than the reward you are getting from it, then scale it back slightly. You don’t want to learn to hate it. You want to learn to like it. And if you are hating it more than the reward you get from it, then this will make you want to hang up those new running shoes.
For those looking for less impact on their joints while running, try looking for hills or stairs to run up. Running up hills or stairs is less impactful on your joints and will even get you a better workout. However, be careful on the way down because it is more strenuous on your joints going down. Use the decline as a time to slowly go down and perhaps catch your breath for the next set of hills or stairs.
The next recommendation I have is to run in the morning. The earlier after you wake up the better because your mind is less active at that point. For some reason, running with a bit of a foggy mind helps running seem less strenuous and makes time go by quicker. I can’t explain why this happens but it definitely does happen. When running in the evenings with my mind active, my mind will find more excuses not to run and I will try to talk myself out of it. That’s why it is best to get it out of the way first thing in the morning.
Lastly, I recommend listening to music when running. This is an obvious tip as most people do so anyway. But music will help you get into the zone and can be a distraction from the running itself. Another not so common tip is to look at the ground right in front of you. Looking far ahead makes the journey seem longer and more strenuous. Instead, look about 10 feet in front of you at the ground. By doing so, you’ll concentrate on the process more and less on the total goal. This helps the time seem to go by quicker and is easier to convince yourself to keep going.
I hope everyone takes up running and realizes the health and mental benefits from it. It’s not always easy to do, but with the suggestions I laid out, it should make things less stressful on your mind and body. Best of luck with your running goals and always remember to stretch!