There are many barriers as to why people do not exercise and I spend a huge proportion of my job as a running coach trying to break down these barriers.
We know that taking up a sport like running has a huge amount of physical and psychological benefits as is widely reported but what happens if you just can’t get out of the front door due to anxiety and depression. Starting something new, especially later on in life is a big deal and anxiety levels can go off the scale just at the thought of doing something that you may already think you are not very good at. People can even experience feelings of low self-worth for not trying something that is deemed to make them feel better.
I receive a lot of emails from people saying they won’t start running until they’ve lost some weight or can run 5k already. The perception is that we need to be really good at exercise before we even start or we just shouldn’t do it.
In my experience there seems to be a message that until you have the body of someone who exercises then you can’t exercise. A common theme in my email communication from prospective clients is “I’ll be the obese one!” I’ve never met that person, they don’t actually exist, only in the head of the nervous would be runner who just wants to give it a go to see if they can run. And these thoughts aren’t gender specific to women, I have the same emails from men as well.
A lot of people run to lose weight so that they can start leading the life that they want to “when I’ve lost that weight, I will be happier, look like someone else, live a different life”. A great deal of time can be wasted comparing ourselves to others, looking sideways for our self-esteem when in fact we should be looking at what we have achieved already. Comparison to others can lead people to experience even more anxiety and it can be a very lonely and destructive road to go down.
Learning to run and sticking to running is hard, we live in a world of instant gratification, where we get results quickly, lose weight quickly, smash our 5k time quickly. Sometimes we need to just slow down, breathe and work with the body we’ve got right now. Having even a small shift in attitude towards starting something new like running and learning to appreciate not only the physical benefits but also the impact on our mental health. Looking after our mental health is just as important as our physical health, learning to self-care and be kind to ourselves can only be a good thing.
Join a supportive running group - Find a group that says it’s ok to be slow and it’s ok to walk when you need to. A group like this where you will always be supported no matter what your speed is may be the difference between failure and success.
Confidence - Taking up running later on in life can give you confidence that you never knew you had. You may even achieve goals that you never thought were possible.
I will to I can - Running enables you to go from I will to I can, starting at one point, in most cases 0, and becoming adept at that goal gives you the belief that you can meet new challenges. This enables you to build up a healthy relationship with running so it becomes less of a chore to get out of the front door.