Running can be a constructive hobby and a fun way to keep fit. Most likely, it will also encourage you to improve your lifestyle overall, as you’ll want your nutrition and sleeping habits to align with your workouts. However, the slope from a healthy approach to fitness to a harmful obsession can be slippery. To maintain a healthy running mindset and to avoid it taking over your life, take a look at our tips in Running Mindset: 6 Keys to Make it Work for You!
1. Running Mindset 101: Ask Yourself: WHY Do You Run?
For fun? To maintain a certain look or physique? For a sense of achievement? To work on your fitness? To get out of the house and into the fresh/heavily polluted air, depending on where you live?
All are perfectly valid reasons to run. Just keep YOUR goal in mind so you don’t conflate advice appropriate for people with different goals with advice appropriate for you.
For example, if you’re just trying to slim down a little, reading stories by hardcore Ironman competitors probably won’t be good for your sense of achievement. Likewise, if you’re simply trying to improve your cardiovascular fitness, being bombarded with messages about losing weight and bikini bodies can skew a healthy mindset towards harmful obsession. Keep YOUR goal on the finish line, not somebody else’s.
2. Eat Up!
When participating in a sport where talk of calories, body fat and muscle mass are par for the course, developing an unhealthy relationship with food can be a real possibility.
If you notice yourself associating going for a run with ‘deserving’ a meal, take a step back. If you feel guilty eating on rest days, or feel the need to compensate for having a treat by running further the next time, consider researching ‘exercise bulimia’ and taking a critical look at your mindset.
Under-eating will lead to fatigue, poor athletic performance and a host of health issues from muscular atrophy to hormonal imbalance. (You don’t want to short-circuit your steadily-growing running mindset and waste your time, energy and life like that!) Estimate how much energy you’re burning and make it a priority to eat accordingly.
3. Think About the Information You’re Consuming…(Not Just the Food!)
If we are what we eat, then our thoughts are what our brains read, see and hear. Are the websites you’re visiting, YouTube videos you’re watching and apps you’re using doing your mental health any favours ? How long do you spend looking at material about fitness? Do thoughts of running, food or your body take up much of your day?
If your ‘research’ isn’t giving you helpful tips (like these) then you’re probably better off without it.
4. Recover & Be Realistic
It’s tempting to rack up an impressive streak of daily runs. But reading stories and posts from people who claim to have run 20 miles every day for the past 8 years won’t help your mindset if you’re a newbie.
With that in mind, remember that what works for someone else probably won’t work for you. Your age, lifestyle and genetics will determine how far you can safely push yourself. Some people were seemingly born to run, but if you weren’t, don’t sweat it. (Well, sweat when you run, but not over your genetics.)
There’s never any point in going overboard and causing yourself injuries that could set you back by months, or even persist for years. Shin splints, dodgy knees or bleeding toenails are a pretty shabby reward for a few extra miles on the pedometer.
5. Don’t Catastrophize!
A missed workout isn’t a death sentence. A day or even a week off won’t set you back.
Being inactive for a while may make your muscles feel like they’re melting, they’re really not. It took you months to get to where you are, your progress won’t slip away just like that. Taking a breather may even help you out. It can be hard to notice your body needs a break until it’s too late and a serious injury shackles you to your sofa.
And, if you are presently shackled to your sofa and fear you’re losing fitness, you can look forward to working towards picking up where you left off. You enjoyed building that speed and distance the first time, and now you know what it took to get there, make the most of the encore!
6. Don’t Let it Define You
Unless wearing sponsored footwear and posting about it on social media is your sole source of income, you probably have other things going on in your life. Don’t forget about those!
If running seems to be the only thing you can, or want to hold a conversation about, take a rain check. Running can easily become a large part of our identities, so it can be unsettling when we aren’t able to run.
If you have to take a break from running for a couple of weeks, whether that’s due to work, injury or a loss of motivation, that doesn’t make you any less of a runner. Don’t force yourself to work out because you feel like you have to, when your time would be better spent doing something else.