Whether you are a born runner, looking to add running to your routine to improve your health and endurance, or tackling running for weight loss, there’s bound to be times when you’re discouraged. Let’s face it, running can be tough, even for those who love it, and there’s always days where it’s hard to shake off the kinks, get past the weather or get your energy up enough to fully enjoy it. Here, we focus on how to make the best of your runs and how to make running more fun.
The Dangerous “Picture Perfect” Mentality
Keep in mind, reading blog after blog that totes the awesomeness of running can be similar to seeing only a person’s best highlights on their Facebook timeline. You begin to think that their house is always clean, their children are always angels, and their taxes are always filed promptly on January 1.
It’s the same false perceptions we’ve faced for decades through advertising - seeing nothing but happy, perfect-looking, smiling people in ads…It’s easy to imagine that others never have bad days, or problems, or daily obstacles to overcome…
Keep in mind though, that looking through these ‘everyone-else-has-it under-control’ colored glasses is dangerous, and can make you overly discouraged when it comes to running. Pain and challenges are what reaps improvement, but a negative mental state could convince you to throw in the towel just to be rid of them.
Realize Your Not Alone
Next, allow me to share some real (albeit unusual) stories that show that we are all susceptible to bad days, negative thinking, or not pushing ourselves hard enough for one reason or another.
Or, if you’re not up for storytime, feel free to skip straight to tips and tools for how to overcome these challenges.
So, let me take you back in time a bit, to my very first run after having my first son…
I was about a mile away from the house, the sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and I’d love to say I felt rejuvenated….that I reveled in the freedom of being out of the house again. I’d love to say that the pounding on the pavement was invigorating as my blood began pumping faster through my veins…But that would be a lie.
So, there I was, a mile away from the house, hating life and stewing in a world-class pity party inside my head. My feet hurt, my shins hurt, I was winded even before I ever even got out of sight of my driveway, I couldn’t seem to find a rhythm, and, in my mind, I was lamenting.
I was angry that I felt so sluggish. I was struggling with the extra baby weight that now felt ten times more obvious and whining to myself about how long it was going to take to get back to the shape I missed…
It was somewhere around this point, when I noticed a car next to me on the road. It began slowing.
Runners who frequent the streets, as you know, a situation like this can be a bit terrifying – hence, let me add, I carry a bit of protection with me.
I have this keychain that I run with, which, not only looks just like my adorable French Bulldog, Spike,
but the eye-holes are made for your fingers to fit through, making it easy to grasp while running. Best yet, the ears are made from titanium steel, and are sharp enough to stab someone if necessary – it’s a wonderful, and convenient weapon in disguise! – I call it my, “Spike Stabber”.
As the car began to slow, I clutched my Spike-stabber a bit more securely, but then I noticed the driver wasn’t looking at me, but ahead. I followed his eyesight and ahead of me in the field was a wild turkey.
Living in a very rural/country area, I regularly run past fields and forests and farms and see animals of all shapes and size – I must admit though, a wild turkey was a new one.
I pulled out my phone as I continued jogging closer, hoping to get a good picture on my way by. Then, the turkey noticed me. I expected him to turn and hightail it in the other direction. Instead, he started my way.
At first, I was excited. How cool! I’m going to get an awesome picture! As we got closer to one another, I started snapping pictures, smiling and laughing at my luck. Then, before I knew it - he LUNGED at me!
Wha?? Okay, this is no longer cute and funny. I began to back away, and the turkey kept coming, snapping its beak and looking more ferocious by the second.
Alright, I decided, enough with the photography, it’s time to scoot. Setting my sites on the edge of the road ahead, I dodged around the turkey, and kicked it in high gear.
I figured, I’ll just sprint for a bit, turn around, and when I see him far behind me, give him a little wave before continuing on my run. I pushed myself hard, my feet pounding the pavement, my arms pumping fast. I rounded a stop-sign and began running up the next road, cutting its way through the field, my sprint fueled by ‘I-don’t-want-to-get-bit-adrenaline’.
But even with self-preservation hormones going through my veins, I’d had enough of this pace after a few hundred yards (remember, this is my very first run after a C-section and it wasn’t going well even before the turkey).
Figuring I’d gotten far enough away, I started to slow and look back to see how far I was from ‘killer-Tom’ But, strangely, I didn’t see him in the field…And then I realized - Oh No! It was because he was right on my heel!! Still chomping and lunging my direction!
Panicked now, I picked up the pace again and started to consider my options…I as winded, I was tired, I couldn’t keep running like this much longer! “Flight” was quickly becoming less likely of an option, but I didn’t want to “Fight”! I really didn’t want to kick or fight or stab this turkey with my ‘Spike-stabber’. After all, I’m an animal lover! I glanced back again and became even more worried, I was sweating, breathing hard and ready to stop - while the turkey was simply jogging along with complete ease. He was only just getting warmed up!
Just then, a black SUV pulled up on the road beside me and began pacing to my right. I looked over, expecting the driver to offer some wise piece of advice.
...But no, the woman driving had one hand on the wheel and the other on her cell phone. She was FILMING ME as I continued to be chased! (I still have yet to track down this video on YouTube.)
Now I was truly freaking out. As the SUV pulled away, I was just inches away from getting bit on the calf and quickly starting to lose momentum. I could sense that the turkey was ready to swoop in for the kill, knowing I was nearly spent. At that point, another car pulled up and began pacing me. Exasperated, I got ready to reprimand another member of the paparazzi when I heard a voice call out, “Do you need some help?” I looked over to see a girl hanging her head out of the car, looking at me worriedly.
“YES!” I managed to gasp, still jumping, ducking, diving and willing my feet to propel me along fast enough to avoid a turkey-mauling.
“Jump in!” she yelled, and I didn’t hesitate.
With my final burst of energy, I raced around the front of the car, opened the passenger door and dove in, the turkey chasing me the whole way and lunging at my ankles as I pulled them in and slammed the door. He then proceeded to continue to lunge at the car!
Fearful he’d scratch up her car I shouted, “Go, go, go!”, and like a scene from an action movie we peeled wheels away, leaving Killer-Tom in the rear-view, furiously clawing and fuming over his near-victory.
That day, once we were out of sight, I thanked the woman profusely, and had her drop me at a gas station up ahead where my husband came to pick me up. I still don’t know exactly who this kind stranger was – but to me, she’s a savior!
And, while the saga of Tom and I didn’t end there, what is the moral of this initial encounter? Well, there are a few of them actually:
- Don’t underestimate, or run towards (if you can help it) wild turkeys.
- Around 1 out of every 5 or so cars have a kindly drivers who are up for rescuing you from killer wildlife.
- Your capable of more than you think – it’s often just a matter of mindset and appropriate motivation!
More on Moral #3…
Remember how, before encountering Tom – I was hosting my own, private and somewhat spectacular pity party in my mind? I mean, if this thing were presented in real life, I had rolled out all the red carpets, flown guests in with private helicopters and pulled out all the stops. Truly, I was just considering giving up on my run, turning around and walking home in self-loathing defeat before the turkey incident.
At that time, if you had asked how much farther I could have run, I would have said, barely another step and probably would have added, I give up, I’m too out of shape, I’m done running forever! Or something along those melodramatic lines.
Then, I was shocked out of my own self-centered mindset, and given a healthy dose of fear, and low-and-behold, I not only ran, but fully SPRINTED another ½ a mile, complete with spectators and video-footage.
Dear Killer Tom, thank you. Thank you for shaking me out of my pitiful state and showing me that my mindset was actually holding me back far more than my legs.
So, now, if running is one of your goals, and you don’t ‘conveniently’ have a manic turkey to chase you into a personal best, what can you do? Let’s review how to make running more fun.
How to Make Running More Fun - And Easier!
An entire year that I spent working at a city hospital can be attributed to audiobooks. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand the 1.5+ hour commute to and from work each day another minute, I started listening to these in the car, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait for my commute, (well, not so much the sitting in traffic part – but I was excited to get to the next part of the story).
Audiobooks are the ultimate way, to escape a bit mentally, so that you zone out and just keep pushing your body along farther and farther.
Some tips –
- USE CAUTION: If you are running on roads, particularly without sidewalks, keep the volume low enough to hear traffic, pause the audio when you cross a street and be sure you are aware enough to notice any dangerous situations.
- Pick an exciting tale! Something that keeps your blood pumping right along with your exercise. Remember, it has to be engaging enough to keep you so interested that you don’t notice those big hills (as much anyway).
- FREE Audiobooks: Audiobook Apps can be expensive – try Overdrive, this is a free app that you download and then use your library card to log into your local branch to check out titles, and download them straight to your phone. (You can also rent ebooks as well.)
2) Run with a Friend:
Think about quickly time passes when chatting with an old friend. Hours can go by and you can completely forget where you are, because you’re so engaged and wrapped up in conversation. This makes hanging with a friend, a perfect way to push yourself farther, as you won’t want the conversation to end.
Best yet, this method can strengthen your friendships and can give you ‘running dates’ great (as well as cheap, and healthy!) excuses to get to together on a regular basis!
How to Make Running More Fun with Mind Tricks
Finally, remember that pushing yourself to do anything that is tough is 80% keeping your mind in the right place.
This said, below are some mental tricks that I’ve utilized to keep myself running farther, moving faster or just pushing to the next level, next mile, or just the next mailbox. (And while the run itself may still be tough, revealing in the triumph is amazingly fun!)
1) Pick a Landmark:
Keep in mind, that we all still have an inner child. The inner child is a wonderful voice of wonder in times of fun, but also, can throw a temper tantrum in times of stress.
When you are pushing yourself up that last hill, for example, and everything in you wants to stop and walk, and you tell yourself, “I can’t, I have to keep going.” Sometimes, using forceful or negative ‘have to’ language can hurt your motivation.
Remember, no one, even ourselves likes to be told “No,” and often our first instinct when hearing it is to rebel.
Rather than fight with yourself in a negative way, tell yourself, “Yes”. “Yes, I can stop and walk, but, after I get to that next bush way up ahead…” (Then, when you get to the bush and realize you haven’t died yet, try it again.) “Well, let’s just see if I can make it to that mailbox up there…”
This has the combined effect of breaking the giant hill (or mile) into smaller, more manageable goals, plus, you’ve engaged in positive self-talk, rather than self-chiding talk that can start a spiral of negativity. Remember also, congratulate yourself along the way and give yourself a mental (or physical!) pat on the back when you surprise yourself by going farther than you even ‘told yourself you had to’.
2) Pick a Destination / Reward:
Rather than run around a track or the neighborhood in circles, which can start to seem monotonous and boring – pick a destination to run toward. Put a couple of bucks in your pocket and point yourself towards a local coffee shop that is half the distance away that you want to run that day (after all, you have to run back). Best yet, when you get there, reward yourself by sitting down and grabbing a quick bowl of fruit or cup of coffee. Adding rewards, or even small errands into your run can make it feel extra rewarding and more like an adventure.
Another mental trick I use when I’m about gassed but want to keep pushing a bit farther is counting. I tell myself, I can stop, but only after I count off a certain amount of time first.
For me, my favorite number is 15, so I start to tick off an 8-count on my fingers (who knows why 8, it just seems to be a nice pattern with my footfalls). I count, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8” and that’s 1. I put a finger down, then start on the next finger, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8”…and so on.
I repeat this until I’ve gone around 15 times and then, even though I’ve given myself permission to stop at this point, I’m often proud of how far I just went, and/or I got past the toughest part of whatever was challenging me (perhaps a hill), and out of sheer curiosity/fortitude, I’ll say to myself, ‘Oh, I can stand to do at least one more.’ I suppose this is sort of a whole ‘counting sheep’ sort of method that keeps my mind on the counting and off the pain in my knees, shins, legs, back or lungs.
How to Make Running More Fun...by Planning Ahead?
Keep in mind - there are things you can be doing every day, to set yourself up for success, long before you ever tie on your running shoes. These things aren’t necessarily ‘fun’ to do at the time - but believe me, experiencing more energy, less pain and faster recoveries after your runs, will help keep the focus on the fun for sure!
Some of the more obvious ones: keep hydrated, stretch daily, eat a healthy diet. Below are some other add-on’s you may want to mix into your routine.
Vitamins & Supplements:
Vitamins and supplements can be great tools to ensure your body is working at peak performance and is best prepared for your runs.
Remember, your body doesn’t just benefit from the supplement you took that day, but often, it takes time to grow accustomed to the benefits and build them up – it’s important that you take your supplements consistently, day after day, and after a few weeks, you’ll finally start reaping the full rewards.
• Multivitamin: If your diet is unhealthy or even just sporadic, I definitely recommend taking a daily multivitamin. Especially when running, it’s essential that you get a daily dose of your recommended vitamins and minerals built up.
• Probiotics: A healthy gut is essential to our nervous system, hormones and immune systems. Poor levels of bacteria (gut flora) can also lead to increased inflammation in our bodies. Therefore, adding a daily probiotic can be a great way to keep your system healthy, and on track, no matter how great your diet is that day.
A daily probiotic provides live bacteria (“good bacteria”) and yeasts to your body, which aid digestion and help improve the absorption of nutrients.
Keep in mind, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than running while feeling bloated, gassy or otherwise uncomfortable.
Personally, I use the Silver Fern brand of probiotics.
Keep in mind too, there are also yogurts that provide probiotics if you’d prefer to eat a daily dose this way, on days I eat an Activia yogurt, I typically skip my probiotic supplement.
• Omega-3 Supplements: Remember, omega-3’s are an essential fatty acid that your body does not produce naturally. Therefore, if you are not monitoring your diet closely to see that you’re getting the correct daily intake through food, it’s important to get this through a supplement.
Because inflammation is a major cause of pain after running, why not prep for this problem ahead of time? Omega-3’s have long been proven to reduce swelling and inflammation.
When I take my omega-3 supplements regularly, I find that the swelling (particularly in my knees) is not nearly as prominent after a long run, and doesn’t last as long.Check out our Reviews to help you pick your ideal Omega-3 Supplement.
So, do you have your own tips for staying motivated, preparing for your runs, or your own stories of being chased by wild, animals?
Please! Share with us in the comments or on social!
We look forward to sharing more about how to make running more fun!