How to Make Running Suck Less

Running is an excellent supplement to CrossFit. It will increase your endurance for longer WODs and helps you learn to “embrace the suck.” But so many people just absolutely hate to run. It doesn’t have to be so bad. Unless you want it to be…

I was an athlete in high school, but didn’t really think I had the time to play sports in college, so as a young adult I became your typical on-again, off-again fitness center goer. I married a body builder and advanced to gym rat status, even working at a large body builder type gym. Then I had kids, my husband stopped competing, and I returned to the on-again, off-again status. I re-entered the world of defining myself as an “athlete” as a runner. I loved it. I discovered competition again in the form of me vs. the clock of 5k’s and beyond. I discovered obstacle course races and CrossFit.

And I discovered that not everyone loves running. And that becoming a better runner is literally no walk in the park. It’s uncomfortable, and it sucks. Bad. But there are some tricks to make it suck less:
  1. Terrific Tunes. I can’t really tell you what songs make the best playlist. Some prefer heavy metal or 80’s pop or podcasts. Pick what works for you and change it often. Just make sure that the music is low enough that you’re aware of your surroundings or wear just one earbud.
  1. A Radical Route. Endless laps around the block get old quick. And the temptation to stop after one may prove to be stronger than you. Choose your scenery wisely and enjoy it, whether it’s a park, forest trail, beach or a shady street. If your only option is to run in the road, run against traffic so that you can see oncoming vehicles and safely exit the roadway when they approach.
  1. Your Perfect Pace. Before running or beginning any new physical activity, you should have a complete physical to ensure you are healthy enough to exercise. Having said that, if you can’t catch your breath and your heart is pounding, then you’re probably running too fast. You have a few options—slow down to a pace where you can comfortably breathe or walk until you catch your breath and then sprint again. It all depends on what your goals are—to build endurance, think slow and steady. To build speed, think intervals (sprinting/jogging or running/walking).

The former were to help you make the run more comfortable. Comfortable?! Some of you have found that CrossFit has increasingly caused you to seek out new levels of discomfort. If you happen to enjoy running and find it generally brings you peace and mental clarity, never fear, you can make it incredibly uncomfortable and, therefore, perfect for pushing you into mental toughness. So, here are some tricks to make it suck more:

  1. Silence. Run without music. Listen to your own breath and the pounding of your feet and heart. Tune in to your body. Be fully aware of how much your legs and lungs are burning. And keep going.
  1. A Radical Route. One word: Treadmill (or dreadmill, as I prefer). Some people adore the treadmill. It allows for exact pace and distance, does some of the work for you by electronically propelling your feet forward. All in an air conditioned atmosphere. And it’s probably in front of a TV. I personally can’t stand the treadmill. It’s too much like a hamster wheel for me. Too claustrophobic. I don’t tolerate spending too much time in one place, especially when forced to maintain a pre-set pace. Make it more fun (more miserable?) by increasing pace or incline at intervals. You could also find a hill and run repeats up and down the hill or add a sandbag or weighted vest as a companion.
  1. Speed work. It’s all fun and games until someone fartleks. (That’s a Swedish word that literally means “speed play.”) If running has become dull, then trade your normal pace for a much faster one. Try a mock 5k, run fast intervals, or visit a track for workouts.
  1. LSD. That’s runner lingo for long, slow distance. Every running program has it. Running experts believe in building mileage slowly over a period of weeks. And that’s smart and will help you avoid injury. I’d recommend building mileage slowly over a long period of weeks if you’re planning on doing half-marathon or longer training. But nothing makes you embrace the suck quite like going out for a 6 miler if your current long run is 3. Again, not something you should be doing every week, but it will definitely teach you much about yourself and prove just how mentally tough you are. (Definitely NOT recommended if you are a beginner.)

About Amy Lawson

Amy Lawson is a CrossFit Level 1 trainer, English teacher, wife of a strength coach and mom to 2 teen boys. She competes in CrossFit, Elite Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and just about anything else that presents a new and different challenge.

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