It’s understandable for new runners to feel some level of uneasiness when they first begin running. Feeling self-conscious is natural when you start anything that is new.
“In the world of social media, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others who may have been running for years,” says Jessica Reyes, head coach of Sugar Runs Coaching. New runners may feel preemptively judged for the way they look while running, if they need to take walk breaks, or their pace. “I always reiterate to our athletes that everyone starts somewhere and no pace is too slow,” says Reyes.
Here are four things Reyes recommends, and we also teach, to help you drop the comparisons and build your self-confidence as a new runner.
LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS
“The way we think about and talk to ourselves is the biggest obstacle that many people face, not just in running but in all aspects of life,” says Reyes. Shifting the way you speak about yourself internally and externally takes time and practice.
Reyes will often recommend podcasts and readings to her self-conscious runners. Hearing the advice from a myriad of voices leaves a greater chance that you will come across advice phrased in a way that really resonates with you. Here are a few of her go-to motivating podcasts that you can queue up when negative self-talk starts creeping into your run:
The Running For Real Podcast, Episode 121, Justina Su’a: The Best Book You Are Going to Read is the One You Write Yourself
Ali on the Run Show, Episode 128, Ali & the Experts Week with Dr. Nicole Detling, Sports Psychologist
Increase Your Impact with Justin Su’a (Reyes recommends any of Su’a’s short episodes as a great way to start the day or mentally prepare for a run).
PUT TOGETHER A SUPPORT TEAM
“I think the biggest thing is having people who support your journey,” says Reyes. A running coach, a running partner, or a running group are all great options for self-conscious runners. She especially recommends running groups for new runners. “It can be scary at first, but runners are such a friendly and welcoming bunch that it will be easy after that first time showing up.”
This will give you a network of people to ask questions to and check in with. They can provide you moral support and help to build that confidence when you’re unable to muster it yourself. They are also there to celebrate your achievements and make the process of improving more enjoyable.
IF POSSIBLE, RUN OUTSIDE
Treadmills are certainly an important training tool, but starting out your running journey at a crowded gym might not be the right move for everyone. “I always find the gym to be a little intimidating because people pause between exercises and stare around at others working out,” says Reyes. Instead, opt for running in a nearby park or drive to a trail (choose a flat one to start) where you can spend more of your time present and focused on your run.
If you do pass by other runners while outside, you can give them a quick wave or hello and be on your way. “Remember that other runners are not judging you,” she says. “Most runners love to see others out there enjoying the same sport they do and there is camaraderie in that.”
GET THE GEAR
While there is research to support the notion that technical gear can improve your running performance, that’s probably not top of mind when you’re first starting out. However, outfitting yourself with running apparel can give you the confidence boost to get you in the mood to run. “Go get fitted for running shoes at your local running store and pick up some running specific clothing and gear so you can already feel like a runner when you walk out the door,” says Reyes.
But if you don’t feel like committing to specific athletic apparel just yet, running in what you have is just fine too.
“Every runner was once new and likely thinking the same things you are,” Reyes adds as a final reminder for self-conscious runners. “Don’t spend too much time worrying. Eventually you will be the experienced runner encouraging all the new runners you see on your route.”