The biggest complaint when someone takes up running? It feels so hard! You can’t breathe, your legs ache and your head is telling you to stop right now! So how do you make running feel easier?
It’s not just beginner runners who struggle. Every runner will tell you, running after a layoff is tough. It can make you feel like a beginner all over again.
It sucks. I know. I’ve been there a few times. Three years ago I badly sprained my ankle and really struggled to get back to fitness.
Running will always be challenging for new runners and elite runners alike, but hopefully, these running tips and strategies I’ve built up over the years will help make running easier…
How To Make Running Easier
There are no magical running tips, you still have to put in the work and follow your training plans, but these ways to make running easier will get you through the first few months and on track to being a better runner.
#1 Reset Your Expectations
You’re not going to be the next American record holder on day one. If you’re a total beginner you need to build up your running strength first. Over doing-it as a new runner is a great way to get injured.
More experienced runners, re-starting after a layoff, still can’t expect to jump right back in. You’ll need to build back up to your former running level gradually. It’s frustrating, but sometimes you just need to be sensible and follow some running advice!
#2 Warm-Up & Start Slowly
This isn’t a race where you set off at full speed, it’s a training run. Even when you’re racing you warm up first. Start slow. The important thing is running at a conversational pace. That means if you can’t talk and run you need to slow down.
Most new runners really struggle with pace. You’re aiming for easy runs. Find out more about pacing and Rate of Perceived Exertion and why it’s an important tool for runners.
There’s time for tempo runs, interval training, and sprinting as you become stronger. Right now you need to slow down, work out what’s right for your own body, and learn how to maintain a steady easy pace. My tips to take up running will help.
#3 Take Walk Breaks
Running feels like hard work as a new runner – especially running consistently. The good news is – you don’t need to. There’s nothing wrong with taking a walking break. It’s a tactic I use even as an experienced runner.
It’s your body, your running. It’s okay to push yourself, but when your running form starts to suffer or running feels hard – take a walk break!
#4 Find A Point To Aim For
You certainly don’t have to be a beginner runner to follow this tip. I use it all the time. Pick a point on the horizon to aim for. It helps if it’s an object such as the next lamp post or a tree.
Make yourself run to your chosen object – one foot at a time. You can even count your steps!
When you reach it take a walk break before finding a new point to aim for. As you get stronger, increase the distances between walking breaks until you can run consistently at a steady pace.
The Couch To 5K Program works on the same idea, alternating walking and running. You can download the podcast for free.
#5 Conquer Your Breathing
Try to take deep belly breaths when you’re running rather than shallow breaths. If you’re struggling to breathe – slow down.
A rhythm helps such as taking two steps while breathing in, two steps while breathing out. Taking up yoga is also good if you’re struggling with your breathing technique.
Most runners breathe through their mouths, especially when they pick up the pace.
(If you’re struggling to breathe because you’re going down with a cold, it’s time to head home. Read my advice about running with a cold).
#6 Find A Buddy To Make Running Easier
Somehow it’s so much easier to run with a friend. Even one with four legs.
Having a training partner will help you keep going and chatting just helps the miles whizz by. It’s best to run with someone who’s a similar standard. This way you can hold each other accountable.
Stuck for a running buddy? Join a running club. I’ve always found them to be really friendly and a big help towards becoming a better runner.
#7 Pick A Fun Route
Distraction is often the best way to ease into running. Try not to run the same route every day. Go for variety!
If you choose a fun running route, it can help take your mind off your aching legs. It’s much easier to follow a winding scenic route than run on a monotonous route in a straight line.
I find there are certain routes I love where I always run better. Pick out a scenic route or somewhere you always feel good about running.
#8 Be Consistent
You need to run on a regular basis if you want running to be easier. It’s no good running just once a week. That won’t be enough to adapt your body to running.
Aim to run three times a week. In time, you can increase the number of runs each week but as a beginner, three times a week will get you off to a good start.
#9 Strength Training
If you always run on flat routes at one pace, your running will never improve. In time you’ll be able to run further, but you won’t be building the leg strength you need to become a better runner.
Once you’ve conquered running your first 5K route, it’s time to start building a runner’s body with strength training. Take on hills and start with some easy speed work such as fartlek where you alternate running at a faster pace with easy running.
It’s also important to add in some strength-training exercises. I use bodyweight exercises for runners or turn to yoga to build strength and find it gives me a full-body workout. Adding in just a ten-minute practice to your daily routine can make a big difference.
#10 Mix It Up
As a beginner runner, it’s easy to overdo it. Even experienced runners fall into the trap of running junk miles which don’t add to their overall fitness.
Unless you’re building endurance for a marathon or half marathon, you don’t want to be running on tired legs. Take rest days when you’re feeling tired and give those tight muscles a chance to recover! It’s better to allow your body to recover between training runs.
That doesn’t mean you need a rest day between every training run. Instead, mix it up. Add cross-training to your schedule.
Many runners will only run 3-4 times a week. Fill up the other weekdays by walking, biking, going climbing, swimming, taking a yoga class… any activity you enjoy. It will give you an energy boost, add to your strength and endurance and make your run feel easier.
#11 Stick To Your Training Plans
Following a training program is the first step to improving as a runner. Plus it’s a good way to get you over the finish line for your first race. If you’re a beginner – make sure you’re following a running program that’s appropriate for your level of fitness. There’s no point following a training plan for a half marathon if you’re never run 5K.
If you’re really struggling – old-timers, runners with a lot of extra weight or you haven’t exercised in years – start with a walking program. Improving your walking fitness is a good way to ease into running.
#12 The Long Run
The aim of most beginner runners is to run longer distances. You want to conquer how to run without getting tired. It’s a good aim when you’re starting from zero, but just make sure you’re increasing your long run by no more than one mile or 10% per week. A gradual increase is best for avoiding injuries.
How far you can run isn’t the only target to aim for as a runner and eventually running faster may be more important. But right now, as a new runner, you’re building a good running base. Your longer runs will be part of that.
You don’t need to increase the distance of your long run every week. If you’re finding the distance tough, try running at a slower pace or opt for a shorter run. It’s not a competition to run further. Instead, you’re building a strong runner’s body.
#13 Listen To A Podcast
A lot of runners listen to music to make running easier, but I’ve found listening to a running podcast works better. The running tips will inspire you and the conversation takes your mind off those sore muscles.
My favorite podcast is Marathon Talk.
#14 Wear Comfortable Running Shoes
A lot of people start running in shoes that don’t fit properly or in shoes that are more about fashion than function. For your first pair of running shoes take a trip to an independent running shop.
It’s important to get the right pair so try out different brands and styles. Always prioritize comfort. If the shoes don’t feel good straight out of the box – they won’t feel any better 5 miles down the road.
#15 It’s Okay To Be Slow
You may feel slow as a beginner runner. Just tell yourself it’s okay to be slow. You’re still running a lot faster than anyone sitting on the couch.
Slow runners are still runners. Still getting the benefits of being a runner and you can still improve and run faster. Just give it time!
#16 Get Enough Sleep
Starting running will really challenge your body. You’ll find adding running to your schedule much easier if you get enough sleep.
As adults, most of us forget to go to bed early enough and end up feeling tired. Running feels hard when you’re tired and it’s difficult to stick to a running program. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. You’ll have a lot more energy for running!
#17 Increase Your Cadence
Taking shorter strides with a faster leg turnover (called cadence) is a good way to make running feel easy. A lot of runners tend to over-stride which puts a huge amount of force through the lower body.
Taking shorter, faster strides is one of the best tips for improving your running.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these running tips to make running feel easier. It can be hard starting running or getting back into running after a layoff. Just hang in there – as the weeks progress it will get easier. Try to keep to a consistent schedule and your running will improve. Often the hardest part is heading out of the door.
Friday 30th of July 2021
What is your advice for an ex smoker who is completely lost?
Friday 30th of July 2021
Hi Ashley, when you quit smoking your lung function starts to heal almost straightaway. After one month you'll notice less shortness of breath and after 9 months your lungs will have pretty much healed themselves. What I have noticed with former smokers is their anxiety about running. This can make breathing harder when you first start running. Take things slowly. You can practice your breathing. See my article "How to breathe while running". You could also begin with fast-paced walking for a week or two before you start a running program. Couch to 5K is a good program to follow. It alternates walking and running so you ease into running with just 60 seconds of running before taking a walking break. Be kind to yourself. If you start to feel anxious or struggle when you're running, take a walking break. Most beginners try and run too fast, so slow down. You should be able to talk and run at the same time for most training runs. It gets easier - so hang in there!
Monday 2nd of March 2020
I have a question, so I used to be in cross country last semester... but I got injured and I didn't really work out after that but when I run now I feel faster. But I'm afraid that I'm not going to be able to run as much as I used to (almost 6 miles). Do you have any tips that would help me??
Monday 2nd of March 2020
Hi Hope, thanks for your comment. When you get back into running after a layoff it can feel as if you've lost all your endurance but you're not starting back at square one as a beginner - it's going to be a lot quicker to get your endurance back. Try and run frequently - 4 or 5 times a week and mix up the distances you run. Increase your longest run by 1 mile a week and make sure some of your runs include hills and interval training. Ideally you should only increase your weekly mileage by 10% a week so if you're starting from a low mileage base keep most of your runs short. If you're trying to jump straight back into cross-country racing without the build up, run the first half of the race below your normal race pace then speed up for the second half. This way you should be able to keep going at a good pace all the way round.