After you’ve been running for a while, it’s easy to fall into a rut where every run feels more difficult and slower. The truth is that there are a lot of factors that can make your runs feel harder, that have little to do with your muscular or cardiovascular fitness. Here are five easy steps you can take to make your next run feel easier and speedier.
Many runners hit the road on empty, in the hopes that they’ll increase their calorie burn and their weight loss. But heading out without any fuel, you risk running out of your energy before you finish your workout. You’ll have more energy to run faster and last longer if you have a small carb-rich snack before you go. Aim for a 100 to 200-calorie wholesome, low-fiber, low-fat snack at least 30 minutes before you head out. Quinoa, oatmeal, bananas, yogurt, sweet potatoes, or apples are all great choices. To avoid GI distress, make sure it has less than 10 grams total of fiber and fat per serving.
Even modest dehydration can slow you down, and make an easy run feel harder. So make sure you’re hydrated. Aim to drink half your body weight in calorie-free fluids each day. So if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for 70 ounces of water per day. If you weigh 180 pounds, aim for 90 ounces per day. Avoid trying to chug all these fluids right before you run. That could lead to a sloshy feeling in your stomach. Instead, try to sip fluids throughout the day every day.
When you’re on the road, and you start to feel tired and discouraged, do a body scan. It’s very common to tense up areas of your body that sap the strength you need to run your best. Unknot your brow. Unclench your jaw and smile. Bring your shoulders down away from your ears. Loosen your fists. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Take a big breath, inhaling through your belly and letting out a big breath through your mouth. Repeat this a few times until you start to feel calmer. Imagine your legs moving underneath you like pistons.
Find a way to talk back to the negative voices in your head that say ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I’m slow,’ and ‘I want to stop now.’ You can’t prevent those waves of negative thinking from crashing in. But you can devise strategies to swim through them. Conjure up a memory or mantra that that will help you remind you of how strong you are. Think of the last time you set a personal best. Reflect on friends and family members who are inspired by your running feats. Remember a task that felt intimidating that you ultimately faced and conquered. Have songs or books at the ready that energize you and make you feel inspired to run faster.