So you have made the decision to get into running, now just to figure out how to enjoy running. For many people, running is an acquired taste. To write this article, I turned to ultra-marathon runner, Megan Wotherspoon, for some expert tips. While Megan loves running now, it wasn’t always this way.
Let’s jump in and find out how to make running something you actually enjoy.
Table of Contents
How to Enjoy Running
One way to enjoy running more is to focus on improving your cardio and strength by doing activities other than running.
I recall hating running and then I hiked in the mountains for a month. Speed-walking up hills made me better at running. One day, I decided to test my newfound cardio fitness and I was able to run 10-miles without stopping. Before this, I don’t think I had ever even run more than one mile.
Not only was I less out of breath, but my negative thoughts changed to more positive thoughts such as the following: “I am actually enjoying running and I feel like I could keep running for a long time!”
Focus first on improving your cardio. You might do this by walking on an incline treadmill, stepper, or stair master at a pace that has you breathing at a rate where it would be tricky to maintain a conversation.
As your fitness improves, increase the speed so that you maintain a pace where you would be too out of breath to hold a steady conversation. Your cardio will improve without the joint-jarring feelings that come with running. You will also build up muscular endurance which will help with your running.
After a month of doing three 30-minute sessions a week, test out your new ability to run. Don’t be surprised if you actually enjoy your first run due to your increased cardio fitness.
Once you have established a strong base of cardio, you might want to try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to take your running to the next level .
Megan Wotherspoon says that non-running activities such as high-intensity interval training, cycling, and even yoga are important ways that have helped her improve her cardio and strength when training to enjoy her next big runs.
“Switching up training styles helps prevent boredom and still allows me to move towards my running and fitness goals,” says Wotherspoon.
How to Enjoy Running When You Hate It
Most of us hate things that we think we aren’t very good at or that we know little about. Running is no different. It is hard to like running if that voice in your head is judging you the whole time with thoughts like:
- “Those people can probably tell I’m not a runner.”
- “Why do I look so awkward when I run?”
- “Why am I so out of breath?”
- “Why can’t I go faster?”
- “I wish I was in better shape!”
If you notice you have these types of thoughts, you might also be picturing negative images like people laughing at you or people judging you while you run.
Next time you go for a run, pay close attention to the types of thoughts and images going through your head and how those thoughts make you feel.
Becoming aware of your thoughts can give you a starting point to replace them with more reasonable and uplifting conclusions. Write the images, words, and other thoughts down in a journal.
Ultra-marathon runner, Megan Wotherspoon, says that trying different mindset tricks throughout her runs has helped her stay in the game. Some of her favorite ways to quiet her mind while running are using positive mantras, counting her breaths, and focusing on her strides.
How to Make Running More Enjoyable
Take a minute to think about an activity that is relatively easy for you that other people wish they could be better at.
Perhaps you keep an organized space, make time for reading, and are able to solve difficult challenges at work or play an instrument well.
Chances are that voice in your head is saying much kinder things when you are engaged in the activities you enjoy.
When it comes to running, take those negative thoughts and images from the last step and run them through Byron Katie’s inquiry process.
- Is this thought true?
- Is there any way I can prove this thought/belief is true?
- How does this thought/image make me feel?
- How would I feel if I wasn’t thinking this thought?
- What are some more empowering thoughts I could turn this thought into? .
Let’s take the following negative thought from the previous example through Byron Katie’s process.
“Those people can probably tell I’m not a runner.”
Is this thought true?
“Maybe – who knows?!”
Is there any way I can prove this thought is true?
“Hmm – No…I guess I could ask them, but even then I wouldn’t know if they’re telling the truth”
How does this thought make me react?
“It makes me feel self-conscious, insecure, and like I hate running!”
How would I feel if I wasn’t thinking this thought/who would I be without this thought?
“I’d feel more relaxed and present. Heck, I might even be able to enjoy this run.”
What are some other thoughts I could turn the thought, “those people can probably tell I’m not a runner,” into?
Write the above questions on a cue card or print them out. Take them with you on your next run and free yourself from negative thoughts that may arise by taking them through Byron Katie’s questions.
Another tip ultra-runner, Megan Wotherspoon, uses is to think about anything other than running. Megan says thinking about future planning, meal preparation, and problem-solving are some reliable ways she uses to enjoy her runs more.
According to Megan, “Sometimes being more present helps me enjoy running and other times it helps to think about pretty much anything but running.”
How to Love Running
By improving your cardio and turning some of those negative thoughts around, you will be well on your way to enjoying running. Once running has become part of your regular routine, the positive feeling endorphins can help you love running. You might even start to experience runner’s high .
For those who love to run, it also tends to check many boxes of the Six Human Needs Psychology as described by peak performance and life coach, Tony Robbins and therapist, Cloe Madanes:
- Significance – feeling unique, special, different, or needed
- Certainty – knowing you can experience feelings of pleasure while avoiding pain
- Variety – the ability to experience new situations, change, or different stimuli
- Connection/Love – the need to feel a sense of closeness, union, or belonging
- Growth – developing one’s abilities, skills, or knowledge
- Contribution – serving or helping a person, purpose, or cause outside of one’s self .
Your six human needs can act like a roadmap for you to experiment with ways to enjoy or even love healthy activities, like running, that you want to spend more time doing.
Significance: For example, most people consider running to be challenging and avoid doing it. Someone who is able to consistently run will likely feel a sense of significance and uniqueness for daring to run their way to their important health and fitness goals.
Certainty: Running can meet the need for certainty, for example, by knowing you are improving your chances of living a long, healthy life.
You might also want to try pairing running with an activity you love. By pairing an activity like listening to an addictive audiobook while running you may condition your brain to associate running with a sense of certainty that you will enjoy it.
In their randomized controlled study, researchers found that participants who listened to an exciting audiobook exercised 51% more frequently than those in the control group .
- Variety: To meet your need for variety, you might want to switch up your running locations, audiobooks, or type of music you listen to. Better yet, why not sign up for a race in a city or area that you’ve always wanted to explore?
- Connection/Love: Why not run with a friend or running group? Running groups can be a great way to connect with like-minded adventurers looking for more excuses to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. You might also try thinking about how running and your improved energy/fitness levels will allow you to enjoy the company of active friends and loved ones.
- Growth: Running can provide you with an avenue for limitless growth. Run that first mile, why not see if you can do five miles? Treadmills and running watches can help you track your growth with concrete data on your speed, times, and distances while chasing down your next goals.
- Contribution: Running can also help you support a meaningful cause.
For one of her first marathons, Megan Wotherspoon ran to support the Cancer Society after losing a loved one to cancer.
Take 5-10 minutes right now and make a plan for how you might start to love running by hacking into your six human needs as listed above.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy the company of friends (connection/love), to grow towards your goals (growth), or just knowing there aren’t many people willing to run in the rain or snow (significance), Megan Wotherspoon has found running meets many of the above needs.
What is Your ‘Why’ for Running?
To solidify your commitment to a future love of running, you might want to make yourself a visible reminder such as a poster or journal entry that outlines why you want to run more.
To help get you started, below are some of the science-backed benefits from peer-reviewed research that you might enjoy thanks to running:
- If you are looking to reduce your blood pressure, running can help .
- Endurance running is a great way to reduce body mass, body fat, and resting heart rate .
- Want to live a longer life? “Runners have a 25%–40% reduced risk of premature mortality and live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners” .
- Looking to lose weight? Running is a great way to get healthier and to reduce one’s body mass index .
- Improved cardiovascular fitness from activities like running may lead to a reduced risk of heart failure .
- A follow-up study 15 years later found that persistent runners had reduced their risk of dying from any cause and from cardiovascular disease by 29% and 50% .
- Don’t worry about going fast or far: Researchers found that jogging 2-3 times a week for between 1-2.5 hours at a slow or average pace is best for reducing the risk of early death .
Aside from the research, Megan Wotherspoon says that she likes to run because she is always “meeting new people, it helps me get alone time, and also gives me a chance to be around friends. The positive endorphins help too – runner’s high is real! Running also helps me burn off the stresses of the day.”
Megan says she also enjoys “being outside and seeing how my body adapts to running. One day it might be really slow and the next run could be much better.”
Although running is an acquired taste, there are many things you can do to crack the code and learn how to enjoy running. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out 11 Greatest Running Tips And Tricks – Don’t skip running tip #2!
Featured photo credit: sporlab via unsplash.com