Despite the many benefits of running and motivating reasons to run, running isn’t easy, and beginners often ask, “When does running get easier?” or “How long does it take to get used to running?”
In this article, we will discuss how to get used to running and ways to make running feel easier.
We will discuss:
- Why Am I So Bad At Running?
- When Does Running Get Easier?
- 4 Tips To Make Running Feel Easier
Let’s get started!
Why Am I So Bad At Running?
If you’ve ever struggled through a run, having to walk more than you wanted to or barely maintaining what felt like a crawling pace, you might have asked yourself, “Why am I so bad at running?”
Although this is certainly a common question of self-doubt among beginner runners, let’s get one thing straight: if you’re out there trying to run, you are not bad at running.
It takes time to get used to running and have your body adapt to the workload of running.
Running is a very physically-demanding activity.
Due largely to the physical challenges of running, there are mental ups and downs of the sport as well.
Although running certainly has the ability to increase your confidence, on days that running feels hard, it can also feel totally mentally defeating.
In fact, as much as the physiological demands of running often feel like the major inhibitor to running faster and longer, research suggests that mental fatigue is actually one of the biggest setbacks to running performance.
Mental fatigue makes it feel like your effort level (rate of perceived exertion (RPE)) is higher than it is. In other words, your brain can trick you into feeling like you are having to exert yourself harder than you are actually physically working.
For example, if you feel mentally defeated during a run, you might believe that you are at a hard running effort level of 9 out of 10, with 10 being your max effort and the effort level that correlates with your maximum heart rate.
However, if you are wearing a heart rate monitor or if you had the ability to capture physiological biometrics that could determine the relative percentage of your VO2 max (aerobic capacity), the data might show that you are only running at 70% of your maximum heart rate or VO2 max.
Indeed, the brain is a powerful organ during running and can greatly influence the perception and experience of your workout.
When Does Running Get Easier?
Beginner runners often ask, “How long does it take to get used to running?“
There’s no single answer for every new runner about how long it takes for the body to get used to running or how long it takes for running to feel easier.
Several factors affect how long it may take your own body to adapt and start to feel more comfortable during your runs, including the following:
#1: Prior Fitness Routine
Your prior fitness routine or experience with running can both affect how long it will take your body to get used to running.
If you have been working out consistently, doing some other form of cardio such as cycling, elliptical trainer, or even brisk walking, transitioning to running will be a much quicker process because you already have the aerobic endurance and stamina to support moderate- to high-intensity exercise.
Depending on what types of exercise you were doing, you might also have decent leg strength as well.
Additionally, if you have run consistently at some other time in your life but have fallen out of the habit, it is still typically easier to get back into running a second time.
Your body has some degree of “muscle memory“ for the activity, and you may be able to progress your workouts more rapidly and with less discomfort.
You will also have experience with the mental side of long-distance running and training your brain to stay tough when things get difficult. Although it may feel like you have lost this mental discipline, it will return with time.
On the other hand, if you have never been a runner and have not been doing any type of consistent exercise, it will take longer for your body to adapt to the high-impact, high-intensity, and demanding nature of running.
#2: Body Size
Although not necessarily true across the board, people who live in larger bodies or who carry excess weight typically take longer to adapt to running and feel comfortable in their workouts because their body has to do more work to move from point A to point B, so it is simply a more challenging workout.
#3: Running Routine
How often you are running and what type of routine you are following in terms of progressing your run/walk workouts will assess how long it takes your body to get used to running.
While a more gradual approach will decrease the risk of injury, it will take longer to build the fitness you need for running to feel easy.
In general, physiological adaptations to exercise take longer for older adults, so younger dinner runners might start to feel like running has gotten easier earlier on.
Some people seem more naturally inclined to run and athletics in general. They may have a higher percentage of type 2 muscle fibers, greater mitochondrial and capillary density, a larger relative heart and lung size compared to their body, a better body fat distribution, or other genetic traits that make running a bit more natural.
Given the variety of factors that can affect how long it takes the body to get used to running, it is clear that it’s not easy to give an exact answer for when running will start to feel easier.
With that said, most new runners can expect running to feel easier after about three months or once they have built up to 30 minutes of continuous running.
It takes most new runners about this long for both the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems to adapt to the stresses of running and for the mental confidence and focus to develop.
4 Tips To Make Running Feel Easier
Although some amount of patience and consistency is really all that it takes for your body to get used to running, there are a few things you can do to help make running start to feel easier.
#1: Run With a Friend
Having a running buddy can certainly make running feel easier because social companionship on the run can be distracting from the physical discomfort of pushing your body. Having someone to talk to (or commiserate with!) will help pass the time and make your workouts fly by.
If you don’t know anyone who runs, consider joining a local running club or encouraging a neighbor or coworker to start running with you. Sometimes, we all need a little nudge, and you might be the inspiration for another new runner.
#2: Follow a Beginner Training Plan
One of the biggest mistakes that new runners make is running too hard, too fast, too long, or too much too soon.
Following a training plan for beginners, such as a walk/run program or a couch to 5K training plan for beginners, can help ensure that you are not progressing your workouts too rapidly and that you are building in adequate rest and recovery.
Be mindful of your pace. Most beginner runners feel like they are running extremely slowly, but they are actually running far too fast. Leave the “hard running” for when you are better adapted. Slowing down your pace is the best way to be able to run longer and more comfortably without feeling completely winded and exhausted.
The longer you can run without stopping, the more your endurance will improve, thus allowing you to then run even longer.
#3: Be Consistent
Running sporadically a few days one week and a couple of days another week without any sort of consistency is not a very effective way to get your body acclimated to running.
Your body needs to have consistent stress applied so that the necessary physiological adaptations take place in your cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal systems to actually become better at running so that running will feel easier.
Try to run or run/walk three days a week or every other day at first. Build up to four days a week after several weeks. Spread out the days to allow ample time for recovery.
#4: Strength Train
If you haven’t been working out at all, it can seem like more than enough to start running three days a week, and while that is a great approach for meeting your body’s needs for aerobic exercise, strength training is also important.
Strength training will help support your running by strengthening your muscles, connective tissues, joints, and bones, making the physical forces and stresses of running easier on your body.
If you are finding that your legs are sore after your runs or that your legs feel tired while you are running—two of the commonly-cited reasons why running feels hard—strength training is a low-impact way to help your muscles handle the rigors of running without needing to run more to do so.
Stay patient and positive. Running will start to feel easier, and you are a runner. How cool is that?
If you need a starter strength training routine to get going, check out our bodyweight workout for runners!