How to Overcome Running Mental Blocks & Sign Up For Your First Race!
If you had told me ten years ago that running would grow to be such an important part of my life, I’d have said you were crazy. After I ran my first 5k, however, the running mental blocks I had constructed around the idea of running came crumbling down. It was tough to overcome the mental blocks that can come with starting (and sticking with) a new activity, but now running is a part of my life that now I can’t imagine living without.
Perhaps you’ve experienced your own running mental blocks; you could be afraid of injury, fearful of signing up for your first race, or stuck in a negative-feedback loop. Below are some common mental blocks that could keep you from running and ways to overcome them:
Common Running Mental Blocks
Before I ran my first race, the largest mental block I faced was negative self-talk. I told myself I simply wasn’t able to run since I was never very fast or thought myself to be particularly athletic.
For some people, simple excuses are their biggest obstacles that keep them from running and racing, such as being too busy to train for a race or too lazy to go for a run.
Frequently, the stressors aging puts on the body creates fear of running as an older adult, keeping people from signing up for their first race as a 50 or 60-year-old.
Fear of Injury
Fear of getting injured, as well as believing that running is bad for the knees are particularly common mental blocks keeping people from running and racing. This is further exacerbated by the internet containing multitudes of perspectives and opinions that influence the way people perceive the sport.
With these mental blocks laid out, below are a handful of actions you can take to overcome running mental blocks and sign up for a race!
Ways to Overcome Running Mental Blocks
Sign Up with a Friend
My best friend convinced me to sign up for my first 5k when I was a sophomore in college. Previously, I never considered myself much of a runner, and while I occasionally toyed with the idea of running a race, I was always too nervous to actually sign up. My friend and I decided we would run the 5k together, and looking back, I’m so thankful I had her by my side the entire time during training and on race day. Signing up with a friend or family member not only keeps you accountable, but it makes training more fun and also gives you someone to share race day with.
Find a Cause
Another tip for overcoming the mental blocks of signing up for your first race is choosing a race whose proceeds go to a cause you especially identify with or care about. The proceeds of my first race went to abolishing human trafficking, and when we arrived at check-in on the day of the race we were given names of individuals who were victims of human trafficking to tape to our shirts as we ran. I taped the name of a woman to my arm and would glance down at it periodically during difficult parts of the race, and it motivated me to keep going.
Do Your Research
A strategy to overcome fears related to aging and injury is to do thorough, quality research. There are countless studies and articles written by educated and trustworthy individuals that debunk common running myths, as well as providing safe strategies to prevent injury.
Chase the Runner’s High
Running is sometimes exhausting and uncomfortable, but believe me when I tell you it’s all worth it for the runner’s high. For me, it starts as a small feeling inside while on a run, and slowly builds until exhaustion and euphoria blend together, making me feel as if I am invincible. Daydreaming about that runner’s high has also helped me push through particularly uncomfortable or difficult training moments. More specifically, I think about the euphoric feeling of crossing the finish line of my first 5k and knowing in that moment how my life would never be quite the same again.
Push Personal Boundaries
The feeling of pushing yourself to sign up for a race and then cross the finish line is a feeling of personal accomplishment that is nearly impossible to rival. For people like me, who thought for years being called a runner produced a chuckle and eye roll, pushing this particular personal boundary is something that was monumental in my life. Seeing what the human body can accomplish, especially if it’s something we thought impossible, is one of the joys in life that I hope to keep having over the years.
Hopefully the list above will provide some inspiration and reason to sign up for your first race. The running mental blocks standing in the way can sometimes feel crippling, but know that when you cross that finish line, the feeling of accomplishment and pride is one that is hard to beat!