Why am I not getting better at running?

If you’ve been asking, “Why am I not getting better at running?” you’re not alone!

Many people feel they are slow or just bad at running, and they can’t seem to improve despite their best efforts.

It’s frustrating.

No one wants to put in time and effort, only to see zero results.

So what can you do?

A few ways to get better at running are obvious. Of course you won’t improve if you’re not running frequently or long enough durations.

But what if you are doing those things?

What are the less common – but still possible – reasons you’re still slow at running?

You’ve got questions, and I’ve got answers!

Keep reading to learn about all the unexpected reasons you’re not getting better at running.


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9 Answers to “Why Am I Not Getting Better at Running?”

1. You’re running too much

Um, what?

The only way to get better at running is to run more…right?

Well, yes. But only to a point.

If you’re running nearly every day, you may not be letting your body recover as much as it requires.

Susan Paul, an exercise physiologist who writes for Runner’s World, notes that rest days provide time for our bodies to recuperate and come back stronger. She adds that “without rest and recovery, we risk over-training syndrome, injury, and burn out.”

If you don’t give your body time to rest, you’re essentially negating all the running work you’ve been putting in.

2. You’re not doing the right types of runs

Running is more than just putting sneakers to pavement each day. If you’re serious about getting faster, you need more strategy.

The best running schedule has variety. It involves a bit more than running the same 4 mile loop each day.

For best results, try a mix of longer runs, shorter runs, hill repeats, and HIIT running workouts.

A combination of different, challenging runs will greatly help your progress.

3. You treat every run like a sprint

If every day you hit the road (and/or trail, track, treadmill) like the guns just went off for the 100 meter dash, it’s no wonder you’re still asking, “Why am I not getting better at running?”

While it’s tempting to push yourself and run quickly – especially if your goal is to get faster – doing so will hinder your endurance.

The best thing to do is keep your long run days slow and limit your faster speeds to shorter runs (and not every day).

It’s okay to purposefully run slow sometimes.

Plus, when you take that need-for-speed pressure off yourself, your runs actually become more enjoyable!

woman runner tired

4. You breathe only through your nose

I first heard of this nose-breathing-only thing back in middle school. I think it was something about breathing through your nose would prevent side cramps??

My brother, now a medaling ultramarathoner, had recommended I give up the practice because you simply can’t get enough air in through your nose during moderate-to-vigorous runs.

He was right.

After trying it out and seeing a lot of improvement, I totally abandoned the nose-breathing practice by my freshman year of high school cross country season.

However, the summer after my freshman year, I was running with a teammate when I realized she also didn’t breathe through her mouth at all. Only through her nose.

I talked to her about it, and she’d heard the same rumor – that it’s supposed to be better to breathe through your nose while running.

I convinced her to stop doing it, and low and behold: she became faster than me the next year!

Now I didn’t know where this weird nose-breathing-only notion came from. So I took to the internet to see if there was any scientifically-proven benefit to breathing only through your nose.

All of the articles I’ve found say there’s nothing to support nose-only breathing running.

But this theory is definitely still out there.

An interesting research study in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that while neither mode of breathing showed an advantage or disadvantage during running performance, nose-only breathing did result in an increased heart rate. To the researchers, this indicated a higher level of cardiovascular stress on the body with nose-only breathing.

Ultimately, the study concluded that the best form of breathing is whatever is most comfortable for the runner.

I’ll leave it here: if you ONLY breathe through your nose while running and haven’t been progressing, try breathing through your mouth and see if it helps.

5. You only run on the treadmill

I know that for some, it’s impossible to run anywhere other than a treadmill. If that’s your only option – skip this tip.

But if you have a safe area to run around you, hear me out.

When you run on the treadmill, you take away the challenges provided by running on uneven terrain.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s so much benefit to variety.

Push yourself to run outside through hilly areas or on uneven trails. It may feel harder at first, but that’s just because you’re more challenged – meaning you’ll see more results.

6. Your training ends when the run ends

When people ask me, “Why am I so bad at running?” one of my first questions is about their daily routines. Because the training doesn’t stop simply when the run is over.

If you truly want to get better at running, you need to care for your body outside of your runs: sleeping, stress, eating, and hydration.

By properly nourishing and resting your body, you’ll see an improvement in your physical performance.

So if you’re wondering why you’re still slow at running, consider the factors outside of running too.

7. You’re forgetting we all have bad days

I’ve had clients come to me before, frustrated and dejected, because they had a bad run. They felt exhausted and slow, and they were confused because just last week running had felt way better.

We ALL have bad days. No matter how in shape you are.

The human body is extremely complicated. It’s processes are intricate, and you may never realize that your bad run today was caused by not sleeping well three nights ago and because your period is going to start in 2 days.

Just because you have one really unpleasant run that feels like 5 steps backward does NOT mean all your hard work is null and void.

Maybe take a day of rest, but get right back to it and keep working!


Is “Why am I so bad at running?” just the beginning of your running questions? Check out these other popular running posts:

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