What's Stopping You From Running?

A woman runs alone on a street

A common myth in the world of fitness is that running is the easiest sport to pick up, since “all you need is shoes” to get started. While that may be true for getting out on your first run, what it will take to keep you going can be much more complicated.

Despite our best efforts, there are real barriers that can prevent us from running consistently. Thanks to the pandemic, those stumbling blocks have become multiplied. So what can you do if you truly want to be a runner, but something always seems to be in the way? We’ve got tips to help you get over even the trickiest of hurdles to stick with running and build a lasting habit.

Your Schedule

Making time to run can be challenging for people of all backgrounds, but especially for those who lead busy lifestyles. Between working, taking care of home and caring for family there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. Plus, thanks to the pandemic, the newly-added work-from-home and home-schooling dynamics can make finding time to steal away for a run feel impossible.

The Tip:

Carve out time for runs on your calendar like you would schedule meetings. Whether it’s an early-morning quick run before your day gets started, or a long haul on the weekend when the kids will be occupied, make this a non-negotiable appointment with yourself. Having it already planned will make it easier to not just put it off for later. Switching up the types of runs in your training can also help make you more flexible. Anticipating an extra crazy week? Schedule a “backup” running session, just in case one of your running appointments gets overtaken by other priorities.

Your Support Group

Group running has been discontinued (or at least severely limited) for the time being. And while we know that social distancing is an important way to help COVID-19, it doesn’t make us miss our running friends any less. Having fellow motivators there to push us when we’re not feeling particularly motivated for a long run or when the idea of hitting the freezing cold streets is feeling less than appealing can make all the difference.

The Tip:

Establish connections with your running buddies virtually to keep in touch, update each other on progress and hold each other accountable. Start a group text or group chat on apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. Create challenges on your favorite running apps and connect for shared workouts via Zoom or other online platforms. Check in regularly on how everyone is doing. While these things may not be quite the same as in person, you’ll be surprised at how much it helps to get that support from afar.

Your Environment

Access to clean, safe running spaces is a privilege that not everyone is able to enjoy. As the world shut down last year and gym facilities closed, many became even more acutely aware of their lack of options for safe, outdoor activities. Safe, well-lit streets are not the norm in every neighborhood. Access to outdoor spaces such as local parks and running trails is not available to many lower-income residents, ethnic minority communities or Indigenous groups.

The Tip:

While altering the makeup of communities and districts won’t change overnight, it’s still an important challenge to consider. For the long term, supporting local environmental groups can help push forward agendas for clean, safe spaces in your area, as well as neighboring ones.

In the short term, volunteer to support friends by checking in to make sure they arrive home safely from runs. Look for opportunities to set up safe (socially-distanced) running spaces by contacting a local track or field area, where a small group can safely run separately, but together.

Marathoner Iesha Pankey set up early-morning track meetups every Tuesday in Baltimore last year to keep herself and a few other friends motivated.

“The 5:30 am track workouts are tough, but we make it through,” says Pankey. “We warm up socially distanced with a few laps around the track, followed by glute and core activation moves. We spread out for the start of the workout, and with everyone running at their own pace, there is an extra layer of natural social distance. Plus, because it’s so early, there aren’t many other people to share the track with.”

Your Gear

Whether you’re new to running or you’re looking to come back after a hiatus, finding gear that fits well and keeps you supported is key to the comfort you feel on the run. This can be a challenge for those who have curvier physiques or who do not fit what some may think of as “runner’s body.” Having to constantly pull up ill-fitting running tights or hold on to your bosom because it is unsupported during a run can ruin the entire experience and make you feel like running isn’t for you.

The Tip:

As we say at RUNGRL, “If you run, you’re a runner.” That means that ALL body types deserve gear that is not only functional, but that fits well and looks great, too. Finding the brands that create quality products with inclusive sizing can be tough, but the difference can mean a whole new running experience.

A Black woman smiles as she brushes her hair

Your Hair

Running is one of those sweat-all-over types of sports that can do a number on anyone’s hair. Sweat, salt, sun, rain, air pollution and more can all collect and do real damage to your hair during frequent runs. For Black women, it is a particular commitment to stay active and also properly care for their hair. Maintaining clean, strong hair with frequent workouts can be tricky for everyone, but this a particular challenge for Black women, whose hair can affect how they are perceived in the workplace or school, even to the point of discrimination.

The Tip:

Maintaining natural hair, braids, locs and more while still making running and fitness a priority can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Resources like RUNGRL discuss not only the tips and products that can make it simple to maintain hair, but also discuss the deeper nuances around the experiences of Black women in fitness. Finding the right hair products to refresh hair between washes, as well as techniques to refresh the scalp and preserve straightened hair through a workout can all mean easier transitions and less worry about how the next run will affect hair health.

Dominique Burton, marathoner and RUNGRL co-founder, says learning to maintain her locs made a huge difference in how she managed her workout schedule.

“Getting familiar with protective styles and learning more about the products I can use in between washes has really helped me maintain my workout routine,” says Burton. “Instead of scheduling workouts around when I’m getting my hair done, I can confidently stick to my training plans and not have to worry that my hair will be damaged.”

Your Race Goals

For many, getting that medal at the end of a long, hard training cycle is a tangible representation of all their hard work. While virtual races can be an amazing experience, with the excitement of big races postponed for the foreseeable future, it can also be hard to muster up the same motivation to get out there and train for months at a time.

The Tip:

You don’t need a piece of hardware to prove your dedication. The same way that you train for a big race can be applied to new goals like nailing a faster 5K time or growing your strength for better trail runs or obstacle races. These alternate goals can diversify your workouts and improve your skills as a runner overall.

Not sure where to start? Try reviewing how your last race training plan went. Was there something that you constantly struggled with? Was there a day that you had the most enjoyable runs or a snack that fueled you best? Would more cross training days have helped build your endurance? Examine how you can improve that plan and, ultimately, your race results. Working on updating a past plan can put you on track for a future race, and give you the motivation you need to simply get out there and run.

Keep Reading