Why Is Running So Hard? Exploring Common Challenges and Solutions

As a runner, I’ve often wondered why running can feel so challenging, even though it’s a natural and instinctive form of movement for our bodies.

In the beginning, factors such as our body not being prepared for the mechanics of running or trying to run too far too soon can lead to a feeling of extreme difficulty, discouragement, and even the temptation to quit altogether.

However, there’s more to it than just being new to the sport.

Other aspects, such as being under the weather, a lack of proper warm-up, low muscle tension, or even limiting beliefs can also contribute to my running experience feeling harder than I would like it to be.

Understanding these factors and finding ways to overcome these challenges is essential for progressing as a runner and making the activity more enjoyable.

By acknowledging and addressing these issues, I can make small adjustments to my routine and mindset that will have a significant impact on the way I perceive the difficulty of running.

Physical Challenges of Running

Impact on Joints and Muscles

Running is a high-impact activity that puts a significant amount of stress on my joints, particularly my knees, hips, and ankles.

The repetitive force of my feet hitting the ground can lead to wear and tear on the joints over time. Additionally, the muscles surrounding these joints can become tight and fatigued, causing discomfort during and after my runs.

To minimize the impact on my joints and muscles, I wear proper running shoes with good cushioning and support. I also try to run on softer surfaces, like grass or trails, whenever possible to reduce the impact.

Cardiovascular Demand

Running demands a lot from my cardiovascular system. When I run, my heart has to pump harder to deliver sufficient oxygen-rich blood to my working muscles. As a result, my heart rate increases, and I can feel it pounding in my chest, especially during intense or long-duration runs.

To improve my cardiovascular endurance, I consistently work on increasing my aerobic capacity through various training methods, like interval workouts or longer, slower runs.

Breathing and Oxygen Consumption

Another challenging aspect of running is maintaining proper breathing and oxygen consumption. When running, especially at faster paces or during longer runs, my body requires more oxygen to meet the increased energy demands. As a result, I need to breathe more deeply and at a faster rate.

At times, I might experience shortness of breath or side stitches, making running feel harder than it should. To improve my breathing and oxygen consumption, I practice deep belly breathing and focus on maintaining a steady rhythm in my breath while running.

This helps me stay relaxed and ensures my muscles receive the oxygen they need to perform optimally.

Mental Barriers to Running

Perceived Effort

One of the main mental barriers I’ve encountered while running is the perceived effort. It can be incredibly challenging when our minds tell us that we’ve reached our limits, making the run feel much harder than it actually is.

According to Tim Noakes, M.D., “it is the brain that allows or limits endurance exercise rather than the body…” Our brains are trying to keep us safe and stop us from overdoing it.

However, it’s essential to push through this mental barrier and distinguish between genuine physical limitations and the perceived effort.

Motivation and Discipline

Maintaining motivation and discipline during a run can also be a significant hurdle. When our drive starts to wane, it can be tempting to give up, making the run harder than it needs to be.

One solution is to find a running partner or join a running group. Studies have shown that buddying up increases your chances of sticking with an exercise routine, as it provides a support system when we’re feeling self-conscious or unmotivated.

Along with motivation, discipline is crucial to pushing past mental barriers. Setting specific running goals can help push us through the tough moments, as we have something tangible to work towards.

Breaking down our overall objective into smaller targets also makes the journey feel more manageable and achievable.

Fear of Injury or Failure

Fear of injury or failure is another common mental barrier that makes running harder. It can be discouraging and demotivating, particularly when we’re pushing ourselves to reach new goals.

Overcoming this fear starts with reframing our mindset and understanding that setbacks are a natural part of progress in any sport or activity. Learning the proper techniques and giving our bodies enough time to recover are essential steps to help prevent injuries and keep us on track.

Ensuring a proper warm-up before every run can also help reduce the risk of injury, as it prepares our muscles for the physical demands of running.

Additionally, improving muscle tension with exercises such as sprints and ice baths can boost our confidence and alleviate some of the fear associated with potential injuries.

Individual Factors Influencing Difficulty

Fitness Level

In my experience, an individual’s fitness level has a significant impact on how challenging running can be. When I first started running, my cardiovascular and muscular endurance was not as developed, making me feel out of breath and fatigued relatively quickly.

As I continued to train and exercise regularly, my body adapted, and running became less strenuous.

It’s also worth noting that people with a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers may find running at a slower pace more challenging than those with predominantly slow-twitch muscle fibers who are better suited for endurance activities.

Age and Health Conditions

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed changes in my body that altered my running abilities.

Reduced flexibility and strength, along with the natural wear and tear on joints, can make running more difficult for older individuals. Additionally, health conditions such as arthritis or respiratory issues can impact one’s ability to run comfortably.

Running Form and Technique

When I first started running, I didn’t pay much attention to my form and technique. However, I quickly learned that an inefficient running form could make the activity more challenging and even lead to injuries.

By focusing on proper alignment, foot placement, and arm movement, I found that my running became more efficient and less stressful on my body.

Moreover, the type of shoes I wear for running also influences the difficulty of the activity. I made sure to find well-cushioned shoes that provide adequate support and shock absorption, which helped reduce the strain on my joints.

Ways to Make Running Easier

There are several key factors that can make running seem easier, even for those who find it challenging. Let’s explore some of these factors and how they may help in improving your running experience.

Gradual Progression and Training Plans

One essential aspect of making running more comfortable is adopting a gradual progression approach. When I first started running, I didn’t push myself too hard or too fast.

Instead, I increased my running distance and speed slowly, giving my body enough time to adapt.

Using a carefully designed training plan is also beneficial. Having a plan ensures that I stay focused while providing structure and guidance throughout my running journey.

Not only does this help me progress at a manageable pace, but it also ensures that I have periods of rest and recovery, reducing the risk of injury and burnout.

Proper Running Gear

Proper running gear is crucial for both comfort and performance. When I run, I ensure that I wear good-quality running shoes with appropriate support for my feet’s shape and running style.

This helps prevent injuries and makes running more comfortable.

In addition, I choose the right attire for different weather conditions. Lightweight, moisture-wicking materials are perfect for hot weather, while thermal gear keeps me warm during colder runs. This way, I stay comfortable and focused during my runs.

Finding Enjoyment and Social Support

It’s important to find enjoyment in running. I try to mix up my running routes and incorporate various environments, such as trails, parks, and urban areas, to keep things interesting. Additionally, I play music or listen to podcasts while running to make the experience more engaging.

Running with friends or joining a running group can also make the experience more enjoyable.

For me, the social aspect of running has been incredibly motivating, and it helps me stay consistent with my training. Sharing my progress and goals with my running partners provides accountability and makes the experience more fun.

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