What If I Hate Running?

How to Learn to Love to Run

Young Woman on Treadmill
juhy13 / Getty

Do you hate running? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most runners—if not all—have had those moments when they’ve really questioned why they started with the sport and wondered if they should stick with it.

But just because you may not be the biggest fan of running doesn’t mean you should miss out on all of its fabulous benefits. If you want to pursue running, follow these tips on how to boost your tolerance for (maybe even start to love!) running. You may not find running fun or enjoyable at first but—stick with it—and you may be on your ways to lots of runner's highs and finish lines.

1. Figure out what you really don’t like. And try to change it. Some people automatically say that that hate running, but may not think about WHY. Do you get bored? Do your legs get tired? Do you get out of breath easily? Do you feel self-conscious about running? Consider the reasons why you may not have liked running in the past and start planning steps to take that will fix those issues.

2. Banish boredom. Even long-time runners admit to getting bored while running, especially when running on the treadmill. But they use strategies to prevent the boredom from getting to them. From listening to music or audiobooks, to doing fun interval workouts, to exploring new running routes, there are so many ways to break up the monotony.

3. Breathe properly. Some new runners give up on running because they can't get into a rhythm and feel like they’re always out of breath. If your breathing is too shallow, you’re not going to feel relaxed, and you may get an annoying side stitch.

To get the maximum amount of oxygen, you should breathe in through your mouth and nose, and out through your mouth. Focus on taking deep belly breaths. You should feel your abdomen expanding, rather than your upper chest. If you feel like your breathing is getting too shallow or feels out of control, slow down or take a walk break.

4. Build your time and distance slowly. Don’t try to do too much too soon. You’ll get discouraged and probably continue to dislike running. Try using the run/walk technique, where you run for a short segment and then take a walk break. As you continue with a run/walk program, try to extend the amount of time you're running and reduce your walking time.

When you’re running, you should be able to breathe very easily and carry on a conversation. Don't worry about your pace per mile—if you can pass the "talk test" and speak in complete sentences without gasping for air, then you're moving at the right speed. Starting out with this type of easy running will help prevent overtraining and overuse injuries. You can focus on increasing your speed once you've built up your endurance, strength, confidence, and—hopefully—enjoyment of running.

5. Strength train. It’s amazing how many people I’ve talked to who have said building more muscle has increased their enjoyment of running. After working on developing better core and leg strength, they say that running feels easier. Many running injuries, especially knee and hip-related problems, develop because of muscle weaknesses or imbalances, so doing regular strength training can help make you more injury-resistant. Try some of these strength-training workouts for runners.

6. Run with others. Running with a group or one buddy is one of the best ways to stay motivated to keep running. You’ll focus more on the enjoyment you get from the social interaction, and hopefully forget that running isn’t your favorite thing. You can also try talking to other runners about why they love running. You may discover positive aspects about running that will increase your enjoyment of the sport and motivate you to keep going. Being a part of a larger running community at large will help you feel more connected to the sport.

7. Build your confidence. Some people don't want to run in public because they think they'll look slow, silly, too fat, too old to other runners or people driving by. Try not to don't worry about what people think, and be proud of yourself for working on improving your health and fitness. Take steps to boost your confidence, like working on the proper running form and getting some running gear so you'll feel more comfortable.

8. Use humor. Humor may help get you motivated to keep going. Whether you dislike running ALL the time or just occasionally find yourself hating it, you may be able to relate to (or at least laugh at) these quotes for those who hate running.

I have some running friends who also like to express their distaste for running with funny T-shirts that say things such as, “I Only Run for Donuts” or "Sloth Running Team. Let’s nap instead." Having a sense of humor about your feelings for running may actually help you warm up to the sport more, as you bond with other runners who admit to having the same thoughts. You'll find that you're not alone and that it's OK to run and not always love it. 

9. Mix things up. If you're always running on the treadmill or the same route all the time, try shaking up your routine by doing some speedwork or play some mind games while you're running. Or try a fun race that's different from a regular 5K, such as a relay race or a mud run.

10. Celebrate your progress. Regular rewards for your running progress will most likely improve your motivation and help you embrace running more. Get yourself some new running gear after you’ve reached a major goal, or celebrate with a massage.

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