Running That Doesn't Suck

How to Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)


By Lisa Jhung

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Running doesn’t have to suck. Ease yourself into a comfortable routine (promise!) with this hilarious and approachable guide to workouts and nutrition from an experienced athlete.

We’ve all side-eyed the chipper runners jogging by in their short-shorts and “Fun Run”-finisher tops and felt a little envious. How do they get out there and do it every day? How did they become Runners? Though it’s theoretically one of the most natural sports for humans, the general response to running tends to be, “It’s hard. It sucks. I wish I could do it.”

If you want to enjoy running, this helpful and humorous guide will get you started, keep you going, and teach you to “embrace the suckiness” (Hint: You don’t have to run at 6 a.m. and you definitely don’t have to wear short-shorts). You’ll also find body maintenance tips, nutritional guidance, and running etiquette pointers. And, when you’re feeling discouraged, Jhung’s down-to-earth advice will help you stay motivated and confident.

With smartly organized chapters that you can read in any order, this book includes insights from professional runners, sports psychologists, coaches, physical therapists, and Jhung’s own two-decade writing and running career. Whether you’re looking for inspiration or setting specific goals, this book has everything you need to get hooked on the sport.


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No, this book is not fiction. Running doesn’t have to suck. But first things first. How do you currently feel about running?

It sucks.

I hate it.

It hurts.

It’s boring.

I’m afraid of it.

I wish I could do it.

I do it, but I hate it.

I want to love it.

All of the above. (Duh.)

Rest assured, you will feel differently about the negative answers—and closer to achieving the wishes and wants—even by the time you get to here of this book. And you’ll feel better still by the time you get to the end. Promise.

No matter what you answered above, Running That Doesn’t Suck is for you. It’s also for your friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, CrossFit buddy, yoga classmate, parent or teacher at your kids’ school, or anyone you know who says they wish they liked running, but they hate it. (Go ahead and buy this book for them, too, to change their life.)

Running is hard. It hurts, especially at first. And it can hurt the second, third, fourth, and tenth time you try it if it’s brand new to you, or if you’ve been forcing yourself to do it in a way that isn’t true to who you are (see quiz here!). But, for real, less suckiness can be achieved. Set out on a run using the tips in this book, and soon your perception of running will change. And then, magic: your body will hit a new gear. Your breathing will actually sync with the movement of your feet and your arms, and your brain will be loving your body for giving it a taste of that runner’s high you thought was a myth.

And your body will be loving your brain for making you go.

Why do I know this? Because I love running, but I used to hate it. In high school, my hatred of running turned me into a sneak. I was on the track-and-field team, but as mostly a high jumper, and those big foam pits you land on after jumping over the high jump bar? They work great as hideout bunkers for teenagers who don’t want to jog the two-lap team warm-up.

I played volleyball and soccer and had no problem chasing after a ball. On the track team, I did some sprinting and hurdling races, with the sight of a finish line no more than a hundred or two hundred yards away. But running any sort of long distance? I thought it sucked.

The summer before college, I had to change my ways. I planned on trying to walk on to my college volleyball team, and the coach had told me we had to run a sub-seven-minute timed mile.

Having been a California kid who’d grown up loving the beach, I figured I’d head down to Twenty-Fifth Street in Del Mar with my running shoes. (Any excuse to go to the beach.) I thought, I’m an athlete; I can do this.

I made it, maybe, to Twenty-Third Street. Two blocks.

I stopped, exasperated, exhausted, and annoyed. I walked a little. Then I looked down the beach and thought, Make it to the next lifeguard tower, which was another three blocks away. I don’t think I made it that day without walking. But I kept going back, always eager to get to the place I loved, apprehensive about how far I’d get without having to walk.

On one of those early runs, I figured out to run down on the hard-packed sand, where the water laps the shore and creates a much harder—springy, even—surface than the deep stuff. And on one of those runs, I made it to that next lifeguard tower at Twentieth Street, then Seventeenth Street (eight whole blocks from where I started!). And I had a new goal: to make it to the next lifeguard tower, which was about two miles away on the next beach south.

That summer, I learned to love running. I started pushing my pace, trying to beat the setting sun. Make it to that pile of seaweed before the sun dips fully into the horizon. I got faster; I craved the motion of running. I made it to the tower on the next beach over and back, regularly. I went off to college, ran that sub-seven-minute mile, and walked on to the volleyball team. In fact, I ran the mile a lot better than I fared playing volleyball, and when I walked off the team that spring, I kept running.

Decades and thousands of miles later, I’ve spent years as a contributing editor to Runner’s World and have been a running and outdoor sports journalist for twenty years. I’ve interviewed elite runners, amateur runners, running coaches, physiologists, sports psychologists, gait analysis experts, scientists studying effects of running, running specialty store owners and employees, running gear designers, and extraordinary folks of all sorts spanning the wide world of running. Over the course of my career, I’ve researched and written about everything from how to improve your speed, form, and joy while running to what to wear in virtually every degree of temperature, to the proper etiquette in nearly any running scenario you might find yourself in. I’ve written a trail running book called Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running. I’ve run and raced and adventured around the world, and the blissfully simple movement of running is part of my identity. It’s part of my soul. But I didn’t always love it, and I’m on a mission to help others find the joy in it that I have.

I want to help you decode running, to stop being afraid of it, to stop hating it. It really doesn’t have to suck. In fact, running can be awesome—you can love it!—if you approach it the right way.

This book is your key to unlocking that approach.


You may currently hate all runners, their short shorts and sports bras or nerdy singlets making you cringe. Runners tend to say things like “Running changed my life!” and “I feel so much better after I run!”—to which you may want to retort with things your mother probably wouldn’t approve of.

That’s okay. And also, don’t worry—you don’t have to wear split shorts and singlets (although you can if you want to). You’ll see in Chapter 4 that running gear comes in all shapes and forms, from hipster cool to yoga-turned-running to full-on running geek. And you can talk about running however you want.

You probably also get tired of answering the question “Do you run?” with your go-to “Only if I’m being chased” line. Or you say something like “Running doesn’t agree with this body,” while you present your body with dramatic hand motions.

Maybe you have a bad association with running. Your junior high PE coach made you run laps for talking too much in class, or maybe you’ve tried to shed pounds by forcing yourself to run and it either didn’t work or left a bad taste in your mouth (though perhaps that was the fat-free muffin you were making yourself eat). Maybe you think you will forever equate running with something negative.

But like any psychologist will tell you, it’s healthy to embrace your emotions. It’s okay to say you hate running, to admit that you think it sucks. But in doing so, know that you’re one step away from changing how you feel about running. You’re closer to moving past the “hate” emotion. And you will move past it with the pages of this book.

Read on. Your attitude toward running is about to change.


Think about the things in your life you look forward to doing. (Picture anything, even the perverted stuff. No one can see inside your brain.) Now think about how awesome it would be if running could become something you looked forward to doing. An activity you crave in mind, body, and spirit. Then it no longer becomes, Ugh, I have to go work out, but rather, What time can I blow out of work so I can go run? You no longer have to self-motivate. Your newfound love of running is motivating enough.

A 2016 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that positive emotional reactions to certain types of exercise have a direct correlation to people sticking to that exercise long term.

This may sound obvious: Find a form of exercise you enjoy, and you’ll stick with it. But so many people choose something they think they have to do to get fit, and they end up quitting because it just wasn’t fun.

If you’ve picked up this book and have chosen running as your new form of exercise, or want to change your attitude about running for any reason at all, something inside you wants to love it. Keep reading, and this book will teach you how to love it.


You may be reluctant to call anything you do, or have done in the past, “running.” That’s nonsense. Own it. Positive self-talk can do wonders. Here’s what makes you a “runner” who can call what you do in a forward motion “running.”

» RUNNING. That’s what will make you a runner. Whether it’s a half mile, a bunch of sprints on a football field, or five miles as fast as you can or as slow as anyone can imagine, you put one foot in front of the other in a pace faster than a walk, and you’re a runner.

» SHUFFLING. If you don’t consider your current form of running anything more than shuffling, you are now permitted to refer to your shuffling as running.

» RUN/WALKING. Heading out and walking for a good chunk of your “run”—even running for just thirty seconds at a time interspersed with walking breaks—makes you a runner. See here for training plans that combine running and walking.


Knowing yourself well is the key to successfully navigating so many aspects of life. Know girls’/boys’ nights out are overwhelming to you? Don’t go, and catch up with your friends in small groups. Know you shouldn’t lead a work meeting unless you drink a double espresso? Head to the coffee shop and start pounding.

If you’ve tried to become a runner in the past but got frustrated and quit somewhere in the process, chances are you were forcing yourself to run in ways—times of the day, locations or types of surfaces, in certain company—that didn’t mesh well with your personality.

For instance, if you’re the type of person who craves nature, forcing yourself to run on concrete or on a treadmill likely won’t make you fall in love with running, but trail running would. And if you’re a gym rat or ex–field sport athlete who loves going fast for short amounts of time, running track intervals with a running club might be the perfect scenario for you.

Knowing yourself—and acting on that knowledge—transcends all when it comes to making running not suck. To home in on what might work best for you in your pursuit of learning to love running, take the “Know-Thyself-to-Become-a-Runner” quiz here.

The rest of the book will unlock wisdom and advice to help you set your unique self up for successful, non-sucky running.


After the ever-so-valuable “Know-Thyself-to-Become-a-Runner” quiz here, this book is broken down into ten chapters that you do not need to read in order. Your answers to the quiz will direct you to certain chapters for more information on specific topics, and the rest of the book serves up further information and advice that can help anyone love running more. Seriously.

Feel free to flip to a specific chapter—like when you’re looking for a no-nonsense guide on what running shoes to buy (here) or a good stretch to coax a certain ache to go away (here), or read this cover to cover for an overall shift in how you approach—and more important, perceive—running. (Plus, inspiration and jokes.)

In the pages to come, you’ll discover why, with what, with whom, where, and specifically how running can work for you. You’ll learn how to take care of your body so you don’t break down (and so you can’t use that as an excuse to quit). You’ll discover why your knees (and other body parts) might hurt and how to make them stop hurting. You’ll learn about nutrition, etiquette, and setting flexible goals.

But this is not your standard beginner’s running book. It is not normal. Because we are acknowledging off the bat, here and now, that you currently hate the feeling—and maybe even the thought of—moving your feet one in front of the other, slightly off the ground one at a time.

In fact, the following chapters are broken down by reasons you might have for hating running, then go on to turn those negative feelings on their heads. We’ll zap each one until you’re out of excuses reasons.

Yes, the following pages will help you find that love of running. You no longer have to dread it, or hate it, or swear every time the word running comes up. You can love it. It doesn’t have to suck.

A little self-knowledge can go a long way and can help set you up for success. This quiz will help start you on your path to becoming someone who loves running. For real.

1. Are you a morning person?

YES. Consider running first thing in the morning.

NO. Don’t force yourself to run first thing in the morning, or you’re bound to hate it. Schedule your run for later in the day.

For more on how to successfully get out the door any time of day, see Chapter 2.

2. If you don’t work out first thing in the morning, will you freak out all day that you haven’t gone?

YES. Run in the morning so you’re more pleasant to be around all day.

NO. Run whenever you can, and revel in your easygoing nature.

For more on managing your time (and digestive system) to run at any time of day, see Chapter 2.

3. Do you suffer from high stress or are prone to anxiety?

YES. Consider running later in the day to help blow off steam, mitigate anxiety, and help you fall asleep by clearing your mind.

NO. Run whenever, you lucky bastard.

For yet even more on running all times of the day, see Chapter 2.

4. Are you an introvert?

YES. Run with others sometimes, but set aside some runs for just you and your thoughts. You’ll learn to cherish—and crave—that kind of alone time… in motion.

NO. Pair up with a running buddy or running group for social motivation. And if you loved playing team sports as a kid, consider joining a running club.

For more on the pros and cons of running with partners, clubs, groups, or dogs, or running solo, see Chapter 5.

5. Are you an animal lover or natural-born caregiver?

YES. Consider running with a dog. The caregiver in you will be motivated by your dog’s need for exercise.

NO. You selfish jerk. Just kidding. Try not to spit on the squirrels you pass by when you run by yourself.

For more on running with a dog, see Chapter 5.

6. Are you a nature lover?

YES. If you love being outside—hiking, gardening, bird-watching, mountain biking, or doing other activities related to dirt—try trail running (especially if road or treadmill running doesn’t do it for you).

NO. If you’re more inspired by the thought of logging meditative—or just plain fast—miles on the roads, or if you want to ease into running in the comfort of your gym, kick off your running there.

For more on where to run to never be bored, see Chapters 2 and 3.

7. Are you supercompetitive?

YES. You’ll likely be inspired by socially competitive apps or races. Just wait until you’re a few months in to start comparing yourself to others, or you might get pissed off and lose motivation. Also, envision yourself racing once you get used to running. Your competitive self will eat that shit up.

NO. Stay away from stopwatches and said apps, and consider jumping into races for fun and motivation, even when you’re just starting out. (But don’t think you need to race to be a runner. You don’t.) Seek out training apps that log your progress and map your runs instead of apps that compare your runs to other people’s.

For more on training/competitive apps, see Chapter 4. For more on racing, see Chapter 10.

8. Are you driven by technology?

YES. You’re in luck. There is an insane number of techy wrist computers that track everything from pace, to foot strike, to distance, to how well you sleep. You’ll find motivation in getting one of these things and geeking out.

NO. For you, simplicity rules. Consider going running without even a wristwatch, and listen to your body. Go by feel. You don’t need to tech-out to be a runner.

For more on options for what to wear on your wrist, see Chapter 4.

9. Are you a music lover or podcast fan, or can you never find enough time to listen to audiobooks?

YES. One word: headphones! Throw on a pair of headphones, and hit the road. Pump music that fires you up, learn something fascinating during a podcast, or “read” a book while you run.

NO. You may also have answered yes to number 6, in which case you’ll likely prefer the sounds of birds chirping, wind rustling, and leaves crunching beneath your feet, and the rhythm of your own breath. Leave the headphones at home and consider running in nature for inspiring, meditative ambient sound.

See Chapters 4 and 5 for more on headphones (and safety precautions for running while wearing them), and music player/phone-carrying devices.

10. Are you intimidated by where to run?Are you intimidated by where to run?

YES. That’s totally okay. If the thought of exploring your neighborhood or a trail solo and by foot freaks you out, run with a friend or a club. If you’d prefer the predictable, hit a track or treadmill.

NO. Embrace your inner explorer. Running new routes—whether they’re in a city you’re visiting or in your own neighborhood can open up a world of possible running routes and be extremely motivating.

Turn to here for how to find a running club and here for how find a running partner. For track and treadmill survival guides see here, and check out Chapters 2 and 5 for how to safely explore while you run.

You get an A+ for answering the above questions honestly and getting one step closer to actually enjoying running. Maybe some of these options even got you excited to try a different approach to becoming the runner you want to be. Get ready to really discover what will work best for you to make running not suck, once and for all.

With knowing thyself being the master key that unlocks a new world of non-suckiness, the following chapters will give you ten actionable keys to unlock individual doors to success. Whenever you see this, know that there is a pearl of wisdom wrapped up into four words or less that will help you start loving running. Really. The ten keys will be discussed in the chapters ahead.


Sure, there are a million body benefits to running, blah, blah, blah, that we’ll get to later. But what if your main reason for becoming a runner was how it makes you feel instead of how it makes you look?

How awesome would it be to approach running like a kid—to want to run because it’s fun? Or to actually crave running because the steady, rhythmic motion makes you feel good? Even a short run can change your mood for the better, reset your day, and help you make big decisions purely because you’re in motion and your brain works differently on a run than when you’re sitting at your desk. Focus on how running can make you feel, and the body benefits will come. That mind shift alone will make running way more appealing—and maybe even a little easier.


The notion of the mind-body connection in today’s psychology circles means that the mind and body are linked and can affect each other—for the worse, like in the case of stress-induced illnesses, but also for the better, like how improved posture can boost confidence. And since running can give you greater feelings of self-worth, an enhanced mood, and more energy, there’s an inverse relationship at play, too. These benefits make up the elusive, oft-touted runner’s high that’s a big part of getting—and keeping—you hooked.


ELATION: Short term

HAZARDS: Bad for your health. Spend all your money on drugs. Hangover is terrible.


ELATION: Long term.



Maybe you’ve heard about the runner’s high, but as far as you’re concerned, it’s an elusive load of hoo-ha a running gear company made up to get you to buy stuff.

The runner’s high is the crack runners seek. The feeling runners crave. The high that gets some runners out the door at 5:00 a.m., day after day, or that motivates a runner to change clothes at lunchtime to return to work with dried sweat in his hair. It’s the euphoria that sends a mom of four to the garage for a treadmill run after her kids are in bed.


The runner’s high is also very real. Its power can be attributed to these elements:


It’s well known at this point that when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. And studies suggest that the more endorphins released into the brain due to running, the better subjects felt.

What are endorphins? The very word is made up of the root words endogenous (coming from within an organism) and morphine (a pain medication). Basically, they’re natural painkillers your body makes itself. Pretty cool.



  • "Jhung doesn't promise that running will turn you into a euphoric gym bunny....She says it won't suck. And it didn't. At no point did I feel talked down to or foolish; the whole tone is very friendly and you truly get the sense that Jhung is on your side."
  • "Appropriately enough, Running That Doesn't Suck is a book that doesn't suck. In fact, it is the opposite of sucky -- a punchy, perfect blend of wit, inspiration, and nitty-gritty tips and advice, all delivered in plain English. Lisa Jhung comes across as a guru, a coach, a cheerleader, and your favorite running buddy, all rolled into one."—Mark Remy, creator of and author of The Runner's Rule Book

On Sale
Jul 9, 2019
Page Count
240 pages
Running Press

Lisa Jhung

About the Author

Lisa Jhung has been a journalist in the outdoor industry for 20 years, writing about adventure, running, endurance, and outdoor sports and the gear that goes with them for multiple magazines such as: Cosmopolitan, Fitness, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Mental Floss, Outside, Runner’s World, SELF, SHAPE, and more. Jhung is a contributing editor to Runner’s World and is the author of Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running.

Learn more about this author