If you find running a consistent struggle, you are not alone. Even runners who love running don't love all runs. If you simply can't make friends with running no matter what you do, here are a few tips and links that you might find helpful.
Running posture, like our daily posture, is important. Over time we have gotten used to slumping over at our laptops or while on our phone or relaxing to watch TV. Unfortunately this poor posture translates over into our running form. Slumped shoulders. Head hanging. Eyes down. Core...what core? So tip number one for improving your running, is posture. Eyes up. Stand tall. Head inline with your spine. Shoulders back and relaxed. Hips under you (not tipped back or forward.) Soft footfalls more under your body than far out in front (over striding). Sounds easy, right? Like anything new it is going to take some practice to break old habits so start slow. Doing a "head to toe" body check as you run is a great way to become in tune with your posture. As you run simply ask yourself a few questions: "Am I standing tall? Are my shoulders relaxed? Are my eyes up, looking forward? Are my arms swinging softly back and forth?” Just tuning in to your body will help you begin the process of improving. Focus on one thing at a time for short periods. Keep it up and you'll find that over time your form and posture - and therefore your comfort - improving.
Additional Info: Chi Running - video
2. Belly Breathing
If you are panting like a sled dog every run then you may want to consider a few changes to your running style. First up, practice belly breathing (you know, those deep breaths that extend your lower abdominal). In through your nose, out through you mouth slowly, very relaxed. A 5 count in, a 5 count out. Practice while laying in bed, then sitting and then begin to work that type of breathing into your runs. The 5 count may not work but the act of breathing more deeply into your belly will help oxygenate your blood far more than quick short breathing from your upper chest. Practice, then practice some more. Having breath control can make an enormous difference in your running ability.
More info on Belly Breathing
There are times to run fast, there are time to run moderately fast but mostly you should be running comfortably. If you don't like running, or find it hard then consider this: slow down!
Unless you are doing speed intervals, hill work or a tempo type run you should be running at a conversational pace. That's right. Conversational. If you can't carry on a chat with your running buddy then you are going too fast. Slow down. Forget about pace and run what feels pleasant to you. Top elite athletes spend much of their time running at an "easy" pace so why should you be any different?
More about Pacing - More Info
4. Mix It Up
Mixing up the terrain (trails, hills, beach) builds strength. Hitting the track for intervals builds efficiency. Road runs at a tempo pace builds consistent race day speed. Try to mix your runs up each week rather than get stuck in the same route at the same pace over and over and over. You'll become a stronger runner, you'll be come more efficient, you'll become a little faster without trying too hard.
Hiking is another way to help build strength. Hilly trails, and the ups and downs of uneven terrain use your muscles differently. This will help you build stronger attachments at your joints, and can reduce over-use injuries often common with repetitive motion.
Article - Importance of Varying Terrain
5. Make It Fun - Or Embrace The Challenge
One way to ensure running success is to make it fun. This could be through a running group, running with a buddy, entering races or training sessions with some great tunes as company. I'll admit to having Feargal Sharkey "A Good Heart" on my running playlist; an 80's classic!
We tend to stick with and work on things we like most. To improve as a runner, you first have to come to peace with running itself. Is it hills you loathe? Run more of them and make it a challenge, something you can overcome and be proud of. Is it speed work? Run with a group where your natural "competitive" instinct can kick in to propel you through a workout. Is it running itself? Stay in the moment, slow down, do your "head to toe body check". Ask yourself some questions. "What is it that I'm finding challenging today?" Remember your inner dialogue can have a huge impact on your moment-to-moment physical ability, so keep it positive, keep it in the now and keep it focused on moving forward.
Humorous Article I Love - I Hate Running (Contains Foul Language)
I don't expect every run to be a good one. Sometimes a 30 minute run can feel like 4 hours and sometimes 4 hours on the trails feels like 30 mins. That is normal, what isn't normal is to struggle every run. I hope the tips provided above help you find a middle ground with running, and help you to improve. Maybe you'll never love it, but if you don't loathe it then that's probably some kind of progress!