Gentle Strides: Embracing Patience and Positivity on Your Running Journey

May 25, 2024

Starting your running journey can be daunting yet rewarding. As a beginner, you might find yourself setting high expectations and feel disappointed if progress isn’t instantaneous. Indeed, the journey of a novice runner is often marred by moments of doubt and self-judgment. Perhaps you've experienced the gnawing feeling of self-doubt as you struggle to maintain a steady pace or if you’ve decided to run a distance that seems insurmountable. Maybe you've even berated yourself for needing to take walking breaks or for not reaching the milestones you set for yourself. These feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism can manifest in various ways, from a negative little voice to comparisons with other seemingly fitter runners.

However, you might be surprised or even relieved to know that such feelings are not at all uncommon amongst beginner runners. The long journey towards becoming a proficient and confident runner is full of challenges and setbacks, and it's only natural to encounter moments of self-doubt and criticism along the way. Do not despair though, as how you choose to navigate these turbulent waters can make all the difference in your journey. Here’s how you can be kinder to yourself as you continue on this journey.

Acknowledge Your Progress and Set Realistic Goals

It’s really important to recognise or indeed even celebrate the progress that you make every so often after you start your running journey. For many people, the idea of starting out running might have felt like an impossible task, but little by little you will start covering longer distances and improving your form. These achievements are not insignificant. Take time to celebrate these victories, no matter how small they may seem. What is also incredibly important is having goals, but do not get carried away and make them unrealistic. Instead of comparing yourself to marathon runners or those with a 9-minute mile pace, focus on setting your own milestones. For example, you could aim to run a specific distance without stopping or to improve your pace gradually. Your journey is unique, and your goals should reflect your own personal growth and no one else's.

Practice Self-Compassion and Focus on the Positive

Would you ever call a friend a "loser" or an "eejit" for their running pace? I hope not! I would imagine most of you wouldn’t, so why say these things to yourself? Practising self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to others. When you start hearing those negative little voices, try to reframe your thoughts. Instead of “I’m as slow as tar!,” say to yourself, “I’m proud of myself for getting out there and running today.” It goes without saying running has numerous benefits beyond just pace and distance. It improves cardiovascular health, boosts mental well-being, and provides a sense of accomplishment. Above all else, focus on these positive aspects. How do you feel after a run? Have more energy? Less stressed? More focused? Appreciating these benefits can help move your perspective from negative comparisons to positive affirmations.

Avoid Comparisons and Incorporate Rest and Recovery

In the age of social media and fitness tracking apps like Garmin, Strava etc, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Remember, everyone’s running journey varies greatly. Comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle is not fair to yourself and you will just feel less motivated at the end of the day. Remember to focus on your own progress and remember that every runner was once a beginner. Also remember that running can be quite stressful on the body, especially if you’re new to it. I can’t stress enough, do not overdo it! Ensure you’re giving your body adequate time to rest and recover. This not only helps prevent injuries but also improves performance over time. Listen to your body and don’t push through pain just to meet your latest goal.

Seek Support and Becoming more Informed

Joining a running club/group or finding a running buddy is an excellent way to find the encouragement and support you need. Sharing your experiences and challenges with others who understand can be incredibly motivating. They can offer advice, celebrate your successes, and help you stay accountable. Understanding the basics of running, including proper form, nutrition, and training plans, can help you feel more confident and help improve your running performance. There are a plethora of resources available, from books to online forums, that can provide valuable insights. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to improve and feel good about your progress.

Enjoy the Journey and Reflect on Why you Started your Running Journey

At the end of the day, running should be enjoyable, not a source of stress. You should always be finding ways to make it fun. Explore new routes, listen to your favourite music or podcasts, or even use running as a way to connect with nature. When you enjoy the entire process, that perceived pressure to perform will go away. Why did you start running in the first place? Whether it’s for health reasons, to relieve stress, or a personal challenge, it is important to keep your initial motivation in mind to help you stay focused and positive. Reflecting on your “why” can reignite your passion and remind you of the bigger picture.

Wrap Up

Take it easy on yourself as a beginner runner! The above advice should help greatly in shifting your mindset from one of self-criticism and self-doubt to one of self-compassion. Always acknowledge your progress, set realistic goals, and focus on the positive aspects of running. Avoid comparisons, don’t forget rest, seek support when needed, and get more informed to feel more confident. Most importantly, enjoy the journey and remember why you started. Running is as much about the journey as it is about the destination, and every step you take is a step towards a healthier, happier you.

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