As a fitness professional and running coach, I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to help people cross the bridge from “I wish I were a runner” to “I am a runner” status. Although many of my clients have differing abilities and backgrounds, more often than not much of the beginner running journey is the same.
One thing I constantly see in my new runners is self-doubt: doubt about their capabilities, feelings of inadequacy, or even feeling that they don’t belong in the running world. These thoughts are common. Many experienced and accomplished runners have had these exact same thoughts when they first started.
The good news? You too can get past these mental roadblocks. Here are a few of them.
8. I’m so incredibly out of shape.
Sometimes in a moment of huffing and puffing, this statement comes out as “this sucks.” Yes, sometimes it does. I won’t argue that. There is always a learning curve to something new, but starting a pretty rigorous physical activity like running—especially if you are coming from an inactive or sedentary lifestyle—can be a shock to your body. The good news? With practice you get stronger and running gets easier. It’s hard to believe this statement in the beginning, but I promise it’s true.
7. Everyone is watching me.
I’ve known a few new runners who would purposely run early in the morning or late at night to avoid being seen by their neighbors or even complete strangers. The fear is that the runner looks awkward and out of shape and that the friends/neighbors/strangers are going to point and laugh.
Let me be blunt: No one cares. I know that sounds harsh and mean, but it’s true; 95 percent of the people you pass aren’t going to give a second thought about your running. You are simply another object passing by their window, like someone walking their dog or riding their bike. And if they do stop to contemplate your actions? I can almost guarantee that the thought is “Wow, good for him/her. I wish I had the motivation to run.” So, be proud; don’t be ashamed!
6. I don’t belong here/I’m not a runner.
Let me sum this one up with a quote from author and marathon runner John Bingham: “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
5. I’m not running fast enough.
A huge mistake many new runners make is trying to keep up with other people. Or, simply trying to keep up the pace in their head that they have deemed worthy. When it comes to building endurance, slow and steady always wins the race. Plus, you are far more likely to avoid burnout by not constantly pushing yourself to run faster.
The time to push your boundaries will come soon enough. In the meantime, learn to listen to your body, and more importantly, learn to enjoy the act of running…no matter what your pace may be.
4. These shoes should be fine.
Admit it: You reached into the back of your closet and grabbed the same pair of athletic shoes you’ve had for the last five years, didn’t you? If you sheepishly nodded in agreement, don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
Most beginners don’t realize the importance of not just finding the right type of running shoes (yes, there is more than one!), but the proper fit and the wear and tear on your shoes really do matter. A worn, ill-fitting pair of shoes can not only ruin your running experience in the form of blisters and hot spots but can actually lead to injury.
3. I need all of the fancy gear to be a good runner.
You don’t. You don’t need that $300 GPS watch, nor the elaborate handheld water bottles, nor the latest, trendiest fitness fashions. Are they useful? Sometimes, but they aren’t necessary to become a runner.
All you need is a well-fitting pair of shoes, and some non-cotton, sweat-wicking clothing (which can be found at any big box chain store for a fraction of the price as the name brands). Add in your own motivation, and you are good to go!
2. I’ll never be able to run that far.
When you are a brand new runner, even one mile can seem daunting. A 5k? How on earth will you run that far? A half marathon? That’s crazy talk. No way.
Believe me, almost everyone feels this way at first.
But eventually, you cover a mile. And then you do it again, and again, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so far. Then you finish a 5k. And before you know it you are running five miles at once, wondering why you were ever intimidated by a mere 3.1 miles. Trust in your training and believe that the progression does and will happen.
1. That was fun… I can’t wait to do it again.
Yes, you will say this, mark my words. One day the stars in the running universe will align, your feet will feel light and your breath nearly effortless. You’ll experience a runner’s high and wonder why more people don’t take up this sport. Your run is over before you know it, and you find yourself wondering how soon until you get to do this again.
Congratulations, you’ve caught the running bug.
I know in the beginning this sport can seem overwhelming and sometimes almost impossible. But rest assured that all of us had to start somewhere, and all of us struggled as beginners at one point. Stick with it, remember your motivation, and before you know it, the “beginner” status will be miles behind you!