Runners are mere humans. They work hard, play hard, and are generally pretty damn good at setting and accomplishing goals. But it’s not always smooth sailing; sometimes they trip and fall; sometimes they miss the bush and pee on a shoe; sometime they get injured; and sometimes they have a terrible race. For a wide variety of reasons, most runners experience a loss of confidence at some point, and without confidence, even the easy days become dreaded.
If something has happened recently that made you lose your running confidence, take a deep breath and read on. There are ways to get the spring back in your step and a confident smile back on your sweaty face.
Volunteer At a Race
You may be feeling too timid to try racing right now, but that doesn’t mean you must shut yourself out of the community entirely. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a race director who will send you away if you offer a helping hand, and you just may be surprised by how much fun a race can still be from the sidelines. Seeing the look of relief on runner’s faces as you hand them a gel or paper cup of water, the smile that breaks out on a runner’s face when you offer a high-five, an encouraging shout, or place the finisher’s medal around their neck, or even witnessing someone clearly hitting a wall and keep going, will arouse a few smiles of your own. You’ll feel more inspired to get back out there and try again and hey — it beats sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself.
Join a Running Group
The diversity of talent within most running groups is wonderful thing. In addition to meeting fellow runners and passing the miles away chatting with new friends, it will put things back into perspective for you: sure, you had a bad race and feel like the worst runner ever…but, clearly, you’re not. Odds are, you’ll be faster than some and slower than others.
Hills, Hills, Hills
Few things train you better than hills. If you want to ensure that you don’t have another race where you hit the wall and give up, or you want to avoid many future injuries, start adding hills to your weekly runs. Whether you dedicate an entire workout to hill repeats, or just start taking the harder route that includes more hills overall, you’ll increase strength and your body will thank you in the end. Plus, your butt will look better than ever. Just saying…
We’ve all been there. You’re mad because you had a terrible race. You’re mad at yourself, and a little bit mad at the entire world. Okay, go ahead and wallow in it for a few more minutes, and then get the hell over it. You’re wasting so much energy simply being mad and pouting in the corner. Transform the negative energy into stubbornness, dedicating yourself completely to working harder and smarter than ever to get back to your goal and ensure that this time you get it.
Give yourself permission to take a week or two off from running to give yourself some space to recover and mentally regroup, but maintain your fitness and have fun exercising through cross-training. Some of the best cross training activities for runners include swimming, cycling, pilates, and yoga, but don’t be afraid to be creative and try something different like indoor bouldering, cross country skiing, or hiking. Find a way to make exercise fun again, and then redirect that new positive energy back toward running when you return.
So you had a bad race. You’re injured. Yes, you really did pee on your shoe. Whatever. Of course it all sucks, but it happens to all runners at some point. Remind yourself that it’s part of the sport, and its you’re ability to work through it and come back even stronger (or with better aim) that really defines you as a runner.