How to Make Running Not Suck

How to Make Running Not Suck

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
February 19, 2023



I’m not a professional runner, and only just recently went through the Road Runners Club of America’s Level 1 coaching certification program. Mark (your founder of None to Run) and I were in the same virtual class and connected over our common goal:

Help new runners feel comfortable running.

What I can say is that I am is someone who’s been running for 30 years, after initially hating running so much that I hid behind the foam high jump mats so I didn’t have to run a two-lap warm-up at track practice (I was a jumper). I’ve also been a journalist and an editor in the running industry for the past 20 years or so, in which time I’ve interviewed hundreds of experts, from coaches, to nutritionists, sports psychologists to physical therapists, professional runners to everyday runners doing amazing things.

I’ve written about virtually all things running and have been a columnist, contributing editor, and gear reviewer at magazines like Runner’s World, Outside, Trail Runner, PodiumRunner, Women’s Running, etc. I also wrote a book called, “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (2015).

In that time, and through my own experiences running and talking to runners and experts of all sorts, I’ve developed a point of view that running does indeed suck, for many people…But that it doesn’t have to. By creating a positive relationship with running and learning how to truly love it, as opposed to striving for a one-time race goal or to lose weight, makes it a healthy, sustainable part of life. My book sets out to help people discover their own love of running, whether they’re brand new to it, or trying to merely not hate running, or could benefit from a fresh perspective on running.

Through various platforms, like the N2R newsletter that went out recently, I’ve gotten a lot of questions that fall under similar topics. I wanted to share some of those overreaching concepts, and my answers to them, here.

Q: How Do I Get Started?

A: Easing into a running program like N2R's walk/run (or the similar walk/run program in my book) is a great, safe, gradual, forgiving way in. Even if you’re overweight, have knee problems, are intimidated, think you’re too slow, etc., a gradual program allows your body time to adjust and become the runner you maybe always wanted to be. 

To truly ENJOY running either for the first time or as you return to running, I think it’s important to ask yourself some questions to find your ideal WHERE, WHEN, and WITH WHO to make running something you crave and actually love. That will make it sustainable for you. There’s a quiz in the intro of my book and also chapters that help guide you to find the kind of running you'll want to do (for real). For me, it's trails, end-of-day, mostly alone or with my dog but with friends sometimes. Everyone is different. Your expectations can be just to find what kind of running you love and go from there.

My favorite goal for new runners to people returning to running after a break is this: Learn to love running!

Also keep in mind, there is no one “right way” to run.

Q: How Do I Quiet Negative Self-Talk?

A: First of all, everyone deserves to run. If you shuffle at a speed that feels like a walk, you are still a runner. To quiet self-talk, create a mantra for yourself that encourages positive thinking and repeat it to yourself whenever negative thoughts creep in. Something like, "I deserve to run." Or "I am doing this." Or whatever resonates with you.

Q: What Pain is Okay and What is Not?

A: To try to prevent injuries, make sure you have good running shoes by having a specialty run retailer watch you run on a treadmill. Ease into a plan like with N2R, and see a physical therapist who can help you assess any weaknesses or imbalances, and prescribe supplemental exercises to help fortify you.  

Some pains simply indicate that you’re using your body and getting stronger. To know what pains need addressing, though, here’s a passage from my book:

"Generally speaking, if pain comes on at the beginning of a run and then goes away during the run, it's something to notice and keep an eye on. If the pain persists or comes back in the twelve to twenty-four hours after a run, pay attention to that, too. If it's not gone after twenty-four hours, or lingers longer that twenty-four hours, considering seeing a practitioner of some sort..."  

Q: How Do I Improve?

A: Once you have a solid base of slow running for an extended period of time, like, 30 minutes straight, try fartlek-style running within you regular runs sometimes. To do that, after warming up, increase your speed to a natural marker, like a tree or streetlight. Then jog slowly to bring your heart rate back down before trying it again. Doing a handful of those within a run can help improvement, as can running varied terrain, like hills.

Lisa’s books, “Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)” (Running Press, 2019) and “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (VeloPress, 2015) can be found at most major booksellers. 

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