When Will Running Start Feeling Easier?

by Sarah Wassner Flynn
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When Will Running Start Feeling Easier?

Running, in its purest form, may just be the simplest, most effective, least-fussy way to boost your fitness and lose weight. There’s no extra equipment (aside from your shoes), no specific schedule (you can run whenever), and no experience necessary (almost anyone can run, even if it’s just a mile or two.)

That’s not to say that running is easy.

If you’ve ever laced up a pair of sneakers and trotted around the block, you know that the act of running can initially feel like an assault on your body. There are those creaky knees to contend with and a racing heart rate, and that’s before you wake up sore the next day. And it’s no wonder you feel it: Experts say that for every pound you weigh, your legs absorb about four times that with each foot strike. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 600 pound of force on your knees, legs and feet!

But, as Bruce Springsteen sings, “baby, we were born to run.” And the more you do it, the easier it will get. Honest. Don’t believe us? We had Kellie Redmond, a longtime runner and a high school track coach in the Washington, D.C. area, weigh in on ways to get on the path to pain-free running.

Ease Into Running

Like any new venture you attempt, practice makes perfect. Or, in the case of running, practice lessens the pain.

“New runners will certainly experience all-over soreness,” says Redmond. “That’s to be expected, but if you’re following a smart program, your body will adapt.” It may not happen from one run to another, but give it a couple of weeks, and that tight calf or that sore knee may seem like less of an insurmountable challenge and more of an insignificant niggle.

While you may notice more muscle definition in your legs or that you’re able to slide into those skinny jeans after a few months, what you can’t see is the effects running has on the inner workings of your body—and your tolerance for pain.

“A lot of things happen to your body as you run more and get more fit. Your muscles create more mitochondria and capillaries, your muscle fibers and your joints and connective tissue all get stronger, and your muscles are better able to process lactate,” says Redmond. “All in all, you become faster, stronger and more efficient—and able to handle more pain.”

Give it a Rest

Even if you’re amped to make running a regular part of your routine, it’s still smart to choose a schedule that will give you plenty of time to recover. Rotate your running days with recovery (that’s cross-training or taking the entire day off) to give those legs time to rest and refresh—and help you stay injury-free.

A good rule of thumb? Shoot for at least three rest days a week when you’re first starting out. Then, the more you progress in your training, you can increase your mileage and pace, but you should always keep those off days (from running) in the rotation. And no matter if you’re running hard or taking it easy, make sure to factor in time for stretching and foam rolling trouble spots post-run to stay injury-free.

Running Pain: What’s Normal, What’s Not

While tight and sore muscles tend to be part of the program when you first start (and as you ramp up training), you do want to make sure you’re paying attention to any acute or nagging pain that may indicate a running-related injury.

Redmond tells her athletes that if they can point to a very specific spot that hurts, as opposed to a general area, then it’s probably something to keep an eye on. “It’s concerning if I hear, ‘This spot right here’ versus ‘My whole leg hurts,’” she says.

If you have acute or nagging pain, take three days off from running, and rest your legs as much as possible. Apply ice to the area a few times a day for 10-15 minutes each time, and use a foam roller to reduce inflammation and loosen tight muscles.

“If it still hurts after that, check in with a doctor,” recommends Redmond. An orthopedist or sports medicine doctor should be able to look at any biomechanic imbalances you have to determine the root of the pain and how to address it. Often, it’s something as simple as needing more supportive shoes or orthotics (which stabilize your feet in your shoes), but tackling the problem early will prevent it from leading to a sidelining injury.

Check Your Head

Whether you’re determined to cross the finish line of your first fun run, or aiming to become a marathoner, you should go into that goal with the acceptance that running is—and always will be—a challenge.

Professional runners may make clicking off 5-minute miles look like no big deal, but trust us: It’s just as tough for them to get through their runs as it is for you. The good news? You will get used to running the more you do it, but: “going into it knowing that there will be easy days and hard days will help you mentally prepare for the process,” says Redmond.

Her recommendation for staying motivated? Find a training buddy to help you muscle through those tough days. “Having someone else to talk through your concerns and issues is a huge help,” she says. “And if you’re both hurting, you can pick each other up.”

Prefer to run solo? Track your progression in a running log or online, making sure to take notes of the times any pain pops up. That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how your body reacts when you ramp up your running. Plus, says, Redmond, “Seeing all of your accomplishments laid out in front of you is like a nice pat on the back for all of your hard work. It makes all the difference in the world.”

Related

  • Do runners ever reach a point where running that first mile is as easy for them as walking that first mile? I’ve been running a minimum of three days a week for 2 years now, and still find myself ready to take a walk break after about the first half mile (I don’t do it, but it concerns me that I feel like I want to).

    • Anna Cordeiro

      I know folks who run ultra marathons and the like who HATE that first mile – I only run 5 and 10 k’s and I hate the first mile, too. Science says that it takes about a mile for your body to acclimate to what you are doing (heart rate, oxygen intake, blood flow etc), so I think we might just be stuck with it.

      • Stephanie

        First mile? I hate the first quarter mile to the point where I’m convinced I just can’t do this anymore! And yikes! I’ve been running seven or eight years. But it is very heartening to know I’m not the only one and will indeed just suck it up! BTW, I recently started swimming and the first lap or two are every bit as bad as the first mile (or in my case, quarter mile) of running.

      • Brian Pemberton

        Do you do warm-ups (stretches, lunges, short bursts at increasing pace, etc)? If your body is properly warmed-up, that first mile is a lot easier.

    • Philip Rollins

      I think so, I’ve just recently added running but I’ve done cardio intense workouts namely Insanity: The Asylum (olympic athletes use it) and over the course of the program (30 days) you do get to a point where you feel like you could do a double that’s coming up from not being able to finish one on day one. @anna_cordeiro:disqus perhaps you should Incorporate a warm-up and stretch to prepare your body for action, I aim for a small (5-10 minutes) yoga session pre-run and I find the first mile like the second and third just easier.

    • Tamara Partridge

      I think it’s pretty normal. I trained for a 1/2 marathon last year and will be training for another 1/2 and full this year. My walking urge doesn’t go away until I kick into auto-pilot around mile 2-3. I wish it were only a mile for me!

  • Mark Du Ree

    I’ve been running for 7 years, and that first half mile is always the hardest, but I started running at 46…I’m 53 now. After that first half mile, on a good day I’ll feel like I’m flying. On a bad day, my legs feel like bricks. And by the way, if you feel like you need to take a walk break, do it. I do it on days that I feel I need them, especially if I’ve had to be away from my running program for 10 days or more due to illness or injury. My walk breaks are typically just 30-50m, every half mile to a mile, depending on how long I’ve been out or how far I intend to go, etc, but usually that’s all I need to get ready to go again. On 10-13 mile runs I’ll sometimes walk 100m per kilometer. There is no shame in walk breaks, esp if they help you.

  • Angie Tawfilis

    Does anyone else’s ears hurt when jogging? Sometimes my ears hurt so bad that I get headaches and I get dizzy. And thus, I’ve practically given up on running. Any consolation?

    • Keithkeith

      I bet your holding your breath ? Try focusing on your breathing it will also take your mind off the running and it gives you a boost of energy

      • Angie Tawfilis

        Thank you!

      • Angie Tawfilis

        I probably am! thanks!

    • Meg

      Are you drinking enough water? If you are dehydrated, you may get those headaches. You need to drink at least half your body weight in ounces on a regular day that you aren’t running so if you are running you should drink even more. Take your weight, divide by 2 and drink that many ounces. You’ll have to go potty frequently at first but your body will adjust. Also, need to eat enough calories or “fuel” your tank before you can get enough energy to run.

      • Angie Tawfilis

        This has always been tricky for me. I am always less hydrated than I think I am and can’t eat for 3 hours before a workout, regardless of the size of the snack. Thanks though!

    • Heather

      My ears also hurt! I have never smoked, but my lungs always burn when I’d run, too. I’ve always been super athletic and often picked first for teams even before the guys, but running long distance has always been hard on me. I even busted an eardrum during the mile run for my eighth grade presidential fitness run!

    • Holly

      Mine used to hurt so bad that I would stop mid-run! Especially during the winter!! I found that if I jumped right in and immediately started my intense run, then they would hurt so much worse. So what I started doing was a slow warm up. It seemed to really help. Do a brisk 5 minute walk or slow jog to get your blood pumping slowly. During the winter, I warm up inside with jumping jacks or burpees before heading out into the cold to run. Just a thought! Hope it helps!

      • Angie Tawfilis

        Will do. thanks!

    • Christophe Mion

      Careful with dehydration

    • Jeffrey Helm

      I have that problem occasionally. My doctor said I have a sinus issue. What I do is stick to the Flonase inhaler at least once/day. When I’m preparing for a race, I’ll do twice/day until race day. That has worked for me.
      Good Luck.

  • Sb80

    I hate running. I want to love it, but I can’t run more than 2 mins at most without my calves feeling like they have been set on fire. I went to the doc today to have my iron checked (I’ve been extremely low for about 8 months.. Although I’m sure it was longer than that) and m getting tested for diabetes and having my hormones rechecked. I want to like running, but I just can’t do it. And I’m certain it’s not mental… I don’t know what the deal is. 🙁
    I’m not morbidly obese, but I’m overweight and struggling with losing weight.. I hope I can get some answers so maybe rumning/jogging will get a lil easier.

    • Paranormal Skeptic

      Your calves are burning due to lactic acid buildup. Try the C25K program, which eases you in with 1 minute run/4 minute walk, then progresses to the point where you’re running a solid 30 minutes.

  • Keithkeith

    When I first started running I remembered every inch and pebble of the sidewalk after about 3 months I had to think did I run today. I would sprint the last block that built a lot of strength . keep at it it will get easier it won’t feel half the effort

  • Candy

    I just started doing the C25K app (free one) 5 weeks ago and I have lost 8 lbs and I can now run for 5 minutes, which I never could have done week 1. I highly recommend this app (once you have checked with your doctor!), because it motivates you and it’s only 3 times a week. I now run up the stairs and don’t even think about it and I absolutely couldn’t before.

    • Becki Smith

      This app is amazing. I’m almost done for week 8, I’ve lost a stone and and quarter and can run for 28 minutes and feel like I could carry on just fine. Definitely not something I’d ever imagine I could do! I’ve even downloaded the 10k app ready!

    • Valerie

      Great job on the 8 lb loss… Continue working hard and using the app..

    • mheato

      Great job! keep it up! I went through all 8 weeks with that app and just ran my first 5k and just signed up for my second!! Used to be running for a minute would kill me.

      • M

        Can you help me? Where do I get the ap?

        • Derek

          Google play for Android…c25k app…it might say “run double”

        • mheato

          I used C25K couch to 5k from the google app store. you can find them either there or on ITunes. really they all seem to follow more or less the same program so just grab one and follow it and you’ll do great!

    • Paranormal Skeptic

      You’ll be doing 30-straight before too long 🙂

  • eric

    someone said “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster”. I think they said it about biking but the same applies to running. of course, for some of us, it does not get easier and you don’t get faster but at least you are out there.

  • Leah

    I get horrible shin splints and always bow to the pain. Any advise on getting past the pain… and does it eventually go away?

    • Brandon

      You might want to check that you have the correct shoes. Believe it or not we all run differently and there are different types of support to match. If you are just running to get into shape or stay fit I would suggest looking at different types of support insoles for your current running shoes. If you are training for distance or will be running for longer periods of time it would be best to invest in a good running shoe that provides the correct support. You can get advice from different running stores such as Run On and Luke’s locker (stores located in Texas).

    • wendy frasier

      Have someone watch you run and make sure you aren’t striking heal first but more in the middle of your foot… heal first will cause massive problems.

    • Manohar Shintre

      Look at the comments about barefoot shoes above.

  • I don’t know why, but always the 5km to the 7km are nightmare. Every single time.
    After all gets back to normal m

  • Graeme

    The key to running that everyone seems to forget is breathing lol, I’m a smoker and do half hour runs without feeling breathless, a good truck I use is step breathing, breathe in for three strides then out for three strides, long breathes inhale more oxygen then shallow ones, takes a while to do it without thinking but definitely worth it

  • Anya

    Does any one get diarrhea after their run? Every time I run, it happens to me. I try to go to the bathroom before my run, and I still end up having to go.

    • bpuharic

      Happens if I haven’t run for awhile

    • Chloe Kelly

      High movement exercise can speed up digestion there and make you need to go afterwards, but diarrhea sounds excessive – try adding extra fibre to your diet on running days, around 6 hours before running. Maybe some Metamucil or similar? Good luck.

    • Captiva14

      It is the run after the run

  • Edwin

    I’d love to run but I’m constantly getting shin splints. I’ve tried many things to avoid this but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions on that?

    • jet_screamer

      I think the one thing that this article misses is the emphasis on form (instead of just getting more “supportive” shoes). Improper form (i.e. heel-striking) is the cause of many, many running injuries. This is one of the reasons that minimalist shoes grew to be so popular. There is no miracle or secret to minimalist shoes, they just punish you for running in poor form. When you wear minimalist shoes, you are forced to run on the balls of your feet, just as you would naturally do if barefoot. I too suffered from shinsplints when running on pavement, switching to barefoot shoes eliminated that and all of my other problems (knee soreness, ankle soreness, etc.). Again, it wasn’t necessarily the shoes, they just forced me into proper form. Try to concentrate on running on the balls of your feet, and adopt more of a “shuffle” stride instead of an up and down pump…I hope that helps.

      • Manohar Shintre

        Same here – barefoot shoes. I was trying to get into running for last ten years or so. I would start, push through shin splints for a while, and eventually give up. Early last year, I started running in Vibram fivefingers. They forced me to run correctly. I finished the year with my first marathon (not in Vibrams). I have never been athletic. If I could run a marathon, anybody with two working legs should be able to. Just improve your form.

        The only thing I would recommend differently, is to focus on midfoot strike (almost a flat foot strike) instead of running on balls of your feet. If you run on balls of your feet, your tendons and calf muscles will get tired much sooner. If you can strike midfoot, you will have a longer range.

      • Edwin

        I do agree that it’s poor form. What is the balls of your feet? Shuffle form sounds doable so I’ll try that. Thanks for the tips

  • Sarah

    It’s a great app! I’m on week 6 and I’m becoming addicted to running!! I’m almost bummed out when I realize it’s a rest day!!

    • Julie Kelly

      Is it the myfitnesspal app that you are using?

  • Noreen Jivraj

    I always feel that my lungs are about to explode. That I’m not getting enough air in my lungs. I’ve tried the step breathing but haven’t found it helps.

    • Jessie

      When I first started running, that was a big issue for me as well (I also have pretty severe allergies). The big tip I have here is to be persistent, and be patient with yourself. Over time, as my fitness level improved, my lungs stopped being my limitation during my runs, and most of the time I can now run until my legs are tired, rather than stopping because I can’t breathe. When you go running and your lungs start to feel stressed, reduce your pace or walk until your breathing is more comfortable. Eventually it will get easier!

      • Noreen Jivraj

        Many thanks Jessie

  • Jodi Hupp

    Does anyone experience numbness in their feet/toes when they run? If so, will this go away with time or is this something else?

    • Kate Swanberg

      Couple of thoughts. Are your laces or shoes too tight? My shoes and laces need to be just so or I have trouble with my feet. Do you have diabetes? Problems with your blood sugar can lead to neuropathy. If it doesn’t go away you might want to have your doctor evaluate the circulation in your legs.

    • Nikki Tarbert

      I had to buy a wider foot shoe. I found that the Nike Fitsole shoes make my feet feel amazing while running or waking. The arch took a few days for my feet to acclimate but still… Amazing! No more numb toes for me anymore.

  • clclarkson

    This article doesn’t even answer the basic question asked in its headline.

    • SMShb

      Yes it does….the answer is it never gets easier. But the rewards are far more important… and they are way more enjoyable than any other form of exercise in my opinion.

      • clclarkson

        “And the more you do it, the easier it will get.”

        I guess you have a problem reading.

        My initial point still stands. The article theorizes that it will get easier, has a headline that says “WHEN” will it get easier, and then proceeds to completely avoid that question.

        • Carol Greenland Newey

          It can’t give a definitive date – each body is different. But the article does tell you “WHEN” – “It may not happen from one run to another, but give it a couple of weeks, and that tight calf or that sore knee may seem like less of an insurmountable challenge and more of an insignificant niggle.” The more you practice, the stronger you body gets, the easier it gets. There will be days when you feel stronger, but then all of a sudden it may seem harder again – you will need to check to see if maybe you are running a faster pace, running more hills, maybe aren’t feeling well that day, maybe your shoes are old and need to be replaced.
          The same thing happens with walking. Some days it seems like you are dying, but eventually, with practice, it becomes easier.

    • Paranormal Skeptic

      It never gets easier. You get faster.

  • Marie Lynch

    I have been running for about 2 years now and still always end up with a bright red face at the end, any prevention tips. It’s a bit embarrassing especially when others who run the same distance look like they haven’t even run at all 🙁

    • Elisa

      Hello Marie, it’s so funny that you mention the “bright red face” b/c I too end up with a red face. Embarrassingly so, even beet red. I wish I had the answer!

    • Paranormal Skeptic

      Are you perhaps a ginger? Seems like this “problem” afflicts gingers and fair-skinned people.

      I’ve not found anything to prevent it (My wife and son are gingers)… They just seem to accept it.

    • Faye Flatt

      I’m a flush puppy too five minutes into any exercise … I assumed it was because I was out of shape .. it has improved over the last 2 years since I started going to gym but not gone.

  • SarcasticLauren26

    Embarrassing Question Here- I’m very overweight and whenever I run, my butt flops up and down painfully. I’m wondering if wearing spanx or something underneath my workout clothes would help keep “things in place”? Has anyone ever had this problem?

    • DeShai (ShoeCanDoIt)

      Try compression workout pants or shirts. It helps keep everything tight like Spanx would.

  • Harris

    I am a new runner. My legs get very itchy when I run over 15 minutes. When I stop, the itching is so bad that I want to rip my calves off. My legs are not dry and I have tried anti itch spray. Does anyone have this issue or know of a solution?

    • Leydi

      It may have to do with the histamine your body releases upon exercise. I used to get really itchy all over my body when I first started exercising, and now it has completely subdued. Try taking antihistamine, or allergy medication, and see if that helps. Before taking antihistamines, I would ask your doctor if you do have other health ailments or are taking other medications. The itch was temporary for me :)!

  • joyce

    Advice for those with shin splints?

    • Paranormal Skeptic

      Narrow your stride, and slow down. It’s not a race (Really, it isn’t). And, stretch after your runs.

  • Belinda Brine

    Does breathing get easier? When I try running, I get so out of breath it makes me dizzy. Is that normal when starting out?

  • Heather

    Looking for suggestions or a good plan/mobile app to train for a 10K.
    Last year as I was working on digging myself out of my fat suit & aging metabolism I incorporated running. My goal became to run a 5K before I turned fifty, which morphed into can I do 5 – 5Ks before 5oh! Which I did and before the end of the year, my husband & I ran 7 total.
    This year we want to be able to conquer a 10K.
    I am scared and unsure the best way to get to that distance – the furthest I’ve ever run is 3.5 miles. Running is definitely still hard for me – lots of internal negative voices complaining & telling me I can’t. I’m not a fast or strong runner. My husband is slower so it’s hard for us to run together and now he has to be away for ten weeks so I’ve lost my training partner.

    • Charlie

      Congrats on your 5k runs! To get to that 10 goal, just build your endurance a little at a time. You’ve already run 3.5, so go for 3.75, then for 4.0, etc. Just build it a little each week and in a couple of months you’ll be at 6.2. Last year I went from 5k to 1/2 marathon in about 10 weeks by adding one extra mile each week. The first 2 miles of the run are the worst part anyway. After that, your breathing gets better, your body has loosened up and you just have to get used to the longer distances. You’ll make it to 6k in no time. Just keep that goal in front of you and keep pushing toward it.

      • Heather

        Charlie! Hey thanks for taking the time to reply! Appreciate your take on it! I’ve read several things which talk about increasing by 10-15% as the weeks go. I know I dont have the physical stamina yet to do 5-6 miles. 2-3 still feel like work most days ;-). I did come to the realization though that sooooo much of it is mental for me. I can’t figure out or imagine HOW I’m gonna RUN for over an hour?!! I’ve found even w/ other exercise programs – I really like this new breed of 30min workouts. They kick my ass but it’s only 30 min & I’m done. Running for an hour + just seems CraZy!!! But again thanks!! The dog & I were out twice this week in this humidity break!!

  • Iris Simmons

    The first mile is always painful on my legs, it feels like my vains hurt, but after that first mile I am fine. What can I do so that first mile doesn’t feel so bad?

  • Faye Flatt

    Although this articles provided good information on how to begin to run, it didn’t answer the question of when running will start to feel easier 🙁

  • Amanda

    I have always hated running my whole life. I always thought it was the most miserable activity and I could not imagine why anyone would ever torture themselves with it. Plus, it is so boring!! However, when I joined the tennis team in high school and we were required to run before practice, I finally understood! At the end of each semester when we had break, it took about a week, but I started realizing that I was literally CRAVING a run! I couldn’t stand it and I couldn’t understand it but I just assumed my body had become conditioned to it, and that (gasp!) I actually liked it! THE POINT IS, when running while in high school, I was miserable the first year on the team and I think it took me about a month before I actually enjoyed the run and it was easier. When we came back for the second year, it only took me only about 2 weeks for it to become easier again after the long break. I think now that I am older and haven’t run in forever, if I ran at least 4 days a week, it would probably take me about a month for it to start to feel easier. SO ABOUT 2 to 4 WEEKS it should feel easier. HOPE THIS HELPS!!

  • Johnny Young

    something i cant find an appropriate answer to is a breathing related question, im quite fat still but im getting in shape, recently ive started running, ive gotten to the point where i can run for about 12 minutes but when i stop i start to wheeze, im pretty sure its just because im out of shape and not asthma but im not sure