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Running Tips

7 common running challenges and how to stay motivated through each

Two runners hold up their arms to celebrate a successful trail run while standing on a rock.
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Running can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also come with hurdles (and not just the kind you leap over). Learn how to tackle seven common running challenges that may hamper your motivation.

No matter the temperature, no matter the weather, there are certain people who would jump on your couch and profess their love for running. Seeing this may make you feel discouraged when you face running challenges or if you struggle to find joy in a sport that either you're really good at or you've built a social life around.

However, what these people may not share with you is that nobody loves running every single day — especially if they're putting up miles upon miles a week. Not only is this a physical challenge but also a mental one.

There are ways to reignite the fire, whether you're coming off of a hard marathon training cycle or if you're bored from not training for anything. Sometimes, there's no rhyme or reason for not feeling motivated to go out and run, and that's OK too.

Here are seven common challenges and some tips for pushing through each.

1. Lack of a social circle

Not everyone can just get up and run on their own, and that is why it helps to find a support system. That can be one friend or even a social group to keep you motivated.

We've all been there at 5 a.m. The sun's not up yet, and you know you have to get those miles in before work, but your bed feels extra cozy. Then, your alarm goes off, and you notice the sound of a text message: "Get up sleepy head, we're going for a run." If it hadn't been for that friend who is depending on you to keep them accountable, you may have lost to the Egyptian cotton gods.

2. Using the wrong gear

You don't have to spend every last dollar on the latest and greatest of everything, but you should get gear that makes your runs as fun and safe as possible.

For one, getting fitted for proper shoes can prevent injury. Also, in the summertime, it's easier to get in your miles when you have proper ventilation and lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric. In the winter months, you need gear that'll keep you warm but doesn't lead to you overheating. If you have to go out in 20-degree weather to run, quality heavy gloves and a hat will keep you from getting frostbite.

Consider purchasing gear that will accommodate whatever climate-based barriers you'll be facing. This could also mean purchasing the right high-intensity sports bra that will keep you from bouncing in pain or purchasing longer shorts to avoid chafing. Prioritize whatever will make your run more comfortable.

3. Boredom with your running route

Maybe it's time you seek out that random trail that looked interesting. Tackling a new path or trail can help to break up the monotony of your training. Changing up your path could also mean signing up for a destination race.

Running under the cherry blossom trees in D.C. is something to experience, as is running through Central Park. Signing up for a race in a new city or on new terrain could work wonders for getting you out of a rut. Foregoing your typical city streets may be just what you need to feel refreshed and excited about your routine. While we can't change up our runs every time, just giving yourself the occasional change may help.

4. Tired of your distance

Maybe long-distance is your thing. Maybe you've run a handful or even dozens of half-marathons or full marathons. Have you considered training for a 5K or 10K? If you're running simply for pleasure, and not necessarily with a time goal in mind, you may notice that trying for a certain time in a shorter race comes with a new type of training. The speedwork and time on the track may be just the change of pace you need.

Also, if you typically only run shorter races, you may have the same problem. When you're putting up too many high-intensity workouts, you may be tired or achy. So, consider slowing all the way down. Even if you're not changing your distance, a change of intensity can make the difference.

5. Not having the right training plan

You may not be getting faster, or you may just be going out and running 20–30 miles a week with no aim. Maybe you're following the training plan of your friends. However, not everyone can (or should) put up the same number of miles per week. Instead, work with a coach who can help tailor a training plan to your body and needs.

Bonus points if they can keep you guessing week after week. A quality running coach might not even share your workouts with you until a few days before, and that element of surprise can keep you from overthinking and talking yourself out of your tasks.

6. Running without (or with) music

So many people say they prefer to run without music, but don't feel like that has to be your thing. If you prefer tunes but your playlist is getting stale, consider a podcast or audiobook. The thought of running with no music might spook you, but it could also set you free and allow you to take in your surroundings.

7. Forgetting your why

It may sound cliché, but if you started running for sobriety, weight loss, to help you through a difficult time, or many other reasons, take a look at how far you've come with the sport and with your own challenges.

Running has carried you pretty far, and not just mileage-wise. Along the way, it may have been your place to sort through problems or resolve conflicts in your head. It may have given you more confidence. Think about where you started and where you are now. Do you really want to stop?

Instead of allowing running challenges to stop you, make an action plan that addresses the mental and/or physical barriers preventing you from enjoying your runs.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

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Written By
Tonya Russell
Tonya Russell with her hands on her hips

I’m a journalist, fit chick, and avid traveler, and I often combine the three. If I’m not training for a marathon, I’m probably hiking with my dogs or riding a horse (English style). I hail from Southern NJ, which means I’m an Eagles fan, not a Giants fan.