Running is perhaps the most popular form of exercise, but that doesn’t mean people enjoy it. The fitness-tracking app Strava recently conducted a global survey asking 25,000 people how they feel about running and the results were… staggering. Only 8% of respondents said that they run because they love it. Apparently, everyone else just kind of suffers through. Half of the total respondents said they flat out hate running, or “can barely stand it.” Yikes. And the people who took this survey are runners!
Why do so many people run if they hate it? The same reason parents tell kids to finish their vegetables—they know it is good for them. More than 80% of those surveyed said health was their main motivator. We want healthy hearts and minds. We want to be stronger and have more energy. Running does all of these things for our bodies, but the road there shouldn’t be miserable.
To make running more enjoyable, start by getting off the road—literally. Here are several ways to switch up the terrain for a more fun run:
Try running barefoot in the grass.
Just because it sounds childlike and carefree doesn’t mean it won’t be a powerful workout. Running barefoot strengthens the small tendons and ligaments in our feet to help prevent injuries later on. It can also improve balance and proprioception, which is our ability to understand our body’s position in space around us. Proprioception explains how we are able to dance, type, ride a bike, or walk up stairs.
Introduce barefoot running into your routine gradually to avoid overworking and shocking your muscles. Try adding a short barefoot walk or gentle jog onto the end of your usual runs. Go slow. Think of it as a fun cool down, or a good reason to spend extra time outside. Let yourself quit your regular run a little earlier to experiment. Just make sure the grass you choose is well maintained, and always watch where you step.
Try running on trails.
Trails are guaranteed to make your run more interesting because every step is different. Treading carefully over roots, rocks, and uneven ground will force you to run much slower than you would on the road—which is the best thing about running trails. Moving slowly and staying alert gives us the opportunity to enjoy our environment. Research shows that tuning into our natural surroundings during exercise cultivates awe, keeping us in a good mood long after the workout ends.
Plus, just like running barefoot, the constant changes in terrain will work smaller muscles that don’t normally get used. Ditch the mindset that going slow means accomplishing less. If we are forcing ourselves to run for our mental health anyway, we should probably try to enjoy it.
Hill running is not as bad as it seems.
Sure, running a mostly flat route feels easier—but it gets boring. Especially if you hit a training plateau. Not to mention that falling into a flat route rut can lead to overuse injuries because you end up working the same muscles all the time. Incorporate hill runs into your workout regimen to build strength and keep things interesting.
Running uphill is excellent resistance training. You will gain confidence and become a faster runner. But if a hill run seems intimidating, treat it like a HIIT workout. Run uphill as fast as you can for a short distance, approximately 100 - 200 meters. Then walk or jog back down at a recovery pace. Research shows that HIIT workouts actually burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which is good news for all those runners who are just barely tolerating it.
Need extra motivation for your outdoor runs? Check out Aaptiv audio workout “Outdoor Opportunities” on Zeamo On-Demand!