Updated: September 22nd, 2021

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that running is hard, trust me, you are not alone. Almost every runner, from amateurs to experienced runners alike, struggle at some point.

And although the science of running is rather basic (lifting your entire body weight and propelling yourself forward on every step that you take) there are many factors that can hinder your experience from time to time.

Why does running become hard at some point?

The physics behind running involves strengthening your muscles, the cardiovascular system, and your mind. Even though some runners consider running to be easy on their first attempt, there are those moments when running becomes quite hard.
And with no clear cut reasoning as to why running is difficult for you right now can cause frustration. So lets clear this up for you, maybe you find something that resonates.

What are some of the reasons why running is hard?
We all, at some point, have slowed down to jogging during a three-mile run. If your training got difficult at some point, here are some of the reasons behind it.

1. Body Fatigue

Running is a full body workout; there’s wear and tear on multiple joints, causing a cumulative effect. So, it is essential to always to put aside a day or two to rest and allow your body to recover. Afterall this is where the magic happens.
Sufficient rest is different for all of us; for professional runners, just one day a week is enough for your body to heal. Beginner runners tend to run every day, which whilst rapidly improves run time, but after a while, fatigue catches up, leading to slumps and injuries.

The most effective way to avoid fatigue is by scheduling enough resting days for your weekly training plan (don’t forget to count for your daily stress/activity too). A great way to do this is to monitor your heart rate and track your exertion levels – most running watches/activty trackers do this for you now so might be worth investing if you struggle with fatigue and burnout. Alternatively, You can use websites such as Strava that use the recorded heart rate to estimate your fitness and fatigue level.
tired runner

2. Stress and anxiety

Most runners, at some point, experience stress that affects them both physically and psychologically.
This stress makes you experience symptoms like:

  • headache
  • rapid breathing
  • fast heart breathing
  • sweating
  • muscle tension
  • sweating
  • dizziness

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that profoundly impacts your physical performance thus affecting your running ability.
Most runners go through stressful moments that make their runs get more complex or even slower.
However, running can act as a remedy for stress as it gives you that much needed breathing space. Running often helps you to process thoughts and emotions, finding the source of your stress and helping you adjust to it.

So if you find that life has got somewhat stressful for you, As a runner, try your best to stick to your regular training routine. With time, your running will become much easier, and the stress will melt away (or- you’ll get much better at handling it). Self-care is a phrase being thrown around a lot lately, and running can really be that bit of self-care to help you handle stressful day, situation or just to go off the grid and breathe.

3. Inadequate Rest

One of the reasons behind running is that you are not getting g enough time to rest and recover. An easy route becoming increasingly hard work is often a red flag that you have not fully recovered from a previous workout session.

Often, we tend to use rest days to catch up with misused or wasted time, when really we need to bask in the rest and recuperation phase of our training plans.
One thing that is easily overlooked and difficult to change is sleeping habits. Getting enough sleep is non-optional for runners.
man resting in the road
According to the research conducted by a team of coaches from Kenya, a runner should sleep for at least 8 hours. They also advise taking a nap for an hour every day. As a runner, always consider keeping a consistent and healthy sleep. And as a female; studies conclude women need more sleep than men to recover from the day (find out more with this article)*

4. Failure to Plan and Running Too Fast

Running fast is fun (remember running down a hill as a child, legs going too fast for you to keep up? so much fun!) Although highlights of a childhood, as an adult, consistent fast pacing makes running feel more of a chore, especially if you struggle to address it.

Your pace as a runner is bound to get faster with time despite how slow you start – and we all have a limit. Always try and ignore the urge to run faster and slow down until your body feels comfortable increasing the pace.
Speed comes with consistency and well-programmed training. If you have this and still find your running becomes challenging, there is room to suggest its due to a lack of enough strength and muscular endurance. so you biologically struggle to sustain running for long. Not to worry, a strength and conditioning session a week and incorporating cross-training will help get you back on track.

5. Failing to Warm Up Beforehand

Warming up is a critical element of running, and most new runners skip it unknowingly. A complete warm-up before running will help your muscles warm up and ‘loosen’ ready to go, gets your mind set on the task ahead, and slowly increases your breathing to a comfortable level to start hitting the trails.

So you can see that skipping this step more often than not, will lead discouragement quite quickly after you’ve started. Your body will be in ‘agh whats happening’ mode, scrambling to get the blood and oxygen where it needs to be. – so give your body a heads up, and do your warm up.
It’s best to spend around 10 minutes warming and preparing your body and mind for the run. Try doing some dynamic warm-up exercises at the beginning of your training, then spend the first mile running at a moderately slower pace.
group warmup

6. Mindset

Sometimes its not our legs that give in, its our mind. You’ve probably heard other runners talk of the challenges they face. You have listened to and witnessed runners quit after training for a week or two.
Like any other physical activity, the more you train, the more your body adapts (mindset included).

Most of the challenges you face as a runner are caused by mental fatigue. Especially hitting the longer distances half marathon (13.1 miles) and up. It is one of the most vital roadblocks affecting your running performance. Why is it so? Negative thinking tricks a runner into believing that your rate of exertion is higher than it is. After all, the brain is there to keep us safe.

One thing I found imperative through my marathons is “your mind gives up way before your body does” so if you have niggling thoughts, know you are not at your limit yet, keep going.

The following are essential things to remember, that will make your running easy:

  • Accept that running will become hard at some level.
  • Trust that running will get a little easier with time.
  • Understand that setbacks happen and prepare for ways you can overcome them.
  • Give yourself at least three months to progress.
  • Avoid running too hard, too much, long distances, and too fast.
  • Running consistently and frequently will make you improve, and the only way to achieve this goal is to ensure that is to train at an easy and conversational effort.
  • End your training before you start feeling drastic.
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