Despite the many years that have passed, I still remember the first time I ran outside. It was probably my second year of college, around nine years ago. I’m guessing I must have weighed around 200 pounds at that time. I wasn’t overweight by any means, but I could have afforded to lose a few pounds.
I did what most people do. I got myself out there for the very first time, equipped with brand new shoes and running clothes. I looked around to make sure no one was there to see me, then I started jogging down a secluded street.
I’d only jogged a short distance when I realized that I didn’t have it in me to go very far. Not because I lacked endurance. Rather, it was that I came face-to-face with a traffic jam, and as I was passing it I felt like the drivers were staring at me. My insecurities kicked in. I felt slow and fat. I stopped jogging and walked the rest of the street, hoping I looked like I had intended to go for a walk the whole time.
That was my last run in a very long time.
Realizing that at the age of 21 I was completely out of shape wasn’t a big deal. What I dreaded most was the crippling fear that others would see me trying to run and notice how out of shape I was. This was especially the case since I was running around my neighborhood, where lots of people knew me.
My Turning Point
It wasn’t until I enlisted the help of my cousin—an already established runner—that I was able to feel confident enough to run outside. I’d known my cousin for a very long time, and he was as shy—or more shy—than I ever was, but that hadn’t stopped him from pursuing his running goals.
After a few sessions of running together, I realized that things were not as bad as I’d thought, and the advice and training instructions my cousin was giving me were golden.
During that time, I picked up a few training strategies that have helped me put my fear of running outdoors to rest for good. That’s where this post comes in.
4 Ways To Get Over Feeling Self Conscious While Running
If you’re a new runner, and especially if you’re overweight or really out of shape, you might be worried that you’ll look too fat, silly, too old, too slow — you name it — to other runners, or to people you’ll encounter on the track, trails, or streets.
Fear of feeling embarrassed while running outside is no reason to avoid it, especially if it would lead to you not working out at all.
As someone who went from being painfully timid and afraid even to take a few steps outdoors to someone who can run in the middle of a crowd without giving it a second thought, let me tell you that it’s well worth the discomfort.
What follows are some of the measures I took that helped me overcome the fear of running outdoors. Apply these strategies, and you’ll be feeling confident in no time.
1. Focus on You
Up until this moment, you’ve likely only viewed your awkward situation from one perspective, which is your own viewpoint.
Here’s the truth. The instant you get a little self-conscious and worry about how others may perceive you, remind yourself that no one cares! This might seem harsh, but, good lord, it’s true.
Almost everyone you meet is inside their own head, worrying about their own problems, and having the same kinds of insecurities you have. People are typically more concerned about what others think of them than the other way around.
Once you realize this, you’ll feel much freer, and you’ll be able to focus on your running instead of what every other person thinks.
Here’s what you need to do.
Make it a cardinal rule to run for no one but yourself. You’re the only person you want to impress. It has to be for you, and that’s the case whether you’re trying to lose weight, run your first 5K, or simply get fitter.
I cannot guarantee that people won’t stare at you and judge you. If you’ve been on this planet for any length of time, you know that trolls exist. But these people are not worth worrying about. Au contraire, such people are the ones you should feel sorry for.
2. Dress Like A Runner
I know that when I look great, I act it out too. This is especially true when exercising outdoors.
Wearing the right clothing will not only make you feel more comfortable when running in public, it can also improve your performance and training enjoyment. That’s a good thing if you ask me.
When you have the right equipment— well-fitted gear that offers support in all the right areas—you’re going to feel more secure and confident, and that self-assurance translates into better performance.
Please don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to splash out on expensive and fancy workout gear. All you need is a few essentials, including:
Comfortable running shoes. Head to the nearest running specialty store to get your foot type, and running gait analyzed. Doing so will help you find the pair that’s right for you. For the full guide on proper running shoes, check my post here.
Comfortable clothing. This includes a suitable pair of running shorts or pants, and a sharp-looking running t-shirt or top. Here’s the full guide to proper running clothing.
A sports bra. For female runners, it’s especially important to wear the right sports bra for running. This will make you feel comfortable when running in public. The last thing you want is to bounce all over the place. It attracts unnecessary attention, and I’ve been told that it hurts too!
3. Pair up With A Running Friend
Sure, running is a solo activity, but if braving the outdoors makes you feel uneasy, you may feel more confident if you go at it with a friend, family member, or co-worker. That’s something I learned early in my running career, back when the mere thought of running alone made me nervous.
Pairing up with a friend is a good idea for many reasons. First, it keeps your mind distracted and off of your insecurities. Once you get out there a few times with a friend, you’ll start ignoring the people around you. You might even forget they exist!
In addition to this benefit, running with a partner holds you accountable for your action and keeps you motivated to stick to it for the long haul. Plus, companionship makes any endeavor more fun.
As a rule of thumb, make sure you and your partner have similar running and fitness goals. Otherwise, it’s a mismatch, and that can do more harm than good.
Lose Yourself in Music
When you’re running in a busy neighborhood or on a busy street where you’re distracted by the noises around you, put on some music.
Zoning out to your favorite playlist can silence the other sounds and give you the push you need to keep going strong. You’ll forget about who’s looking at what.
Come up with a fun and uplifting playlist to listen to while you’re logging the miles. With your favorite songs blasting through your ears, chances are you’ll keep your groove and pay no attention to the commotion around you.
That being said, please be careful. Pay attention to your form and stay safe the entire time. Music can help, but if it completely shuts you out of what’s happening around you, it can be quite dangerous.
If running safety is an issue for you, check these two posts:
4. Seek the Road Less Traveled
During the first few months of my running resolution, I used to wake up early and jog in a very secluded area so that I could avoid contact with other people. This strategy helped me build my confidence, and it should work for you too.
Once you’ve gotten used to running around your neighborhood or your local park, you’ll start to notice that you aren’t as caught up in your insecurities as you used to be, and as you keep up your routine you’ll start feeling more confident — not only in your running ability but in yourself as well.
Whatever you do, make sure to run where you feel most comfortable. Pick a location that brings out the best in you and outshines your initial discomfort.
There you have it, some of the best strategies to help you improve your confidence and help you feel less self-conscious when running outside.
Now it’s your turn. Do you usually feel self-conscious when exercising outdoors? How do you deal with it? Or do you still shy away from any form of outdoor exercise?
Please leave your thoughts and comments in the section below.
Thank you for stopping by.
Keep Running Strong!