This is why no one hates running as much as they think they do

Running used to be my worst nightmare. My feet throbbed, my chest pounded. Even though I was reasonably fit, I’d always get a terrible stitch in my side about 10 minutes in. After 20 minutes – if I even lasted that long – I’d be in terrible pain and feel a bit nauseous.

For years I hated running, and no matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to make it part of my routine. It’s hard to consistently do something that makes you feel like you might throw up.  

WHY BELIEVING YOU HATE EXERCISE IS A BAD IDEA

The problem with hating running, or any form of exercise for that matter, is that it’s nearly impossible to force yourself to regularly do something you don’t want to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I resolved to get better at running. I’ve tried everything. Program after program, and summer after summer, I’ve tried to make it stick. But I could never manage to make it a habit. I’d force myself to go for a couple weeks, I’d even get a little bit faster, but the progress was never as quick as I wanted it to be. It was always too painful and never enjoyable enough.

As a result, I came to believe that I hated running and always would. That it was a part of who I was. Hating running became a self-limiting belief—something that I believed to be true about myself that held me back from reaching my goals. I wanted to run more, to run faster and further, but I couldn’t change who I was. And unfortunately, I was someone who hated running.

WHAT SCIENCE HAS TO SAY ABOUT THIS

It’s only recently that I’ve come to learn that my hatred for running isn’t permanent. Apparently they’ve done research about this sort of thing, and, while it’s true that some people are genetically predisposed to find exercise more enjoyable than others, it’s also true that your enjoyment of exercise can change over time. That is, you might not like it at first, but if you stick with it, and allow some beneficial changes to happen to your body and your brain, exercise can become more enjoyable in time.

So, if you’re like me, and believe you hate running and always will, it’s time to let that belief go. What you should really say is that right now running isn’t enjoyable, but that you’re open to it becoming more enjoyable in the future. These things have been proven to change over time.

Just because running isn’t fun when you start, doesn’t mean it won’t ever be. In fact, it’s highly likely that after a few months you’ll enjoy it far more than you ever thought possible. You just need to give it time and to be open to the possibility. Adopting this mindset toward running has helped me immensely.

AND A SECOND THING

Besides adopting a more positive outlook, the other major change I’ve made is that I’ve shifted what I believe and expect to get out of running. Recent research has shown that your beliefs about exercise effect what you get out of it. If you believe in the benefits, you’ll actually experience more of them.

I’ve found this to be remarkably true. In the past, I was too focused on weight loss and quick progress, which set me up for failure and frustration. Exercise has a point, after all, but weight loss isn’t it.

Instead, I’ve started focusing on all the psychological benefits. The increase in energy and boost in mood. The clearer, more focused mind. The calm and relaxation it brings, and the more restful sleep.

I feel better when I run. Immediately after and throughout the week. And that makes the whole ordeal a lot more enjoyable. Instead of getting frustrated that I’m not losing weight, I feel satisfied that I’m consistently doing something to improve how I think and feel. It’s made a world of difference.

THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR MAKING RUNNING MORE ENJOYABLE

Of course, the mindset and the focus are just the first two steps. Being open to enjoying running and believing in the benefits won’t immediately make you love it. They’re just the foundation.

The next most important tip is starting slow. Super. Incredibly. Slow.

I know this tip is common and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’m repeating it because I’ve heard it before too, and not listened. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started too fast. Over and over and over again—it’s the easiest thing to do. You start out on your first day, you feel fresh, you want to make the most of your newfound motivation and energy, and you overdo it.

Stop!Slow down!

This is a classic tortoise and hare situation. Trust me, the tortoise wins. Channel the tortoise. Be the tortoise.

If you’re just starting out and you try to run fast and far, you’re going to be in pain. You’re going to feel all those terrible things I used to feel. You’re going to think you hate running.

Consider starting by walking instead. It may feel silly, or like you’re not really working out, but walking is incredibly beneficial and is a great way to start preparing your body to run. If it feels too slow, walk faster, for longer, or up hills. The key is to focus on consistency, so that you’re body starts to adapt to your new active routine. This will help make the painful parts of running less painful and the enjoyable parts more enjoyable.

SOME OTHER GOOD TIPS

In addition to starting slow, there are a variety of things you can do to make running more enjoyable, or at least decrease the amount of time it takes for it to become enjoyable.

Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful:

1. Wear the right shoes – if you don’t, your feet will hurt, or your shins, or your hips. Whether it’s running or weightlifting or yoga, having the right footwear is important for making the activity less painful, and hence, more enjoyable.

2. Listen to tunes – Or podcasts, or whatever you enjoy listening to. Pairing running with something else you quite enjoy is a great way to help associate running with fun, rather than dread. A good beat is also a great way to get you pumped up for your run.

3. Go with a friend – Having a running or gym buddy, or even a running group, can make the activity more social and also helps with consistency.

HOW I CAME TO LOVE RUNNING

It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’ve finally come to a point in my life where I enjoy running because of how it makes me feel. Instead of lying down on the couch after work, I like going for a jog because it wakes me up and helps me make the most of the rest of my day.

I like feeling accomplished when I sneak in a half hour jog before work. I feel more focused and confident. I think more clearly. I’m more proactive.

But most of all, I’ve stopped believing that I hate running.

If you currently believe you hate running, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Like me, maybe you are focusing on all the wrong things. Maybe you are starting too quickly. Maybe you aren’t giving your body and mind time to adjust. Like me, maybe you are expecting too much, too fast.

Maybe it’s time to give it another shot and to actually give it enough time to become enjoyable. It might be hard to believe right now, but you can outrun your hatred. You can get to a place where you enjoy it. You just have to believe the path exists, and start taking steps in the right direction.