Runner's Anxiety is Real but Manageable
Your heart is pounding, you're sweating and you haven't even started running yet. You feel a pit in your stomach while butterflies work their magic inside of you, eating away at any confidence left - these are all very common feelings for an individual with runners anxiety. So what is runners anxiety and what can you do to help manage it?
Almost any athlete will, at some point, dread a large run or feel nervous for their next workout. Thinking that all eyes are on you or that you're the slowest one in the group - i've certainly felt that. Being surrounded by a group of highly skilled runners, I always feel very nervous when going on a group run. Will I be able to keep up? Am I fit or fast enough? Will people judge me if I have to stop for a bit?
As a generally very confident person, I was taken back when I first encountered the feeling of anxiety when running. After all, isn't running meant to help reduce stress, releasing endorphins and making you feel better overall? It certainly does and will - just give yourself some time to manage the anxiety and enjoy all the benefits that running has to offer.
Don't beat yourself up. How you feel is completely normal and whether you're an average Joe runner or Usain Bolt, these feelings are natural and should be embraced. Overcoming running anxiety can take time and opening up about it to your teammates or running group can really help you to manage and overcome it. Worried you aren't fast enough for the group? Have a chat with someone in your group and ask how they would feel about slowing down for you. Look at yourself in the mirror before you go ahead and tell yourself that today, you're going to boss it.
Alternatively, set yourself a challenge to try and keep up. You never know, you could grab yourself a new PB.
Focus on Controlled Measures
With thoughts running through your head, telling you 'what if,' look at what you can control. Can you get yourself in the right head and physical space for that run or workout. Buy yourself those new trainers you've been longing for and tell yourself they'll make you 10x faster. Set your route ahead of time and know exactly where you are going or nail your workout plan to a small tee. After all, there's no point worrying about what you can't control?
Give yourself realistic targets and allow yourself to smash them. What do I mean by a realistic target? A target that you know is achievable but will also keep you feeling awesome after you've smashed it. Even if it's just to feel stronger mentally before or after a run, set it as a target. Want to just finish your run today? Set it as a target.
Achieving targets will make you feel stronger, better and more confident to smash larger and harder targets.
Everything Happens for a Reason
I'm a real believer in that everything happens for a reason. Have in your mind how great you're going to feel when you've learned how to manage runner's anxiety. Only through adversity can we appreciate how far we've come.
Whenever I feel as though I have failed, I always try and ask myself whether it really matters. Didn't quite reach that PB or perform as well as you wanted? It may be disappointing but in the words of Mr Chow from The Hangover Part II, 'But did you die?'
There's always another time for you to achieve that PB or to perform at your peak. Take the time to get yourself in that great head space for your next space. Perhaps it wasn't your time but it's all training for when the time is right.
Speak up, speak out and allow yourself to ride the waves of your feelings. Join a group or club and push yourself to keep achieving.