When it comes to making running more breezy, it all begins with your mindset, according to Jess Paris, an instructor with SLT Tread. "Running is what you make of it, and there are so many ways you can identify as a runner," she says. "Some people enjoy long-distance runs, others [enjoy] interval runs, others [enjoy] HIIT. There's not a single definition of a runner. It really depends on the goal you're looking for, applying the right training plan, and sticking to a routine."
Sticking to a rigid definition of what a "runner" may be what's making you dread the miles ahead when, really, running can be whatever you want it to be, fam. "The real key is taking it one step at a time, creating small attainable goals for yourself along the way. So if your ultimate goal is to run a 5K, start with one mile, stick with that distance for a week or so, and gradually increase your mileage," says Paris. Don't let the bad memories of running the mile in 8th grade P.E. rule your definition of running any longer.
Below, Paris shares five tricks of the running trade to help you game your workouts so they feel a little (or a lot) more fun. Get ready: We're going running.
How to make running easier with 5 easy tips
1. Curate a running playlist that you're genuinely excited to listen to
Look, if you don't have music, a podcast, or an audiobook you're excited to listen to on the run, it's going to feel like a slog. "Find music that gets you motivated, happy, and amped up," says Paris.
Research shows that pumping the jams while you're sweating improves exercise performance by either delaying that sense of fatigue or increasing your working capacity. It can also help you keep your pace as long as you're not listening to something that's not so fast that you wind up exhausting yourself in the first five minutes.
2. Run in comfortable, breathable clothes and reliable shoes
Cotton t-shirts and shorts may feel comfy when you first slip them on, but by the half-mile mark, you'll be severely regretting the choice. "There's nothing worse than running in clothes that are uncomfortable. Look for well-fitted and breathable clothes. Find fun, cute workout clothes that you are excited to wear when you're working out—it definitely helps," says Paris. Materials like nylon, elastane, and polyester/spandex blends are going to be your running BFFs.
Of course, footwear is also an important part of the equation. "I cannot stress the importance of the right running shoes enough. You want to feel light and easy on the feet throughout your run," says Paris, who recommends going into a running store and getting experts to fit you for your perfect pair. "They will watch you run, analyze your stride, determine if you pronate or supinate and suggest specific brands of running shoes that are a bit more customized for your feet," she says. "The wrong shoes can send you down an injury spiral real quick."
3. Set mini-goals that pave the way to your bigger goals
"Don't try to run five miles on day one if you haven't run a day in your life. If you're brand new to running, aim for one mile at a walk/jog pace," says Paris. If you want to run a marathon one day, that's great—but keep in mind that everyone who's ever run a marathon started by running a single mile.
Plus, setting these mini-goals will allow you to celebrate your accomplishments every day... not just at the finish line.
4. Run different distances, speeds, and loops
If you're stuck in a running rut, it's probably because you've been frequenting the same three-mile loop for far too long. " Switch things up," says Paris. "Don't do the same workout or run route every day. It will keep you more engaged and interested in the workout versus seeing the same things on your route or doing the same interval or HIIT work on the treadmill."
You can also mix things up by running with your best bud or joining a running club.
Mix things up with this treadmill workout:
5. Cross-train, cross-train, cross-train
"Other than sticking to your run training plan, nothing makes you a better runner than cross-training," says Paris. "It is so imperative to become a stronger runner, and it can actually be better for training to alternate a run day with a cross-training day to build the right muscles that will ultimately make running feel 'easier.'"
Paris says she's partial to SLT's signature Pilates classes when it comes to cross-training, but you could try picking up some weights, swimming laps in the pool, unrolling your yoga mat, or following your curiosity to another movement form.
Take a break from running and cross-train with this 30-minute, at-home Pilates workout:
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