Running is boring. It's hard. It hurts. It's lonely. And it doesn't give you immediate results. Right?
While we don't think any of these are necessarily good excuses (or altogether true!), we do understand it's not always love at first run for anyone who ever decides to lace up and hit the pavement.
"The first time I tried going for a run, after spending my whole life as a dancer and avoiding the mile in gym class, I had fun—for the first four steps," says blogger Alison Feller of Ali on the Run. "But you know what is fun? The second run, the third run, the fourth run, the fifth run…"
Whether you're a beginning runner intimidated to take those first steps or you've recently taken a wrong turn straight into a running rut, we're here to help you get moving in the right direction. That's why we asked Feller and some of our other favorite running bloggers and coaches, to share their best tips for finding fun on the run.
1. Forget the past. Whatever feelings or fears you associate with running—leave them in your dust! "Forget about the coach who made you run as a punishment," says Sara Johnson, a coach at Reality Running. "Forget about those childhood memories of not being ‘the athlete.' Just because running wasn't fun for you in the past doesn't mean it can't be now." Matt Orlando of The Runner Dad says most initial stumbles are mental. "Being a runner isn't about speed or skill; it is a mindset," he says. "Whether you run a 4-minute mile or a 15-minute mile, all it takes is a pair of shoes and the desire to get out the door."
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2. Set a goal. Establishing a goal for each run (even if it's just to not walk!) creates benchmarks of your progress and a sense of accomplishment. "I used telephone poles when I was getting started," says Feller. "Each time I ran, I told myself to make it to ‘one more pole.'" Eventually, you might find yourself setting even crazier goals, says Elizabeth Maiuolo of Running and the City, "like running over all of the NYC bridges or covering three different parks in one run."
3. Slow down. "Don't even think about pace at the beginning," says Amanda Loudin, the voice behind Miss Zippy. "Many people get discouraged at first because they want to run ‘fast.' So they go out and kill themselves, then feel dejected and discouraged." Coach Ryan Knapp of Out and Back emphasizes running at a conversational pace, meaning you should be able to talk on-the-go. While it may go against the "No pain. No gain." mentality, it "ensures you are building your aerobic endurance and teaching your body to become more efficient, which is the key to running," he says.
4. Buddy up. Yes, it can be isolating to run alone, but we say there's plenty of road to share. "Ask a friend you haven't seen in a while to run with you," says Jocelyn Bonneau, better known as Enthusiastic Runner. "Catch up while running and the miles will fly by as you chat!" Julie Curtis of ROJ Running adds that your date could also be a romantic one. "Studies have shown couples who run together, stay together," she says. "Take your crush out for a little jog or reignite passion in your long term relationship. That post-workout glow could lead to a few more calories burned—if you know what I'm saying."
5. Play a game. Remember all those silly road trip games your parents would use to entertain and distract you on long car rides? Even on your feet, you can still take them on the road! Play "20 Questions" with a friend or try to find all of the letters of the alphabet on the street signs you pass if you're running solo.
6. Discover the road not taken. If you ate the same food for lunch every day, you'd inevitably get bored, and it's the same with running! "Slogging along the same path every day can get old really fast," says Feller. Blogger Gabrielle Kotkov of Marathons and Macarons suggests picking a place that feels special. "It could be as simple as the foliage in the park, or the sunset along the river," she says. "I first fell in love with running in the park in autumn." Theodora Blanchfield, coach and creator of Losing Weight in the City agrees, adding that even if you have to travel to your new route first, "running is the best way to see new spots and explore somewhere new on foot!"
7. Treat yo' self. We hate to sound shallow, but sometimes there's nothing like some new gear to get us going. "A flashy training outfit will make me want to run faster and longer," admits Maiuolo. Michelle Roos of Pawsitively Delightful also abides by this approach. "If I have time (and money), I will buy either a new pair of shorts or a tank that will act as a reward for all of the hard work that I've done up until then," she says. "If it's something I know I'll want to race in later, I can test it out!"
8. Find a happy ending. If you could have anything waiting for you at the end of a hard run, what would it be? For Emily Halnon of Sweat Once a Day, it's simple. "Beer," she says. "I recommend ending most runs with a pint of the good stuff." Abby Land, who writes Back at Square Zero, believes in the power of runch. "You meet a buddy and run/walk to your favorite brunch place," she says. "Woo hoo for runch!" And with all the calories you burn running, who could blame Kotkov, who says she's run straight to an ice cream shop before? As for Feller, her ultimate destination reward is "a dog park, filled with precious puppies." It's all about what puts a smile on your face.