Why is Running Hard and How do I Make It Easier? – By Erik Winberg
Why is running this hard? How can I make this easier? How can I recover faster from my run?
At what point does running become intrusive, painful, and seem to add more problems rather than take them away? Maybe we hit the roads chasing that Boilermaker goal or New Year’s resolution, yet it doesn’t feel quite as good as we wish it would. Running is a part of life, not something we have to exchange life events for. How can we make running easier on our bodies and actually enjoy the experience on the road, trail, or track?
Let's start by saying that running is not objectively easy. This task is metabolically challenging, mentally taxing, and moderately time consuming. These factors require some lifestyle changes to become smooth and easy to manage in a week’s schedule.
This is the runner’s responsibility; to understand that through the discomfort of a longer run or late-night mileage, that we are strong enough mentally and physically to rise to the occasion day after day.
We can add a few things to make the experience, performance, and recovery easier. Lists are easy to follow, and we’ll go into more detail below:
- Roll: foam or stick (myofascial release)
- Dynamic and static stretching
- Group runs!
- A warm-up should be between 5-10 minutes of easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretching, then targeted muscle activation as necessary. A cool-down should consist of 5-10 minutes of easy jogging, followed by easier dynamic activity and static stretching as necessary. A good idea is to start a run easy, and after about a mile stop, perform dynamic stretches/body weight strength exercises, then continue with the run. Cool down can be an easier last 0.5-1 mile of the run. Pacing for warm-up/cool-down should be easier than run pace.
- Foam rolling or stick rolling is a hands-on soft tissue technique that facilitates stretch into the restrictions between muscle layers. This improves blood flow to targeted areas and increases tissue mobility. Rolling can help relieve trigger points or “knots” in the muscle by dynamic movement of tissue and deep passive stretch. This is best done before and after a run for 8-10 minutes each time, rolling all muscle groups. At minimum, this should be performed after the run.
- Dynamic stretching is active, sometimes quick, movements through full arc of motion with the goal of increasing flexibility, decreasing resistance from myofascial articulation, improving musculotendinous tension, and increasing muscle contractibility. Some examples are: high knee marching, butt kicks, skipping, heel and toe walking, toe hops, leg swings, hip mobility. Static stretching is what comes to mind when we think of typical stretching. Finding ways to focus on very tight muscles and use static stretching can have benefits, make sure to perform these after a run.
- Consistency with rolling, other recovery strategies such as icing, and stretching/mobility are likely to increase recovery and enjoyment of the sport. These tools are used most effectively when they are done at least three days per week, even better when performed 5-7 days per week. When it comes to running, consistency is the name of the game for metabolic and muscular adaptation. A good tip to use is to run shorter, a little bit slower, but more often, and with friends.
- Friends + Running = More Enjoyable Runs - The miles go by much faster when you can talk about the latest Netflix series, or the meaning of life. Join a running club, hit up some fun runs with The Sneaker Store, grab a pal, strap your kid in a stroller, or hit the road with man’s best friend.
With all of this said, there are many crazy and wonderful reasons to run. Running with friends or a group can make the miles go by much easier. Rolling muscles before and after runs can help to reduce muscle soreness, promote relaxation, and improve mobility. Throw this together with a good warm-up/cool-down and you can build a solid running foundation. Of course, you should talk with your physician about any exercise program that you choose to perform. We invite you to stop by the shop if you have questions. Happy running!
Beardsley, C., & Vigotsky, A. (n.d.). Foam Rolling and self-myofascial release . Retrieved from Strength and Conditioning Research: https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/foam-rolling-self-myofascial-release/
Haff, G., & Triplett, T. (2016). Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (4th ed.). Colorado Springs: Human Kinetics.
Kisner, C., & Colby, L. (2012). Theraputic Exercise Foundations and Technique (6th ed.). Philadelphia: F.A.Davis.
Erik Winberg is a valued member of the Sneaker Store team and is currently pursing his Doctoral Degree in Physical Therapy from Utica College. Check out his profile in the “About Us” section of our website for more information.