If you want to work out more, add in cross-training workouts—aerobic efforts that will challenge your heart and lungs with less pounding, such as cycling, swimming, or the elliptical. Mixing in yoga improves your mobility and flexibility, as well as strengthens your muscles in a different way, Torrano says.
Sapper and Levin have all their coaching clients start strength training right from the beginning. Bodyweight moves that work your core, glutes, hips, and single-leg stability—like this 15-minute bodyweight routine—strengthen muscles that can keep you running strong and reduce your risk of injury.
Just remember, if you are adding in cross-training days and strength days, it’s still important to take a rest day, not just a running rest day. This gives your muscles the time they need to rest and repair—and your mind the time to take a breather so it can look forward to your next run.
7. Track your progress.
You don’t need a GPS running watch or a detailed digital log. However, making basic notes about when and for how long you went out, what run/walk intervals you used, and how you felt during and after can help you see how far you’ve come, Sauriol says—and know when to progress.
You can use an app on your phone—popular options include Strava, Runkeeper, MapMyRun, and Nike Run Club—or even just write it down on paper. Note: Some of these apps involve friends or followers, which can help with connection and encouragement. But you don’t have to make your workouts public if you don’t want to.
8. Add a soundtrack.
A motivating playlist can go a long way in taking your mind off the effort of running. You can also treat yourself by saving a favorite podcast or audio book just for your workouts.
You can also make it a motivational one: Sauriol, for instance, has been listening on the run to The Extra Mile, a memoir by Pam Reed, an ultrarunner who twice won the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon. She also knows runners who listen to novels, and one who pipes audio from her favorite movies through her earbuds.
9. Expect some discomfort—but pay close attention to your body’s signals.
When you challenge your body in a new way, chances are you’re going to get a little bit uncomfortable both during the activity and after it’s done. The first few times you run, your quads, calves, and other muscles in your lower body may ache afterward.
It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. And it’s totally normal, Torrano says, as long as it gets better over time. Sharp pains during or after your run, however, are more likely to be signs to stop or slow down, Jaldon says.
Of course, sometimes it can be tough to tell the difference. In an article in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports, sports-injury experts at the University of Florida recommend backing off or seeking treatment if you have:
- Pain that gets worse while running, or changes from dull to sharp or achy
- Joint pain that lingers or increases for a day or more after you run
- Pain that causes you to limp or otherwise changes your gait
Depending on the severity, you might just need a few days off. But if you have aches that linger for 10 days or two weeks, it might be time to seek treatment from a sports medicine professional, Sauriol says.
10. Realize that even your “bad” runs serve a purpose.
Not every run is going to be a great one. Even long-time runners feel dips in motivation. “It’s not like every day I spring out of bed saying, ‘I can’t wait to run,’” says Sauriol, who’s run more than 100 marathons. “Just know that’s a normal feeling.” To get through it, she remembers how she’ll feel afterward: strong, proud, and accomplished.
Torrano keeps her mindset positive by tapping into the beautify of the scenery around her and appreciating the clarity and peace that come mid-stride. “You can just go out there and take this body you’ve been given and move,” she says.
11. And allow yourself to have a good time.
Jaldon reminds both the grown-ups she guides and the young runners she coaches through the volunteer nonprofit Girls on the Run, “It’s okay to smile.” Running can feel intense at times, but you can lighten the mood if you let yourself.
“You’re doing something good for yourself,” she says. “And if you’re smiling and putting yourself in a good mindset, it’ll become even more enjoyable.”
After all, while there are lots of ways to measure your progress as a runner, it’s okay if you never race or push yourself to go faster. In fact, you don’t really have to feel pressured to get “better” at all. Just getting out there on a given day—moving your body, clearing your mind, and just generally feeling good—can be reward enough.