There can also be a litany of reasons why running doesn't feel particularly good for a day or a stretch of time. "When someone has a really bad run, I usually ask them a litany of questions," says Forsman. "'Did you sleep well last night? Are you really stressed out at work right now? Are things going OK at home or in your relationship? Are there other stressors?' You can't discount these things—they make running harder."
Don't Run Too Much, Too Soon
Coach Forsman has his beginning and intermediate runners follow training plans where the runner doesn't usually run on consecutive days, but rather he or she takes a day of rest or cross-training between run days.
Cardiovascular cross-training, such as cycling, walking, pool running, elliptical or other machines at a gym, builds aerobic fitness without the impact of running. Strength-based cross-training, such as weight lifting, Pilates, resistance training and strength interval classes (make sure to make necessary modifications based on your abilities in these types of classes), builds strength and can also improve your aerobic fitness. Cross-training will make you stronger and more fit, which will in turn make running easier. It will also give your body a physical break from the pounding while still giving you calorie-burning benefits, and it'll give your brain a break from the monotony of running.
Mixing cross-training and rest between running days is a sound approach for beginners because this schedule gives the body time to adapt to the stress of running, and prevents newbies from running too many miles before their bodies are ready for more.
If beginners struggle a lot during their runs, Forsman puts them on a regimented run/walk plan. "Running is just like walking, only faster," says Forsman. Strap on a watch, run for one minute, then walk for one minute. When that becomes manageable, bump up the run interval to two minutes, with a one-minute walk break, then up to three minutes, and so on.
Warm Up Properly
Many runners complain that running doesn't start to feel good until 30 minutes or 3 miles or so into the run. But, if you're a beginner whose goal is 3 miles or 30 minutes, does that mean you're doomed to feel miserable until you graduate to more miles or time on your feet?
Not at all. Simply add a warm-up to your regimen to prime your body to run. "Maybe that's 5 to 10 minutes of walking followed by dynamic range of motion drills," advises Forsman. "A warm-up that's 15 to 20 minutes may seem like a lot, but getting the heart rate elevated and warming up the muscles you'll use for running can help make the actual run less uncomfortable."
Cool Down and Recover Properly
Cooldowns shouldn't be reserved for intermediate or advanced runners after completing workouts or long runs. Beginners should get into the habit of bringing down the heart rate through walking, stretching and foam rolling after each run. "Ingest something with a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio like chocolate milk," says Forsman. "Make sure you're well hydrated before, during and after your runs. And do some foam rolling. It will help flush out the lactic acid, toxins and other crap that can accumulate in your legs.
"New runners' bodies are struggling to adapt to the new activity, and these little things are extremely important. It's also about recovering from the run you just did so you feel better on your next run."
Run With Others Who Hold You Accountable
"It's very hard for someone who is brand new to the sport to get into it on his own. It hurts—it just does. It's a tough, tough sport," says Forsman. "But, running with a group will give you a casual accountability, the feeling that you belong to a team, and that you're not going through this alone."
Go for group runs hosted by your local running shoe store, join a charity fundraising group, hire a coach who manages a local running team or recruit friends and family members to start running with you. Not only will you have like-minded individuals who understand what you're going through to commiserate with, but you'll also have people to answer to when your motivation lags.