Ways to make running feel easier

A rewarding aspect of running is seeing your progress. Every day that you get out there (no matter how fast you go), your body is getting stronger, you're building stamina, and your runs will become easier. In addi-tion to the advice on good running form, here are more ways to make running a little easier.

Get a good night's sleep. Everything feels better when you're well rested, and your body will perform better. When you sleep, your body goes into intensive repair mode, so you'll be ready to perform at your best the next day. But if you're not getting enough sleep, your body doesn't have time to make all the repairs, which makes it more likely you'll feel pain or discom-fort. Research even suggests that a lack of sleep could contribute to more pain.

Take belly breaths. You'll take in more oxygen with deep breathing (belly breathing) than if you take shallower breaths from your upper chest. And with more oxygen in circulation, your muscles won't fatigue as fast. To learn belly breathing, lie faceup with one hand on your navel. As you inhale, expand your belly, pulling more air down into the lower part of the lungs. Your hand should rise as your belly expands. As you exhale, contract your belly and push the air out so your hand falls. Practice this (lying down or sitting) two or three times a day, taking at least 10 breaths each time, and try it while you run. If you start panting during your run or notice your shoulders and chest are going up and down, you're chest breathing. Slow to a walk, catch your breath, and try again.

Slow down. Out of breath? Side stitch? Discom-fort or pain? Decrease your pace to a walk. As you feel better, gradually get back up to speed. Muscle aches and even some joint pain are normal in the begin-ning—as long as they don't last for more than a day or two. If the pain doesn't go away or recurs more often than not, it's time to get it checked out.

Get a little rhythm. Music has been shown to inspire exercisers to go longer. Remember the theme song from Rocky? Or Chariots of Fire? Or maybe Garth Brooks, Elton John, or Florence and the Machine is more your style. Any upbeat tunes can add energy to your steps and keep you motivated. Start with songs that have a slower beat to warm up, then choose higher-energy ones for the middle of your run, and finish with a slower, relaxing tune. Just remember to keep the volume low and (if you're outside) use only one earbud, to stay alert to your surroundings.

For more information on how to achieve and enjoy the lasting health and fitness benefits of running, check out A Beginner's Guide to Running, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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