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 total beginner 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.”
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 Preppy Runner 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.
9. Rise with the sun.
Switching up the time of day you run can have a huge impact on your performance and overall mood. While it’s tough to roll straight out of bed and into running threads, studies show the early bird gets more than just the worm (and spectacular sunrises). According to research, those who work out in the morning have more energy, a curbed appetite and better sleep (not to mention fewer happy hour cancellations) than those who wait until the evening.
10. Meet your neighbors.
Get to know your local running store and area running clubs to find group runs and potential training partners. “There’s group accountability and pressure to keep going, even when you’re tired or the weather’s not very good,” says Sara Larsen of Sara Runs. Orlando adds connections to your community are a great way to meet people with similar passion and goals, who are also “awesome, fun, healthy and typically enjoy helping others.”
11. Pump up the jam.
To beat the running blues, many runners turn to tunes. As his blog’s name suggests, Gerard Pescatore of The Music of Running says rocking out on the run can be an amazing combination. “You get to star in your own music video while running!” he says. “It also helps pass the time. If I know a song is 7+ minutes long, I figure I can run a mile during it.” Jessica Hofheimer, creator of Pace of Me, says she saves music “for those runs when I’m really not ‘feeling it’ because it always peps me up!” Maiuolo suggests playlists organized by BPM (beats per minute), but don’t forget podcasts or stand-up comedy, too.
12. Hit the trails.
Halnon says trail running is anything but boring, and we couldn’t agree more. “I thought it would be impossible for me to fall any harder in love with running, and then I discovered trails,” she says. “And since that first step onto some gnarly singletrack, I’ve learned that running on dirt can make this sport exciting and awesome for just about anyone. Like to look at pretty stuff, too? Go run a trail!”
13. Pick up a good read.
Look for sources that will motivate you to learn more and put it into practice. Loudin suggests reading up. “Buy a running magazine or check out a few running blogs for pointers and inspiration,” she says. (Hint: All of the bloggers featured here are a great start to your required reading list.)
14. Go naked.
When runners talk about going “naked,” they ditch their gear. If you’re a gadgets-and-gizmos-a-plenty kind of runner, try leaving them behind on your next outing. With no watch to track your every pace per mile and calorie burned, you’re more likely to discover the simple joys of a run. “Running allows you to escape your stress, escape your worries, escape the world,” says Orlando. “It can be just you and the road.”
15. Give back.
We’re not sure there’s another sport out there that’s as charitable as running. If you can’t find the personal motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other, do it for a cause. It’s easy to find racing events that raise funds for the nonprofit organization of your choice, or you can download an app like Charity Miles to make sure each step gives a little something back.
16. Make it an appointment.
It may not sound exciting, but making running part of your schedule will give it a greater purpose. “I always remind myself that it’s only 30 or 60 minutes of my day,” says Danica Newon of Chic Runner. “Even if I go slow, it’s better than doing nothing.”
17. Channel your inner cheerleader.
Experiencing the sport from the sidelines, with a cowbell in hand, is one of the best ways to ignite a passion for running. “Go to a local race and cheer at the finish line!” says Johnson. “The excitement and joy of the finishers will be contagious.” Pescatore encourages other runners as a spectator to help him remember why he loves running. “It gets me fired up,” he says. “The running community is amazing and has pulled me out of my (very introverted) shell.”
18. Race. Race. Race.
“Pick out an upcoming race and actually pay the registration fee,” says Johnson. “Paying cold hard cash for something makes it harder to slack off on your training.” With so many events to choose — from colorful fun runs to muddy races to marathons — most runners, including Loudin, agree “getting into the race environment can be incredibly motivating and inspiring. Find a local 5K as your starting point,” she suggests.
19. Speed up.
Speed workouts may hurt (OK, they hurt a lot), but we promise you certainly won’t be bored! “Running is simple,” says David Hylton, co-founder of #RunChat and blogger at Running… Because I Can. “Preventing it from getting boring is simpler.” It may sound cruel, but try hill repeats for a change of scenery or give intervals a go ‘round the track for a very literal change of pace.
20. Share the journey.
If these tips from running bloggers are any indication, there’s an even larger running community out there that wants you to succeed — so talk about it, tweet about it and blog about it with them! “Sometimes I would ‘hate’ running and I felt so shunned by my friends,” says Curtis. “But once I shared my thoughts and fears, I found out lots of people experience the same things and it helped me to feel more connected.” And don’t forget to (over)share photographic proof of your workouts! “Bring your camera to make the run more like a cinematic adventure,” says Maiuolo.
21. Measure your success.
Keep a written log of your life as a runner. If you’re an analytical person, says Orlando, “track your progress through spreadsheets or sites like MapMyRun or RunKeeper.” As you continue to improve and feel more comfortable on your feet, you’ll be able to look back and have tangible notes of your training progress. Impressed by your success? Sounds like it’s time for more treats!
22. Challenge yourself.
Maybe you’ve done a few local 5Ks and want to take running to the next level. Sign up for a race a few months away that seems a bit out of your league and then chase it down. “Find races that you know you won’t PR in so you can approach it differently,” says Hylton. “Whether it has crazy hills or is on a trail or a new distance, you’ll avoid falling into a trap of same-old, same-old.”
23. Start streaking.
No, we’re still not talking about taking clothes off. An official “running streak” means you vow to run at least one mile every day for an entire calendar year. We don’t think you have to be that extreme to get the idea. Try a shorter streak, like Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day in the winter or Memorial Day to Labor Day in the summer. It’s still harder than it sounds, but it a great tool to keep you motivated and accountable.
24. Take a break.
On the flip side, many runners say they start to learn their real relationship with running when they step away from it. Is it true love or are you mortal enemies? “If you really hate running and you’ve tried all the ‘tricks,’ maybe running isn’t for you or it isn’t the time for you to be doing it,” says Curtis. Hylton agrees, saying a love for running doesn’t just happen overnight. “It’s like being in a relationship,” he says. “First you like it; then you like it a lot; then something happens and you need a break. Then you come back to it and rediscover what you almost missed. Then you fall in love.”
25. Want the run.
Becoming a runner is about recognizing the value in every step along the way. “You need to want the run you are striving to achieve,” says Roos. “If you want to run a marathon at a goal pace, that end goal is what’s driving you through the run right in front of you (that you might not want at the time). The want for the end goal needs to be greater!” Hofheimer agrees it’s all about remembering why you run. “The bigger picture is the most important thing to me,” she says. “Running makes me feel alive and strong and connected to myself.”
Maybe running isn’t for everyone, but you won’t know until you try — and these are some ways to at least have fun while doing so. But according to Feller, the best tip we can offer is to power through. “When you’re getting started, the fight is as much mental as it is physical,” she says. “You want running to be fun right away? I assure you, it’s not going to be. But once you can find the mental strength to push through the initial tough ones, the runs that follow will truly be a blast.”
Originally posted on October 30, 2013. Updated June 2015.