Overcome These Top Fears of New Runners

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Whether it’s starting a job, going on a first date or buying a house, doing anything new can be daunting.

New runners know the feeling, too.

Starting a running routine can come with a lot of questions—and fears—for people new to the sport. From the risk of injury to questions about fellow runners, here are the top fears of new runners and how to overcome them:

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I’m too out of shape to start running

Everyone has to start somewhere. No matter how long it’s been since you had a regular exercise routine, you can always start again. The key is to take on manageable goals and progress slowly. Start by walking. A 10 to 30-minute walk is excellent progress. It’s also really helpful to join a training group. Having a coach and running partners can do wonders to get you out there and keep you motivated.

Runners don’t walk

A great way to get started as a runner is with walk/run intervals. Walking allows you to lower your heart rate and recover so that you can do more running overall instead of burning yourself out too soon. It's strategic and should have zero shame attached. Run/Walk isn’t just for beginners, either. Many experienced athletes prefer to complete races or workouts this way. The Jeff Galloway method is famous for this. It’s common for ultra runners to walk during their races as well. It simply allows you to rest and recover so that you can continue. If you’re getting started, begin with a three-minute walk, followed by a 30 second run, repeating the walk/run cycle until your workout is finished.

I’ll be the slowest one

Whether it’s a group workout, race, etc. someone has to be the final finisher. Maybe it will be you. If it is, no big deal. You may be the last person to finish, but you’re still doing way better than all the people at home on the couch doing nothing. If you’re out there working hard and investing in your health, don’t worry about how you stack up against the people who have been doing it for years. Plus, if you’re in a running training group, the runs are not about competition, and there will generally be someone around the same pace to run and walk with.

People will laugh at me

Running communities are generally very kind and welcoming, and absolutely nobody will laugh at you for running slowly, walking or being a newbie. In fact, at races, runners are more likely to hang around and cheer you across the line and give you high fives at the finish.

I’ll have to go to the bathroom

Nearly every runner has had a moment where they thought they would poop their pants. But once you figure out foods and a schedule that work well for you, this problem can be avoided.

To play it safe, start by using the bathroom before you leave the house and don't eat anything heavy or unusual before running. Avoid foods with high fiber, fat or protein content, as they can cause GI distress if you haven't had enough time to digest. Trail mix is good for hiking, but it is NOT running fuel!

Learn more here about what to eat before running and always give yourself a few hours to digest between a meal and your run.

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I don’t have time to run

You can make the time to run. It simply takes discipline, flexibility and planning ahead. On a busy work day, it can be tempting to skip your run. Instead, carefully plan ahead for the next day and run first thing in the morning. Make your lunch and breakfast the night before, have your clothes laid out so you won’t spend time on those things. Then get up a little earlier, run and get on with the day.

If you’re not a morning person, make plans to run with friends after work. You’re less likely to skip it if others are waiting for you. Prioritize your run, and you will make it happen.

Everything will hurt

When you first start running, some things will hurt. But if you start slowly and with manageable goals, you will minimize pain. You may have to adjust what you eat beforehand to eliminate cramps or an upset stomach.

While you may be sore after a big effort, as long as you progress gradually, you will find that your body gets stronger and your runs feel better. In fact, you’ll probably gain energy and a feel a huge sense of accomplishment.

I’ll look like I don’t know what I’m doing

Consider joining a group and following the lead of the others involved. When you join a training group, leaders will tell you how much to run and how much rest you need. It’s also immensely helpful to go to your local specialty running store and ask some questions. They will be more than happy to help you out.

I’m going to destroy my knees

This is a common myth about running that has been debunked by several studies. As long as you get appropriate rest, maintain proper form and keep bodily imbalances at bay, running is good for your knees. The loading and unloading of the joint helps circulate fluid and condition the joint, ultimately making it stronger. Any uneven stress on the body or deficiencies in the stabilizing muscles (hamstrings and quadriceps in particular) can add extra wear and tear on the knees, but running is much better for you than sitting on the couch or in your desk chair.

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

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