5 Beginner Runner’s Frustrations And How To Overcome Them

by | 12 Dec 2020 | New runners, Running motivation

Once we have decided that running will be our way of getting fitter and healthier we start feeling positive and content. Next we shop around for shoes, clothes and some accessories, it’s part of the fun.

The choice between running in the gym or outdoors has been made. There is now nothing between us and getting out there to enjoy our new lifestyle that will take us to the promised land of better looking, healthier and more positive selves.

In theory, there shouldn’t be anything else that would cause second thoughts, doubts, further questions and delays. Running is essentially simple, but is there something there that could worry us? Is there something that’s called runner’s frustrations?

I have read that some new runners, and some people who are thinking about taking up running, do have doubts that may develop into complex runner’s frustrations. So, what are they? And can they be conquered?

Number 1 Beginner Runner’s frustrations: ‘I don’t know how to run’😟

We all knew perfectly well how to run when we were kids, without thinking. It’s about moving faster than walking by using the same tools of trade, legs. I haven’t even mentioned ‘fast’ running, just travelling faster than when we walk, at any tempo that suits us.

The truth is, some people genuinely think they ‘do not know how to run’. It’s been a while, many don’t even remember what it was like all those years ago and subconscious concerns start to emerge into this frustration. Sometimes people give up on their running because they manage to convince themselves that they simply ‘do not know how’, keep it to themselves and never even try to run.

Well, here’s the news. You do know how to run. Everyone does. You will chase that bus, run for the train, sprint away from that dog and run in circles if you win the lottery. That’s all running. The only difference between such emergencies (or happiness in case of lottery) and your new pastime is that recreational running involves longer stretches than just a short sprint for the bus.

Do you think that a member of Proper Running Police will spot you and criticise your ‘improper’ running form? Maybe issue you a fine? Ban you from the park?

Solution:

Ok, let’s just say that I respect and accept your genuine concern based on the fact that you ‘don’t know how to run’. Equally, give me a chance to prove you wrong. Go to the park or gym and simply start moving faster than fast walking. That is running. You are running. You know how to do it. Later on you may wish to work on your technique if you really want it but for now you’re doing the job of running just fine. You are good to go

starting line for a race getting ready to start running

beginner Runner’s frustration 2: ‘I can’t run at all’😢

This is different from not knowing HOW to run. This is about not being potentially ABLE to run.

My first ‘run’ lasted 90 seconds. Yep, ninety. In just ninety seconds I was sweating profusely, almost suffered a blackout, nearly popped the knee and felt equally angry with myself, sorry for myself and embarrassed in general. In just a minute and a half I put together a significant combo of events and emotions. The first thing on my mind? ‘I can’t do this, I cannot run’.

That is the easiest escape route of them all. ‘I cannot do this’. Nearly every new runner goes through that initial stage, that’s perfectly normal.

We don’t want to see any negatives ahead of our positive new decision, do we? But if you are as unfit as I was, a former smoker, a sofa dweller, a fan of the world’s beers…..well, it’s likely that you will encounter some early bumps on your road to fitness. Especially if you’ve left it until your fifties as I did. You are likely to panic just seconds into your first run and think, ‘oh man, I can’t……can’t…do..this’.

Solution:

If in serious doubt it’s good to get ‘all clear’ from your doctor first, before you even try, just to be on the safe side. But if the doctor says that all shall be fine then let me just boast that four years after that wretched start I ran an ultra marathon. I also managed to run 325km in a single month. I now run 5 times per week. I can run uphill. I can sprint.

And I will have to push it hard to lose my breath again.

The reasons for early sufferings are insufficient lung capacity, the heart which is shocked by what you’ve asked it to do (beat faster, heart), weak leg muscles and probably not the best shoes for your feet.

It’s worth knowing that your cardio and respiratory systems, including your muscles, are actually made for stuff such as running. They will respond quickly, bounce back, and make your running more comfortable.

It won’t be long, maybe just weeks, before you notice positive changes and the longer you go out and run, the better the overall system of your precious body will become.

beginner Runner’s frustration 3: ‘Others are better at running than me’😭

Of all the runner’s frustrations, this one is perhaps the most damaging to your self esteem. Because, really, who are those others? Shall we look into who’s out there running? We have solo runners, groups of runners, young/old/very old runners, professionals, solo amateurs, amateur club runners, slow and fast ones, world champions, more of the other runners…and you.

So, where do we place you, into which category and why?

Some beginners tend to look around and compare themselves to the rest of the pack. And let me guess, we like to notice that some other guys are faster than us. And by ‘faster’ we think they are ‘better’. Once we see something ‘better’ that the other runner displays we have to either ignore it or wallow in the pits of self-pity.

This should be a simple choice actually, but it turns out it could be the root of deep frustration as well.

Solution:

The easiest thing would be to ask you never to compare yourself to others. Although many will find this task difficult to get rid of, never comparing yourself to others is exactly what you should do otherwise you will suffer forever.

If somebody is faster, so be it. Another guy is faster than him.

And when you see those elite marathon runners all finishing close to each other, the only one guy who is the closest to the 2 hour mark will win, with two other guys getting silver and bronze, respectively. And what about the rest? The rest are all fantastic athletes who on the day were slower than the winner. They are pros, they move on, that’s how it works.

In other words, when you run in the park in our amateur, recreational world, don’t obsess with the time on your running watch, or sulk if another runner laps you. Who cares? You run for yourself, not for them.

Every runner is equally special, we are all different and that’s what makes us all unique. Always be yourself.

Hyde Park in London is a great place to run

beginner Runner’s frustration 4: ‘What will people say when they see me?’🙈

Running alone in the open for the first time can be an uncomfortable experience, especially if a runner is self-conscious. Many think that ‘everyone’ is looking at them and judging them.

Unlike being wrapped up in a winter coat and walking as a pedestrian, running gear reveals more than it hides. Often there is just a top and the shorts, and some even run topless. And unless you run inside your own estate the size of a smaller country and the only witnesses to your running will be foxes, deers and hawks, it is very likely that in the parks, let alone gyms, you will share the space with other people.

But you knew that when you decided to start running, right?

It is interesting how many new runners fear crowded parks. But the truth is, the more people run, cycle or walk at the same time, the less likely is that anyone will even notice you.

People generally mind their own business. Some will look at you but will they ‘see’ you? Do you genuinely believe that somebody will see you and then spend their time thinking about you and judging you? Highly unlikely.

Do you think they will take notes and have restless hours at home analysing your running gait? Can you, for example, take a brief look while passing another runner and then play a forensic and remember that person forever, and ever….?

I believe our brains are happier doing other things in life.

Solution

I wear colourful basketball gear when running. On very few occasions somebody will try and read what’s on the front (number or team name). I can see them try during those quick seconds when we run towards each other.

Sometimes I get an excited passerby shouting the player’s name on my back. But most of the time, I run invisible although you can see me from the moon.

You know why?

Nobody cares about what I look like and what I wear. People mind their own business. If you really feel very uncomfortable during those formative runs, try and run with a friend or join a running club. You will quickly realise that all of you wear similar clothes and there is very little that differentiates you.

Although we are different in ages and body shapes we are all similar as runners, hard to tell one from another, we all fall in.

Yes, there may be an occasion where somebody might throw a comment in your direction, but so what? Life is too short to waste a second of your time replying or thinking about that. You are on the mission, you do your own thing and nothing, let alone an inane comment, can stop you.

And the more you run, the more you do your own thing, the quicker you’ll settle down and the purpose of your running, FUN and HEALTH, will become your focus and primary objective.

I love running in London thanks to fantastic parks and sights

The last of common beginner Runner’s frustrations (no 5): ‘I will get injured again’🤕

Running is an impact sport and runners have better chances of getting injured than chess players or those who practice curling, badminton or bowls.

On the more serious front, we have a list of possible injuries fronted by the runners knee and followed by the Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, IT band syndrome, hamstring strain, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprain, lower back injury and ever-so-popular fractures. There is no denying that many of us get hurt. And if unlucky the same injury might repeat.

I picked some evergreen choices myself – my knee once swelled up like a melon, my ankle reached the size of a small boat, the Achilles tendon injury was very painful and the agony caused by my right hamstring stopped me from walking, let alone running, 31km into the marathon.

I know exactly why each of those injuries happened. I now know how I personally caused them, they didn’t just happen out of the blue.

I had as many warning signs sent by my own body as I wanted, and I ignored them all. Each running injury could have developed into more serious problems that could have stopped me from running for a while, or even altogether. To say that I would have been ‘frustrated’ would be an understatement.

And yet, like a master craftsman I created them all to perfection, one after another.

There are reasons why we get injured when running and it’s crucial that we understand why that happens. I can only speak for myself although many should recognise my errors in their own injuries.

All of mine, except the marathon issue with the hamstring, happened in quick succession when I was still a very new runner. And I was making many common ‘novice runner’ mistakes. I bought inadequate shoes without much needed insoles, the support for my flat feet. I ran faster and harder than I should have done and didn’t think much of taking rest days. The body was out of balance, the hips didn’t offer much stability and there was too much pressure on one knee and the Achilles below. I must have tried to over compensate and was leaning on the other side, which affected the opposite ankle.

Once the structure started to crumble, it crumbled spectacularly.

What warning signs did I get? There is a whole list but the most popular trio were fatigue, discomfort and finally, pain. And what did I do? I thought that the body would simply get used to it and so I carried on. I carried on all the way to an osteopath and later a physiotherapist, both of whom charged me handsomely for their troubles and my naivety.

Solution

In order to minimise any injury risk, we need to follow the basic rules. We must have the best shoes for our feet, for starters. No, I don’t mean those cool ones that you bought online, I mean the ones that you got from a specialist shop where a specialist picked them for you after having done your gait analysis.

Next, we should follow a program for new runners, like C25K or similar.

We need to take at least one day of rest between the runs.

It’s recommended that we do specific strength exercises that would help our body negotiate the new stress.

We need to start running slowly and carefully, without pushing ourselves.

And the most important thing of all – listen to your own body. If you struggle, slow down or even stop. If in discomfort, look into it and make it go away by adjusting your gear or the way you run. If in pain, stop right there.

We can do lots to prevent our injuries. Repeated injuries are immensely frustrating. It’s important to understand where the problems are coming from and stop them before they create any or more damage. If in doubt, ask for advice.

We are not the professionals who constantly push their limits in order to get the best results. The only result we are hoping to achieve should be having fun and to have fun there is no need to push hard.

Oh, and my hamstring issue that stopped my run after years of experience? I ran faster in very warm weather, I didn’t hydrate properly and thought that the ‘deep ping’ that I felt in my thigh after 12km would go away. It didn’t. I got complacent and paid for it.

Don’t get complacent and the risk of injury frustration will go down considerably.

We get frustrated when reaching limits that we can’t exceed. Not everyone can become a concert violinist although there are many, many very good players. Not every talented sprinter will enter the Olympic arena. Once we start to develop feelings of uncertainty and become insecure in what we do, we will start feeling uneasy and frustrated.

In the amateur running world though, there is no pressure of achievement through competition and frustration should not play a part here. We are here to run, to improve our mental and physical state and ultimately, have fun. And that’s the whole point.

Cover photo by Marlon Trottmann from Pexels

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I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.

Be.Your.Best.

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