Three years ago, I decided to make more time in my life for fitness. Running was the least expensive and most convenient form of exercise for my busy schedule. Quickly, I realized that running can be extremely difficult, but I persevered and learned to love it. Today I’d like to share with you some tips on how I became more comfortable as a runner. Before that, I want to share with you my top six reasons why I love to run and you should too:
6 Reasons I Love Running
I love running. This hasn’t always been true; until about three years ago, I would never have considered myself a runner. When I was younger, I would have told you I hated running.
Once I decided to begin a career in editorial, however, and realized I’d be spending most of my working days in front of a computer screen, I decided I needed to start a regular exercise routine. Running was the wisest choice — it’s fairly inexpensive (I wouldn’t need much more than a pair of running shoes) and can be done virtually anywhere.
Over time I’ve learned to love running; there are many aspects I’ve learned to appreciate over the last three years since I began running for exercise.
1. Time to Unplug
It’s difficult to get away from technology these days. Running allows me a good chunk of time to get away from my computer screen and be present with the world around me.
2. Fresh Air
I spend most of my day in an office, so going out for a run after work offers me a great opportunity to get outdoors and breathe in the fresh air (as well as get a little sunlight).
3. Get to Know My Neighborhood
I like to mix up my running routines near my home so that I can become more familiar with the neighborhood I live in. I’ve found all kinds of nearby parks and business I never noticed from the car. Getting outside also allows me an opportunity to become more familiar with my neighbors.
4. Release Pent-Up Energy
Since I don’t get a lot of opportunity to be active in my office, I sometimes have a lot of restless energy stored up. A good run helps me to relax and release some of this energy. It also helps to relieve tension and anxiety caused by stressful work days or dealing with traffic.
5. Spend Time with Eric
Most days, I go running with my fiancé. It’s nice to spend some time with him while out on a run; it allows us time to talk about all kinds of things without the distractions of home.
6. Time to Think
Running allows me time to think and daydream. When I’m at home, I always feel like there’s something I should be doing, but when I’m out on a run, I have plenty of zone out without feeling guilty. It’s a great opportunity to work out problems or think about projects I want to try. Sometimes I even dream up ideas for this blog!
How to Make Running Fun and Comfortable: 10 Simple Tips
1. Get Fitted and Invest in Quality Shoes
For the most part, you don’t need to drop a lot of dough on fancy fitness gear in order to get a good workout. But when it comes to running, good quality shoes are a must. Wearing cheap shoes that aren’t suited to your feet can cause all kinds of pain and issues that you don’t want to deal with, such as shin splints.
Do a Google search to find a specialty running store near you. Even if you can’t drop $100+ on shoes, get fitted and learn their recommendations. You may be able to find the same shoes online or at a department store for less. It’s important to know that you’re getting the right shoes for your feet.
While we’re on the subject — make sure you replace your running shoes as needed. Running in worn-out shoes can be just as bad for your feet as running in poor-quality shoes. Most quality running shoes should last 400 to 600 miles, but listen to your feet. If, after 350 miles, you start getting odd pains in your feet, it may be time to replace those shoes.
2. Keep Your Toenails Trimmed
Running puts pressure on your toes and feet. This is why nearly all competitive runners at some point experience what is known as “runner’s toe” or a black toenail. This injury is caused by friction between the toenail and the surrounding tissue as a result of the sustained pressure of your foot hitting the ground. While there are several factors that can increase this friction (increasing mileage too quickly, swelling from excessive heat, and improperly fitted shoes), long toenails will certainly add to the pressure and discomfort.
Keep them trimmed short and filed (so that you don’t snag your nail on your sock — ouch)!
3. Build a Motivating Playlist
Be sure to plan ahead by creating an upbeat playlist with music you enjoy. Include songs that motivate and inspire you; I love the extra boost I get when one of my favorite songs starts playing.
Update your playlist frequently to include new favorites and to weed out older songs that you aren’t so in to anymore. Listening to the same music every time you go out for a run can get old quickly. That Katy Perry song you loved two summers ago isn’t exciting after a few hundred listens.
4. Fuel Properly
There are hundreds of resources online describing what to eat before and after a run, so I won’t go into the specifics of foods you should be eating and when. What is most important is that you determine what works best for you. Some people need more pre-run fueling than others in order to have an enjoyable experience.
I have had some terrible runs as a result of improper fueling, but over time I have figured out what works best for me. On evening runs, I make sure to have a healthy snack at work around 3 or 4, go on a run as soon as I get home, then eat a protein-rich dinner. In the morning, I generally eat a banana about 30 minutes to an hour before heading out the door. I try to add more carbs, such as oatmeal or toast, and eat at least an hour before running if I know my run will last an hour or more. You can find all kinds of resources online, just keep testing until you figure out what works.
5. Wear the Right Underwear
There is nothing worse than starting out on a run and feeling your underwear slowly creeping up your butt. You’re faced with the horrible realization that you’ll either have to spend the entirety of your run picking your wedgie for the world to see, or just grit your teeth and bear it.
Unfortunately, this is going to involve a little trial-and-error. I’ve suffered through my share of wedgies in order to determine which underwear works best. Major fitness brands sell underwear specifically for running, but I’ve found that you don’t have to spend the money to stay wedgie-free: my favorite pair is a simple Hanes set.
While we’re on the subject of underwear, let’s talk sports bras. Here is another area you will likely want to splurge a little, especially if you have larger breasts like I do. Trust me, you do not want your girls bouncing around in an unsupportive bra while you run. It’s painful. Not to mention the fact that it will make your boobs saggy when you’re older. Make sure your bra is supportive enough that it holds your breasts firmly in place while you run. I sometimes wear two bras for added support.
6. Dress Comfortably for the Weather
Check the weather before you go out for a run and dress appropriately. You are going to be engaged in strenuous activity, and you don’t want to make it harder by subjecting yourself to uncomfortable temperatures. Take extra precautions in extreme weather conditions. If it’s extremely hot, or a blizzard is headed your way, you might want to hit a treadmill instead.
If you’re not sure what to wear for certain weather situations, Runner’s World offers a great tool to help.
7. Pick a Safe Route
Plan ahead to find the best running route. It’s important to have an idea of where you’ll be running, especially if you live in a big city and you’ll be running solo. If you don’t have some kind of plan, you could end up in a dangerous neighborhood, or in an area with unsafe pedestrian conditions. Make sure the area you’ll be running has sidewalks so that you aren’t forced to run in the street. If you have to run along particularly busy streets, try to stick to the kind that have trees planted on the outside of the sidewalk, between you and the street.
If you’re going to be trail running or running in rural areas, make sure you do your research about potential safety hazards in those locations as well. Be familiar with local wildlife and be confident about how to avoid and handle potentially dangerous situations with unfriendly critters.
Once you know where you’re going and are confident that you’ll be safe, you’ll save yourself from unnecessary stress on your run.
8. Pace Yourself
Run at a pace that is comfortable for you. If you have to run slowly, then run slowly. If you have to take walking breaks, take walking breaks. You want to push yourself here, but you don’t want to hurt yourself. I think many people hate running because they do more than they can handle. I always build walking intervals into my runs because I know I can’t run consistently for long distances. That’s something you have to work up to.
Be sure to take the weather into consideration when determining your pace. On a hot day, you shouldn’t try and keep the same pace you would on a cool day. You should also consider your current energy level and mental state. If you’re sore or tired, take it slower than you normally would; it’s okay to just walk. On really good days, you should be able to push yourself, but don’t feel like you have to give it 100% every time you go out.
9. Stay Hydrated
Be sure to drink water before you go out on a run, and bring some water with you. You don’t want to over-hydrate, but rather drink water when your mouth feels dry or you feel thirsty. This is especially important on hot days.
Carrying a water bottle while running can be a nuisance, but there are alternate options available. I run with a hydration belt, which allows me to keep my hands free while I’m running. It also has a nifty pocket for holding small snacks, extra hair ties, chapstick, and whatever else you may need while out on a run. A belt can take a little bit of getting used to, and there are other options available if a belt doesn’t work for you. You can purchase comfortable handles for your water bottle, backpacks, or you can run in a location with easy access to drinking fountains, such as a park or track. There are so many options, there’s no excuse to not have water while you’re exercising.
10. Find a Routine That Works for You
Most importantly, you have to figure out what works the best for your individual situation. Running is different for everyone. It may take a little experimentation, but eventually you can get into a running routine that allows for an enjoyable run every time.