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Whether you’re just beginning or consider yourself a veteran runner, take a moment to think about how far you’ve come; the progress you’ve made. Who could forget how it felt to start running for the very first time? All the adjectives you might be thinking as you recall that first trudge, can probably boil down to one word: uneasy. Whether you were more uncomfortable with the physicality of it all, how you looked doing it, or the sheer logistics, you probably felt some level of unease.
Canadian author, director, and screenwriter Kelly Oxford recently described her recent first run on Twitter as “death.” In that same Tweet, Oxford did something that not all new runners are brave enough to do: she asked for help. “Tried running today,” she wrote. “Runners, how do you get into it without death? I’m going to keep trying but wtf.”
EARNEST TWEET: tried running today. Runners, how do you get into it without death? I’m going to keep trying but wtf.
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) August 10, 2021
What she got in return was a gold mine of great advice from fellow recreational runners, coaches, and even some elite athletes. Here are 10 ways new runners can push past the hardest part of running.
1. Start Slow
This was perhaps the most loudly echoed piece of advice. Even two-time Olympian and World Championships silver medalist Kara Goucher chimed in to say, “Start slowly!”
New runners should know that it’s perfectly acceptable to take walking breaks when they need them. “Run until you start to feel out of breath then walk until you get your breath back then start running again,” writes Catherine Gleeson. “Don’t worry about [how] fast you go or how long either period takes. The running bits get longer over time until eventually you just keep running.”
@_talahui shared great advice they’d once received, “If you’re not having a good time, you’re running too fast.”
It’s normal to feel tense as you start putting your body through new and unfamiliar strain. Runners on Twitter point out that runs are much more comfortable if you can find a way to let go of the tension. One way to do that? Focus on your breathing. “Think ‘inhale,’ ‘exhale,’ inhale’ etc. releasing tension on the exhales,” writes @RunnerBliss. “Notice where your body and feet feel tense and let those areas relax as you walk and breathe. ‘Float’ along.”
3. Stick With It
From runners who remember starting out or are chronic re-starters, the consensus is that it takes about two to three weeks of consistency before it stops feeling like, well, death. “Consistency makes it feel good eventually,” writes Jonathan Levitt, host of the podcast For the Long Run.
Sarah Bard shared her experience, “I’ve run all my life [and] taken time away from it several times [and] always feel like death for 2 weeks. After that it starts to get better.” But she also adds, “You’ll still have hard days, but it won’t be every day.” And Bard’s experience certainly wasn’t unique. It’s hard for everyone, you just have to push through it.
4. Follow a Couch to 5K Program
They’re popular for a reason–they work!
Couch to 5K apps offer great guidance to new runners who are unsure how to build up stamina and pace. With many of the apps out there, all of the guesswork is completely taken away, with guided audio telling you exactly when to run and when to walk. “It is such a great way to start or return to running,” shares Vicky Di Ciacca. “I am on my 3rd time of doing it after time out for injury … and [in between] the 2nd and 3rd times I built up to marathon distance and beyond.”
5. Run By Time, Not Distance
Choosing to run a certain amount of time rather than a set distance is one way you can make sure you’re not pushing the pace too much and keeping it easy to start out. “Gradually increase the duration of time you run, as opposed to trying to complete a distance,” writes Rachel Cleary. “Ex: today I ran 15 [minutes] tomorrow I will run 16 [minutes], and so on.”
“Run for time, not for distance was the best advice I ever got,” adds @Kirafalls. “Slowly build up and you’ll be surprised what you can do.”
6. Running With Friends is a Great Distraction
“Most communities have running clubs,” writes T.J. McIntyre. “When you’re meeting up with friends, it’s definitely more motivating.” Joining a running group can help to keep you accountable and running with more experienced runners can help you learn more about the process quicker by observing how they train and asking questions.
But running friends don’t have to be human. Creating a running routine with your dog can also help keep you accountable. “Only way I’ve been able to enjoy running is by bringing my dog (short distances). She gets in the zone and loves it so much, it rubs off on me and keeps me going,” writes Alina Kulesh.
Denise Feil, who has three dogs incorporates each to build her routine: “Walk the first one which warms me up, run the second and run-walk the third. I am a slow, but steady jogger and love being out with my pups,” she writes.
7. Run to See the World
Engaging your senses is another way to get enjoyment from your run. “Listen to nature, and different sounds,” says Bruce Huckfeldt. “Look at new surroundings … Make it a habit, not a chore.”
Running can be an exciting excuse to explore new areas, says @ADaveSaysWhat. It can be an adventure. “Find locations that inspire you,” he writes. That could be a park, trail, riverwalk, beach, track, or just about anywhere that fires you up.
8. Celebrate Small Victories
Set yourself up for success by giving yourself small milestones you can celebrate. “Be proud of every run you do [because] it’s hard and not everyday is going to be your best day,” writes @olivethegiant.
9. Listen to Something That Fires You Up
There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in music or a podcast while you’re logging your miles. Whether you’re looking for a distraction or a motivational tune or voice in your head, a good audio selection can make a run feel easier and the time fly by. “90’s punk and the BBC world news got me through some tough runs,” writes Hutch LaVallee.
One responder suggested choosing something that really gets you moving.
We liked this interval idea from filmmaker Mark Duplass also: “Make a mix of your favorite songs but make sure they alternate long songs and short ones. Run the short ones. Walk the long ones. When you’re ready, flip the order.”
10. Remember: Running is Hard For Everyone
Know that the first mile or so always sucks. Until you’re truly warmed up, beginning the run always feels rough. Haley Alexi summed it best: “Sometimes I still have to remind myself that it feels hard because running is hard, not because I’m horrible at running.” Instead of trying to make it easier, you might just have to embrace that it’s always a little hard.