Cultivating a Love for Running

A woman on a run crosses the street

The feeling of fresh air on your face and the steady pace of your feet hitting the pavement all build up to the “runner’s high” so many runners have come to love. But what happens when the endorphins fade and you can’t seem to get that loving feeling for running back?

Let’s face it, running is hard. From aches and injuries to busy schedules and low motivation, sometimes it’s just not fun. A few lackluster runs and you may start to wonder if this running “thing” is really still for you.

To keep the passion for running alive, it’s important to dig deep and find the true reasons that motivate you to get out there. Is it the health benefits or weight loss goals? Is it training for the thrill of a race or medal?

Finding your “why” is crucial to developing a real love of running. It’s what will make the difference on cold mornings and after tough days at work--a lasting dedication to a long-term relationship instead of just a passing fling.

A woman crosses the street on the run

Don’t Run as Punishment

Running is a great way to lose or maintain weight, but can you enjoy the fitness benefits of running without solely making it a calorie-burning penance? If you only run to burn off high-calorie foods, or you only dedicate yourself when the scale isn’t looking the way you like, it can start to feel like your runs only serve as punishments.

Likewise, while running can be a great stress reliever, if you only run when you’re feeling stressed, you’ll never get to experience the joy of a “just for fun” run. Constant negative associations like these will quickly turn your favorite feel-good activity into a grudge fest.

Try tying your runs to positive motivations to develop a new perspective. For example, creating a running ‘bucket list’ can help you focus on exciting milestones such as running your first 5K or running your first out-of-state race. Checking these wins off your list will build both anticipation and excitement for each upcoming run.

The sense of accomplishment from completing a race after weeks of training or the renewed feeling you get from spending time outdoors are a few examples of positive running motivations you can embrace. Lean into a positive mindset as you embark on new strides in your running journey.

Run for the Benefits

Consistent running offers benefits for both physical and mental health. These benefits can impact your quality of life by improving heart health, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep.

Running is one of the best ways to keep your cardiovascular health in top shape. According to Harvard Health, “regular exercise also improves factors linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol and better blood sugar regulation,” which all support a healthy heart. Of course, we can’t outrun a poor diet, so it is also key to make sure you eat healthy foods as well.

When experiencing feelings of anxiety or worry, running is a good outlet. Dr. David J. Linden, Neuroscience expert, from Johns Hopkins Medicine, says the release of chemicals called endocannabinoids in our bloodstream helps us feel calm and reduces anxiety.

Not only can running clear your mind when feeling stressed, it can also help us keep our mind and memory healthy as we age. More exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which will better enhance our memory. The American Academy of Neurology saw an increase of brain function during a study of 206 adults enrolled in a six-month aerobic program. So, it is clear our bodies and minds both benefit from running.

Running makes us feel more relaxed and helps us sleep better. It’s a good workout to burn off excess energy, helping you fall asleep more quickly and ensuring a good night’s sleep.

Reward Yourself

Treating yourself after running can help you end each workout on a high note. Run rewards can come in many forms. A relaxing bath, a soothing foam rolling session or a delicious smoothie can make you feel good after finishing a tough run. Plus, the anticipation can be a great motivator, giving you something to look forward to as you push through the miles.

Whether you plan to enjoy a great meal after your run or simply take time to relax on your couch and do nothing, rewarding yourself with something you enjoy doing will help you look forward to each session.

A woman sits on steps and puts on her shoes before a run

Take Notes

Take note of the things you love most about running by keeping a list. If there are things you’d like to work on, take note of that, too. You’ll be able to look back to see how your mindset shifted during certain weeks of training and the effect it had on your runs.

When taking note of your runs, keep track how you felt for each run that week and the variables that affect how much you enjoy (or didn’t enjoy) the run. Are morning runs too grueling for you? Do you really love running a particular park route? Jot those insights down in your phone’s notes or your favorite running app, so that you can do more of the types of runs you enjoy, and less of those you don’t.

You can make note of your achievements as well to ensure you’re celebrating even your smallest wins. Track successes like a few seconds shaved off your mile pace, or making it up a big hill without being totally out of breath. You’ll get to see your progress over time, and get excited to celebrate even more small improvements as time goes on.

Take Time Off

Rest days are crucial to help your body recover from rigorous running workouts. Without rest days, your body can become overworked and fatigued. Not only will you lack energy, but there is the possibility for injury. Raevyn Rogers, professional Nike athlete and 2019 World Silver Medalist, explains how rest is a crucial part of her intense training regimen.

“For me, part of my success comes from when I really listen to my body,” says Rogers. “When I am emotionally overwhelmed, I take a break because training consistently can also cause emotional stress.” She knows the importance of taking a break in order to still have balance and find enjoyment in running.

On the other hand, Jasmine Nesi, USATF-certified running coach and RUNGRL co-founder, enjoys cross training as another way to stay engaged while giving herself a break from running.

Cross-training--including HIIT, yoga, cycling, swimming and strength training--is an excellent complement to running,” says Nesi. “It can help balance your muscle groups, and aid in injury prevention. When you do feel ready to get back into your running routine, you’ll still be in great shape.”

It’s important to remember that taking a break from running can end up looking differently for different people. While some may focus on cross training, others may choose to take time off doing absolutely nothing. Both types of rest are important for both your body and your running morale.

The more ways you find to support positive thoughts and actions tied to your running journey, the more you’ll cultivate your own reasons to love running and keep it from feeling like just another chore.

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