Last Updated on February 11, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Coach Heather here, with a helpful post describing 5 ways to guarantee you’ll hate running. I assure you that while the title may sound satirical, I’m absolutely serious with this post. (No really, stick with my sarcasm here…I’ve got an actual point to this post.)
You see, I’ve made all of these mistakes. Some more than once. And they’ve left me feeling a sense of disdain for the sport that I love so much. Over the years I’ve seen so many fellow runners make the same mistakes, leaving them feeling bitter.
And no one likes hating something they are supposed to enjoy.
Never Lose the Fun.
When my husband Geoff and I decided to (finally) start our coaching business back in 2017, I put a lot of thought into what my philosophies and driving principle as a coach would be. Having already worked in the fitness industry for nearly a decade at the time, I knew that there is not one style of training or coaching that works for everyone. Some people need gentle nudging, where others need you to play the role of a ruthless drill Sargent. Part of being a successful coach is learning to read each client, and providing the style of accountability that works best for them. All of that said, I knew one thing that was for sure across the board for all types of clients: the moment the “fun” is gone for the client, something needs to change.
Because at the end of the day, none of us are professional runners (speaking of my clients and probably all of my readers, but it’d be cool to have some elites lurking). Yes, we have huge goals we are striving for, yes those goals take drive and focus, and no not every workout is going to feel “fun”, but in the end, running is something we choose to do for fun. An interesting version of “fun”, no doubt, but fun none the less.
And if the fun is gone…why bother?
5 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Hate Running
All of this said, I’ve noticed a handful of mistakes frequently made in the running community, that all chip away at the “fun” factor. Sometimes, they even result in a huge crash and burn, with the runner uttering words like “I’m done” , “I quit”, or “I hate this stupid sport”. Here’s are five sure fire ways to guarantee you’ll hate running:
Set a Pace or Time Goal Well Beyond Your Fitness Level
I ran my first marathon within the first year of my running “career” (yeah, we’re calling it that). My finishing time was 4:37:00 flat, at the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon. I did NOT beat Oprah’s time, but I was convinced I could do better.
A lot better.
Because I was capable of running a 5K in the 21 minute range, I determined that it would be no problem to run my next marathon in three hours and forty five minutes, a Boston Qualifying time (back then, it’s since been lowered even more).
So, I hopped into a rigorous training plan calling for long distance paces at my short distance times. Was I capable of an 8:30/mile pace? Of course! Was I able to maintain that pace for a dozen miles or more back then? Not at all! And so, I became wildly frustrated, resentful of training, and eventually not only quit that goal, but took some time off of running altogether.
In retrospect, it was absolutely foolish to think that I could easily take almost an hour off of my marathon time in just one training cycle. But, I see this thought process and behavior often in runners. We are a stubborn bunch, often wearing rose colored glasses.
I LOVE big dreamers. Seriously, tell me you are going to do something big and crazy one day, and I’ll be the first to cheer you on, cowbell in hand.
But…set realistic goals based on where you are today and use that as a starting point to get you to where you want to be.
Want to take an hour off of your marathon time? Chances are you can totally do that, but it might take a few years rather than one single training cycle. Learn how to set S.M.A.R.T goals to help increase the likelihood of achieving those goals, and decrease the likelihood of getting super frustrated.
Attempt to Follow a Training Plan You Don’t Have Time For
As a running coach, one of the biggest struggles for me is deciding when to push a client to get their workouts done, or being the voice of reason when I can tell they’ve gotten in over their heads when it comes to available time.
I will NEVER be a person to tell someone else that they “can’t” do something. But here’s the thing: just because you probably CAN make it happen, doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.
The truth is, we all go through seasons of life where the amount of time we have to dedicate to running waxes and wanes. One year you may have plenty of time to commit to running 50 – 60+ miles per week. Other years, you may not be able to squeeze ten extra minutes out of your day to fold laundry, never-mind think about a long run.
Forcing yourself to complete a complex or in depth training plan when you don’t have the adequate time to do so can leave you feeling frustrated and potentially even resentful. It can also leave your family and loved ones feeling frustrated and resentful.
If you are in this time-crunch boat, let me reassure you of the following: running isn’t going anywhere. Racing isn’t going anywhere. If right now isn’t the right time, later will be, and running/racing will be waiting for you. And honestly? You’ll probably enjoy the training process so much more when you have the time to dedicate to it.
Compare Yourself to Other Runners
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Certainly you’ve heard this saying numerous times before, and it absolutely applies to the running community.
Here’s some honest truth: some people are just always going to be better at running than you. Hell, we’ve all had that friend who randomly decided to “try a marathon” with little to no training, and easily knocked out a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
Some people are going to be able to afford the time and money to race more than you. It sucks to watch someone casually register for a race you’ve been dreaming of for years.
Remember that all of us are on our own paths, our own journey. The circumstances surrounding other people’s training and racing will almost never line up with the parameters of your training and racing.
And guess what? That’s OK.
Instead of comparison and jealousy, be happy for your friends and fellow runners. Celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulate them for their hard work, even if it looks nothing like yours. Positivity is contagious, and I promise it will make you love your running, YOUR journey, even more.
Never Take Rest Days & End Up Chronically Injured
Oh, friends. Brace yourself, I’m about to climb atop my soap box.
A lot of runners tend to view rest days as a sign of weakness, and declaring “I don’t take rest days!” as something to be celebrated.
But here’s the thing: rest days are an integral part of your training program. If written by a coach, those rest days are carefully planned to coincide with your peak days and hard workouts. But even if you aren’t following a training plan, rest days are necessary for optimal performance. They should NOT be viewed as a day you are “losing fitness” or “being lazy” or whatever other nonsense I’ve heard. Skipping rest days doesn’t make you faster/stronger/more badass. It usually just makes you weaker/tired/more injury prone.
And when you’re constantly injured, perpetually tired, or simply never seeing returns on your training because you don’t rest: you’re gonna start hating running.
Try to start viewing rest days as a planned workout. The “plan” here, of course, is allowing your muscles, tendons, and everything on the cellular level the opportunity to recover, repair, and rebuild you into a stronger runner.
Let Others Tell You What Running Should “Look Like”
Listen, the irony is not lost on my that I just spent the last four bullet points explaining to you what you shouldn’t do when it comes to your running. But now I’m going to tell you, don’t let anyone else tell you what your running should look like.
Ultimately, your running should be whatever you want it to be. You can run however you want, whenever you want, and for whatever reason you want. You can shoot for outlandish goals, or you can never set any at all.
Whether you’re on road, trail, treadmills, or swinging across monkey bars…do what makes you happy. You won’t regret it.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.