Running can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort will test your physical and mental limits and ultimately make you a better athlete. If you never push yourself out of your comfort zone, you won’t improve as a runner and your running will never get easier.
But that’s not much comfort for people who are struggling to overcome fatigue and the discouragement that comes with it. The mental grind of running can be just as challenging as the running itself, and in many cases runners fail to test their true physical limits because they give up on themselves too early.
And while fatigue is sometimes the impetus for quitting, other times it’s simply the boredom of running’s monotony. Here are five ways to help you cope with this struggle.
Adjust your expectations
Many runners set the bar high for themselves, hoping that they’ll have the mental stamina to push through intensive workouts and reach their lofty goals. But in practice, this rarely works out, and even well-intentioned runners can be derailed by unexpected muscle soreness, fatigue or other challenges of daily life, such as a busy schedule, a lack of sleep or an illness. Remember that it’s okay to adjust your workout expectations, even if that means slowing your pace, shortening your run, or both. In the end, it’s much better to downgrade your workout intensity than to stop running entirely.
Look ahead — not at your feet
Think running’s boring? Consider where your eyes are focused. Many runners stare at their feet or the ground just in front of them when running, watching themselves advance gradually across the landscape. You can offer a more stimulating experience just by looking farther ahead, taking in the sights and not focusing on the advancement of every single stride.
Give your body a break when pain develops
Soreness is one thing, but injuries shouldn’t be casually dismissed — if ignored, they can bloom into full-fledged physical problems. If you’re worried about the effects of going for a run, don’t be afraid to take the day off. A little time off now is much better than the time you’ll have to commit to recovering from a serious injury.
Wear the appropriate gear
While you’re pushing to reach your goals, the last thing you want to worry about is uncomfortable clothing. Wearing weather-appropriate and terrain-appropriate running gear will rid you of discomfort when pushing toward the next mile.
Breathability and the right fit are keys to beating the heat in summer, but moisture-reduction and compression are needed to block the cold during winter runs. Likewise, wearing the right running shoes can make or break your performance. Choose a shoe with plenty of stability, flexibility and durability, like Asics or Brooks, for trail running endeavors. For long distance running, wear lightweight, cushioned shoes, like Newton or New Balance.
Focus on personal success, not competition
Yes, running can be a competitive sport, but you shouldn’t measure your own success off of the performances of others. Focus on
meeting your personal goals and don’t worry about what others are doing. If you can tune out the noise of other runners’ accomplishments, you’ll have a more positive view of yourself and will enjoy a greater sense of personal satisfaction.
Headphones are dangerous for anyone running outside, since it dulls their hearing and their ability to recognize oncoming threats. But if you’re running on an indoor track or a treadmill, listening to music is a great way to distract yourself from the run, or even enhance it.
Running’s mental challenges are all too often underestimated. Succeeding as a runner is not just proof of physical accomplishments, but also of the mental discipline required to thrive through such a minimalist venture. By arming yourself with some well-timed tricks and advice, you should be able to triumph over these mental obstacles and become a better runner in the process.