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Anxious To Start Running? Here Are 7 Tips To Make It More Enjoyable, From A 4-Time Olympic Trials Qualifier

Fortune Well April 21, 2024


Anxious To Start Running? Here Are 7 Tips To Make It More Enjoyable, From A 4-Time Olympic Trials Qualifier

Kaitlin Gregg Goodman hated that running, a sport she’s loved from a young age, was used as a disciplinary tool in sports growing up. If she missed a play in soccer, she’d have to run laps.

“I wish [running] wasn’t seen as a punishment, but something that can be enjoyable,” she tells Fortune.

Gregg Goodman, a former professional distance runner and four-time Olympic Trials qualifier turned running coach, loves watching her toddler run around with zero cares in the world or thoughts of the activity being anything other than fun.

“He’s just running because that’s the fastest way to get somewhere and it’s fun. So I encourage folks to try to bring a little bit of that childlike joy to their running,” Gregg Goodman says.

One reason running is so popular is its accessibility: It doesn’t require a ton of equipment, an expensive gym membership, or anyone else to do it with.It’s also a highly efficient workout. Running five to 10 minutes a day (even at slow speeds) can significantly lower your risk of dying from heart disease.

Though it can be tough, running can be enjoyable. Here’s how to make it more fun.

Set realistic goals

Aiming to run a marathon, 10k, or even a mile can feel daunting. It’s important to remember that achieving these goals takes time.

“We walk before we run,” says Dr. Jeanne Doperak, a primary care sports medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“I usually tell people to start where they are. I think a lot of times people set a very high expectation for themselves from the get go.”

It’s not that long-term goals like a certain time or distance are bad, says Doperak, but smaller, more attainable goals at the beginning of any fitness journey will make the experience more palatable. 

Modify your training

Any physical activity can feel like punishment if you let our mind go there. Keep a positive outlook and focus on the fact that training and casual running alike are adjustable to what you’re feeling that day.

“[Runners] can be very Type A. Many of us maybe were first daughters, or high achievers,” says Gregg Goodman. Because of this, she says it can be hard to modify a workout when you once had an intention or plan on a schedule.

“I’m a big fan of the run/walk,” says Gregg Goodman.

“Give yourself some grace to say, ‘I’m gonna go for a run, there’s gonna be some walk breaks in there.’ That’s 100% okay. If you are running, you’re a runner.”

Practice gratitude for your health

Sometimes fitness goals can feel like a chore to keep up with. Try thanking your body for its ability to be able to run.

“It is not easy. There’s times when we’re not healthy or we’re injured. I think anytime you have a chance to go out for a run, there’s something to be grateful for,” says Gregg Goodman.

Do something else when conditions are unfavorable

Running can be a lot more fun when the sun is out and the temperature cooperates. But we can’t change the weather to coordinate with our plans.

“I enjoy running, but I do not enjoy running in the snowy cold,” says Doperak.

Instead, run inside on a treadmill, or do a different workout entirely. It’s alright to be a fair-weather runner.

“It’s good to do some cross training and have a rest day and mix it up with some other things. You don’t have to run every day of the week,” says Doperak. In fact, thinking you need to run every single day can leave you feeling unhappy and burnt out.

Run with a buddy

Running has become a social, community-centered activity. Running with someone can not only give you an accountability partner, but also give you time to catch up with each other.

“I’m a busy working mom, so very rarely can I meet someone for a cup of coffee just for kicks. But I can absolutely meet them for a run,” says Gregg Goodman.

Finding a friend in proximity to you who is interested in running too may be tricky, but Doperak says she knows people who even have running buddies in different states.

“There’s some accountability in having a friend that is doing it along with you, near or far,” she says.

Mix up your route or type of run

Gregg Goodman admits running can be monotonous, which is why she likes to integrate speed or hill intervals into her workouts to change up the pace and the incline, whether running outdoors or on a treadmill. While this may not sound enjoyable to some, Gregg Goodman says “racing” runners near her on a bike path or road brings her joy—and confidence.

“I have been known to see a guy ahead of me on a run and feel a little satisfaction in passing him, so I might accelerate then. You’re playing a little game, It’s like Mario Kart.” 

Doperak also suggests mixing up the location you run in. If you’re bored of your neighborhood scenery, run somewhere new. While traveling recently, she went for a run in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall.

“It was one of my favorite runs I’ve done in a while,” says Doperak.

Think of it as ‘me time’

In a busy world, it can be hard to find time—or make time—away from work or kids for yourself. But putting time into your schedule for a run can be a way to prioritize “me time.”

“Even if it’s just 20, 30 minutes, I’ll reframe to think of it as time and space for me,” says Gregg Goodman.

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