So it has been more than a minute since I last blogged. Part of me is really excited to be sat here writing again, the other part feels like I’m back in 2012! Lots has happened since I last wrote properly. We have moved countries for a start and are now based in beautiful Portugal. Dylan (my son) is growing up fast, and this website has had a gorgeous new rebrand as I focus on taking my business to the next level and reaching as many people as possible. For more information on all of that, you can visit my Lifestyle Coaching page, Running Coaching page or combined Lifestyle and Running Coaching page to learn more. Today I want to talk about some of the common obstacles for new or returning runners, and how to turn them around.
As I work predominantly with beginners, I am used to hearing these obstacles from clients and the wider running community. I also now have a new appreciation for getting into running and how hard it can be, since my own return to running after having my son has been anything but easy. To this day it continues to be a work in progress and I’m so thankful that I know how incredibly rewarding running can be from my pre-Dylan days, otherwise I may not still be working on it.
Here are the mindset blocks and obstacles that I hear most from new runners, plus some alternatives that you may wish to consider. By reframing your thoughts like this, you’re not denying them or ignoring those nagging voices in your head, but rather you’re acknowledging them and then turning those thoughts into positive action, or at least planting the seed for change.
Reframing common obstacles for new runners and self-limiting beliefs about running
“I’m too old” becomes “It’s never too late!”
I like to think of all the wonderful older runners I know, many of whom are faster than people half their age!
We’re always led to believe that to be good at sport, we needed to excel in it at school. When we watch events such as the Olympics (can’t wait for this summer!) the competitors are generally pretty young.
But if you look at people at the grassroots level, you’ll be inspired and surprised by some of the stories. People who took up running in their 50s and 60s, those who were overweight or heavy smokers and drinkers, Mums who took up running ‘to lose the baby weight’ but then discovered that there was so much more to love about the sport beyond dropping a few pounds.
You never know when things are going to turn around, when the magic is going to happen. I was inspired lately by the performance of Chris Thompson in the British Olympic Marathon trials. At 39 years old, after being plagued by injury for most of his career, Chris became a father for the first time and qualified for the Olympics this summer, all in the space of less than a week.
What would have happened if he had given up, thought himself ‘too old’?
At 38, I fully believe that some of my best running is still ahead of me, that I can be fitter and faster than when I was younger and before I had Dylan. I’ve seen friends do it and I know it’s possible if I put the work in.
It can be the same for you too.
“I’m too big” becomes “Runners come in all shapes and sizes” or “my body is capable of more than I think it is”.
Look around at any start line or Parkrun (ok, there haven’t been too many of those lately, but hopefully soon!). You’ll notice a range of different body types and sizes. You’ll also realise, by the finish line, that slimmer people do not finish ahead of larger people. People of different sizes finish at different times, and the running ability of someone who is perhaps a little on the heavier side may be greater than a smaller person. You just simply cannot tell how fast or slow someone is based on their size. Yes, of course elite athletes are the exception to this, but running is their job and they are performing at the top level of the sport.
And if you are looking to lose weight, running is a really good way to help you reach your goal, plus so much more besides!
“I can’t run without walking” becomes “It’s ok to take walk breaks. I’m being in tune with my body”
There are so many reasons why walking is perfectly acceptable as part of a run, including
💫 Following a program such as couch to 5k
💫 Coming back from injury, having a baby, or time away
💫 A run/walk strategy could be the only thing that gets you out the door when it all seems too much
💫 Using strategic walk breaks in a race (particularly in ultra running events) and training for this accordingly
💫 Running with a buggy/stroller
💫 Running to heart rate and walking to help your heart rate get back down again
💫 To take in the scenery
💫 Because that’s just what you want to do!
“People might laugh at me” becomes “People might be inspired by me and have the courage to get out there and run”
Sadly, one of the most common obstacles for new runners is the fear of being laughed at when they’re out running in public. If it makes you feel more comfortable, perhaps stick to a short loop near your house at first, or run at quieter times of the day.
However, one of the best ways to get around this obstacle is to think about someone driving past. Someone who has always wanted to run but never had the courage to do so for precisely the same reason. They’re likely to be very inspired by you…but you’ll probably never know. They might even go out for a run because they saw YOU, and in turn will inspire someone else. It’s a snowball effect started by YOU of which you will probably never be aware.
“I’m too slow” becomes “I’m not breaking the land speed record any time soon but I’m out here and moving in a way that makes me feel good.”
For recreational runners, running is about so much more than speed. It’s headspace and time out. A chance to think. To listen to music or a podcast. To take in nature and explore. Running doesn’t have to be fast. Sure, it’s nice to see an improvement in pace over time and to set new PBs, but this does not have to be your main priority.
“It’s hard” becomes “Running is a challenge for me, but I know that with time it will get easier”.
For new runners, running is not easy, and this is something that experienced runners tend to forget. Before I had my son I used to cruise along at my easy pace, feeling on top of the world. Well now that easy pace is challenging for me and I appreciate once more how tough it is to break through those negative thoughts and that feeling of wanting to stop.
It might be boring, but consistency really does work, and you will find that running does get easier over time. Your fastest ever kilometre will one day be your 10km race pace, and so on. And then, you set the bar higher, aim to get faster, and it becomes really challenging again. This is what makes running so amazing!
If you stick at it, you’ll achieve more than you ever thought you were capable of, I promise you.