A Personal Trainer's Advice for Those Who Are Scared to Run

David Liira

Practical tips for getting over your fears and lacing up the shoes.

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Whether you’re coming off a long break, or you’re completely new to the sport, running can be intimidating. As a personal trainer I know the struggle. One of the most frequent questions I hear revolves around how to get ‘over the hump’ and start running when you’re lacking the confidence or tools to do so.

While it could be motivating to whip up an inspirational speech on you’re capable of doing anything you set your mind to, I’d rather provide tangible, practical tips to help you achieve your goals. More specifically, I’d like to introduce three mindset shifts that can help make running more accessible to your situation. The reality is, we often mold running into this giant hurdle to overcome when it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way.

Let me explain!

How to build the confidence to start running.

First and foremost, please recognize that running isn’t the only option for physical activity. Sometimes I feel as if there’s an assumption out there that you must run if you want to stay fit. This is simply not the truth. Activities like biking, swimming, or rowing are other fantastic modalities for improving cardiovascular conditioning. I say this because many people get pressured into running as it’s a very popular sport. If you genuinely don’t like running, then it’s not going to be a sustainable choice for you. Sometimes you’re scared to run because it’s not the right fit. If you recognize this, it’s time to look elsewhere!

Secondly, our fear around running can potentially be helpful if it reflects uncertainty around readiness. For example, if you haven’t finished recovering from an injury, or you haven’t exercised in three years, running isn’t going to be the best answer at this moment. To get a good sense of when you’re ready to start running, I recommend seeing a physical therapist or kinesiologist who can help guide you.

Now, if you really want to get running but you’re just not sure how to get over that initial hump, this post is for you. As mentioned above, I want to outline three key mindset shifts around running to make it more accessible and less intimidating. As humans, we’re complete momentum addicts. If we can get rolling, we’re far more likely to succeed. It’s just a matter of starting the engines. Hopefully, these three practical tips can help you do just that!

1) This sport looks different for everyone.

When it comes to running, success will look different for every athlete. This is due to many factors such as goals, resources, experience, education, anatomy, and more. When you’re just getting into running, try not to have too many expectations. While chasing down lofty goals or comparing your aspirations to other runners may seem tempting and motivating, it’s in your best interest to zone in on your running as you work to get off the starting blocks.

To help with this, try to nail down a solid ‘why’ to encapsulate your reasons to want to run in the first place. Is it to improve your general fitness? To blow off steam? To lose 15lbs to fit into your old jeans? Whatever it is, make sure to honestly seek and address what your why is behind running. Not only will this help to keep you focused on your own ‘race’, but it can also be a great reminder and motivator when the going gets tough.

Your journey is unique to you, so don’t try to run someone else’s race.

2) “Start small” sounds cliché, but it’s also right.

One of the most frequent errors I see in running is athletes going from 0 to 100 once they finally muster up the strength to get going. Although it may be a slight oversimplification, you should always follow the 10% rule. The 10% rule states that you should never increase your distance, pace, or overall intensity by more than 10% per week. This goes for general training and also when coming off an injury. Pacing yourself in the beginning will set you up for success in the long run.

If this is your first time running or you’re returning after a long break, don’t be afraid to even start with a walk/run program! At the very beginning stages, start with a 1 minute on, 1-minute off-cycle and repeat for 3–5 bouts. As you feel better, you can gradually increase the duration of your run periods. For example, (1:1, 2:2, 5:3, 10:4, etc…). Start off by doing this walk/run strategy 2–3 times per week. If you keep this up and commit to pacing yourself, you can get up to comfortably jogging/running for 20min+ quite quickly!

If you’re nervous to start running, take comfort in knowing that starting light is not only manageable, it’s also the right thing to do for your long-term success.

3) Running isn’t everything.

If you have any friends or family that run, you know it can turn into a dedicated hobby. Many of the runners I know are training 5–6 days a week. While this may work for them, this doesn’t need to be your story. If you’re intimidated to start training, why not begin with one session a week? If you maintained 1–2 sessions per week sustainably, it would be far better than trying to run all-out for a month and then getting burnt out.

As a trainer, I’m always encouraging recreational-level athletes to diversify their exercise regimes. If you want to avoid injury and keep things fresh and exciting, try picking up a small gym routine or implementing another source of cardio! This strategy will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with excessive volume in a single sport, and it will boost your strength and condition as you diversify your regime.

No, you don’t need to run every day to call yourself a runner.

In closing,

Running can be an intimidating sport, but oftentimes we make it harder to get off the starting blocks than it has to be. If you can start small, make running about your personal goals, and remember that this sport is just a small piece of the puzzle, you’ll quickly realize that you’ve had it in you all along.

Success as a runner looks different for every individual, so focus on where you’re at and trust you can achieve your goals if you pace yourself and stick with it. At the end of the day, lacing up your shoes and getting out there is a victory in itself!

You got this.

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Kinesiologist & Blogger. 15k+ followers. Dedicated to writing relevant, up-to-date pieces on health and the human condition. My job (and joy) is to save you time and money by delivering the tools you need to take control of your own wellbeing. https://www.davidliira.com/

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