You're not going to like me for saying this, but I am one of those (annoying) people who genuinely loves to run.
If you don't know me, you probably know someone like me. We smile on treadmills. We talk (ad nauseam) about our training. We skip happy hour to pound the pavement. We are always eating.
I think I speak for many runners when I say we don't try to annoy you. I can't help it that my enthusiasm for running overflows. I figure, if I can derive so much joy from something, why shouldn't others? I want you to try running just like I want you to read the last book I loved (The Golem and the Jinni, FWIW).
And yet both personally and professionally, people are always telling me how much they hate to run.
Often, my first reaction is, "That's okay!" You don't have to run to be fit or healthy. And with so very many ways to exercise, life is too short to spend time doing an exercise you hate. I recommend shopping around until you find something that truly fits your personality.
However, that doesn't give you a free pass (sorry). Even when exercise totally stresses you out, it's still a better idea to get moving than to hunker down on the couch. If you're committed to learning to love running, there are -- at the very least -- a few easy ways to make it less torturous. Here are some to try out today.
1. Take walk breaks.
Really. And yes, you can still call yourself a "runner". In fact, a recent study found that regular walking intervals throughout a long run can actually help you maintain the same pace as if you ran the entire way, while being gentler to your body, The New York Times reported. Walk breaks can also be as much of a mental break as a physical one, helping you to think about a longer-distance run into smaller, more conquerable pieces. Which means more "finish lines" -- and more victory dances.
Credit: USA Today
2. Think about a time you crushed a run, rather than how bad you think you're going to feel.
It's all too easy to talk ourselves out of a run -- it's too cold, I'm too tired, it's going to hurt. But a simple shift in your mindset will make it so much easier to stick with your running routine. A recent study suggests that recalling a positive memory that enhances your motivation to exercise -- like the first time you ran a whole mile or the day you logged your personal best 5K time -- significantly ups your likelihood to exercise again. Thoughts become things!
3. Play a sport.
Whether you prefer soccer, softball, basketball, field hockey, ultimate Frisbee or, heck, quidditch, there are so many ways to run without calling it running. Join a league with coworkers or friends that focuses on fun, and physical fitness will just be the icing on the cake. Sports may even be easier to stick with. A 2005 study found that we have different motivation for playing a sport than for simply working out, like enjoyment and challenge as opposed to weight loss and fitting into our skinny jeans. I love to run, but I still love my weekly soccer games more than I'll ever love a treadmill.
4. Exercise with a friend.
One of the greatest things about converting friends to workout buddies is sneaking in extra hangout time. As long as you're on the same page about your goals for a run, pair up with a pal for a longer jog. Not only will she hold you accountable to your plan, you'll also have good company, making the miles fly by.
5. Fake a smile.
Next time you see someone like me giddily bouncing along in apparent bliss on the treadmill next to yours, join in, even if you have to fake it. Forcing a smile can lower stress and make you at least a little bit happier. An embarrassed giggle at your goofy reflection still counts!
6. Craft the perfect playlist.
I'm sure you've already tried running with music, but there's a science to picking the best tunes. Done right, your playlist has serious potential to make running more fun, as Scientific American reported:
Music distracts people from pain and fatigue, elevates mood, increases endurance, reduces perceived effort and may even promote metabolic efficiency. When listening to music, people run farther, bike longer and swim faster than usual -- often without realizing it. In a 2012 review of the research, Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of exercise music, wrote that one could think of music as "a type of legal performance-enhancing drug."
Find music with the right groove and you won't be able to resist moving to the beat. Apps like RockMyRun and TempoRun can help you match songs to your running pace.
7. Try intervals.
Great news for anyone who has ever thought, "When will this be over?!" while running: With intervals, you can get the same cardio benefits in less time! If you're running outside, measure your intervals in telephone poles: Every five or so poles that you pass, pick up the pace from one pole to the next. You can do the same thing measuring by city blocks. If you're running inside, run two minutes at a moderate pace on the treadmill, then crank up the speed for one minute before returning to baseline. Repeat to your (okay, maybe to my) heart's content.
Of course, these will only help if you've already laced up your sneaks. When I need motivation to head out for a run in the first place (and yes, that happens even to those of us who love to run!), I like to think about my future self. Will she be glad she ran? Will she feel better after a run? Unless you're sick or injured or severely sleep deprived, even if you think you hate to run, I'm willing to bet the answer is more often than not "Yes."