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:
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 get started. The key is to start small and take on manageable goals. 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. You are going to have scheduled walk breaks! There is absolutely zero shame in walking. It allows you to lower your heart rate and recover so that you can do more running overall instead of burning yourself out too soon. Run/Walk isn’t just for beginners, either. Some people really like doing 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
Everybody has to go to the bathroom! Every runner ever has had a moment where they thought they would poop their pants. If you haven’t, just wait, your time will come. OK, maybe that doesn’t motivate you to want to run. But it’s pretty standard in running culture to get comfortable with the realities of how our bodies function when running. To play it safe, start by using the bathroom before you leave the house and not eating anything heavy or unusual before running.
I don’t have time to run
You can absolutely make the time to run. It simply takes discipline, flexibility and planning ahead. If you have a busy work day ahead, it can be tempting to skip the run. Instead, carefully plan ahead for the next day and do the run first thing in the morning. Make your lunch and breakfast the night before, have your clothes and bag laid out so you won’t spend time on those things. Then get up a little bit earlier, get the run done 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
Yes, when you start running, some things will hurt. But when 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.
You will likely be sore the day after you push yourself through a big effort. But if you take things gradually, you’ll come to embrace the work. In fact, you’ll probably feel great, gain energy and a feel a 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
Well, that’s not exactly true. As long as you are taking good care of yourself, maintaining proper form and keeping 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.