Does anyone really like to run? It’s an intimidating form of exercise that’s commonly equated with voluntary torture, so it’s no surprise that it’s a sport most people avoid. But running has a bad reputation. Although it is often an exhausting activity, its many benefits make it worth it. From getting in shape to improving your mental health, there is something for everyone in the sport of running. And who said it couldn’t be fun? As a year-round competitive cross-country and trail runner, here are my top tips for making running as fun as possible.
It all depends on what you wear
It sounds trivial, but running really is much more enjoyable when you’re wearing something you feel confident in. Running is all about mental toughness; it’s a mind game more than anything else. So if a nice outfit makes you feel better, your run will feel better. My favorite brands of running gear are Athleta, Under Armour, and Nike.
Along with the confidence boosting side, you also need to consider the practicality of the clothes you wear. A race will be much more fun if you are dressed for the conditions, so be sure to plan ahead. Wear layers when it’s cold (don’t forget gloves!) and clothes that keep you cool when it’s hot (think breathable, sweat-wicking fabrics). Also be sure to apply sunscreen before every run, regardless of the weather. That way, you won’t have a nasty sunburn to discourage you when it’s time for the next race.
This one seems obvious, but it’s super important. Wearing the right shoes will not only make running easier, but can also prevent serious injuries that could keep you tied up for weeks. You’ll want to get shoes with the right amount of support, especially if you’re running on a lot of pavement or a variety of rough terrain.
You should also look for shoes based on your foot type and stride. Buy shoes that may be specifically designed to deal with low or high arches or anything else. Many running stores can assess your stride by filming your foot pattern as you run on a treadmill and recommend shoes that will best meet your running needs. Some of the best running shoe brands include Brooks, ASICS, New Balance, Saucony, and Nike.
Fill up and recharge
Now that your race gear is ready, it’s time to get ready for the race. Whether you’re an experienced runner heading out on a ten-mile run or a beginner attempting a 5k, your body needs to be well-energized and hydrated. Don’t eat too much right before your run, but make sure you have something small that’s full of energy. Examples are a banana with peanut butter, a granola bar, yogurt and fruit, or a bagel. Eating after running is sometimes overlooked, but it helps build muscle and repair your body after a workout, so you can feel good and strong next time. Good things to eat after running are eggs, pasta, nuts, avocado toast, and salmon, to name a few.
Of course, everyone is different, so you’ll probably have to experiment with eating before you figure out what works. The general rule is: don’t eat junk food before running if you want to enjoy it. Running is a sport that forces you to take care of yourself and think more about what you eat, which will force you to eat better and live better, which will make your runs more enjoyable.
Go out the door
The first step is always the most difficult. But going out for a run is really the worst. So all you have to do is start. Remember, the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be done. And remember, you’ll feel much better once you’re done. For me, sometimes it helps to walk a block before you start; that way I don’t have to run the second I’m outside. Getting started is still tough, but it gets easier and once you’re up and running it’s really not that bad.
Blast these tunes
Running to the beat of your favorite song is a major main character move. Music has gotten me through countless races because it helps distract me from my aches or pains, and it’s very motivating. There are tons of preset running/cardio playlists on Spotify as well as fun apps like Zombies, Run! which allow you to play as a character and complete missions while listening to your favorite soundtrack.
don’t go crazy
You’re on the pavement in good clothes and comfortable shoes, listening to the ultimate confidence-boosting playlist, and feeling ready to crush your workout. You feel so good that you practically sprint the first mile and then… you start to lose energy and you end up working your way through the rest of the race wishing you had never been out. If you feel good at first, it’s easy to get carried away. But stay relaxed. It doesn’t have to be killed on the first mile or on the first run. It’s also important to note that overdoing it can lead to injury quite quickly, so it’s best to listen to your body and relax when needed.
Know it’s gonna be hard
Running is difficult. Even after four years of competing, there are still days when I wonder why I thought this would be a good idea. There are still days when I can barely pass the workout. So yes, it will be hard, especially at the beginning. But don’t let that fear stop you. Running is such a freeing activity once you get over the pain. And every day will not be difficult; you will have days when you will feel good. But once you accept this inevitable difficulty, you will find greater joy in completing each race, and you will be stronger because of it.
turn it on
Running starts to become a chore if you stick to the same routine. So keep it fresh! I like running because it’s a chance to explore. I never have a destination in mind when I run, and that’s part of the fun. Try turning into another street or visiting a part of your city you’ve never seen before (but don’t get lost). Or, you can try trail running and drive somewhere to race on a hiking trail. You might even treat yourself by running for smoothies or ice cream.
You can also change the time while running. If you typically run in the afternoon, try an early morning run. If you’re a morning person, try an afternoon run. Dark races can also be fun, especially if you watch the sunrise while you run. Want to change it even more? Adjust your training. You don’t just have to run; you can do stairs, run at different speeds, try hills or find different workouts online.
To meet friends
Who said running couldn’t be a social activity? Some of my favorite runs I’ve done have been with my friends. If you want company and conversation to occupy your mind while you run, grab a buddy! It’s a great way to catch up while exercising, and it’s especially nice if you don’t like the idea of running alone. Having a partner can also hold you accountable; if you want to run but often crash, make plans with a friend. You will be less likely to cancel your ride if someone is around.
Many of these tips are only useful if you keep security in mind. Listening to music is fine, but remember to be aware of your surroundings. don’t ignore the world. Don’t explore an unfamiliar part of your city on your own, and don’t run into dodgy areas. Having a buddy or a group is the easiest way to stay safe, but if you’re alone there are other things you can do. If you want to see a new place, plot a route before or familiarize yourself with the main streets or landmarks. Know what to avoid, where to go if you need help (a grocery store or a police station), and how to get home.
Take a phone. If you are alone, you will need a phone. You can also carry an alarm if you are running in an isolated area. If you are in a group, at least one person should have a phone just in case. You should also group up if you want to run in the dark. As exhilarating as it is, running for odd hours is dangerous, so plan accordingly.
Basically, just be smart. Being scared for your safety and well-being won’t make your run fun, so be sure to take the necessary precautions before hitting the road.
do what you want
Running is great because it’s such an individualized sport that you can do whatever you want with it. Nobody judges you and nobody counts on you, so you can do whatever you want. So embrace it. Running is also a lifelong sport that requires very little equipment. It’s cheap, easy, and you can do it anywhere. So stay positive and find the little joys with each race. The more you run, the easier and more fun it will become.