First Timers: Overcoming barriers




Every runner has had to overcome barriers on their path to becoming a runner.

“Mine were all mental barriers–just thinking I couldn’t do it,” says Danielle West, who has been running for four months and utilized a Couch to 5K program to get her through two 5k races. James Imhoff, whose been running on and off for the past few years echoes that sentiment saying, “I think the hardest thing about getting started is that mental hurdle. Getting out there and just doing it makes all the difference.”

Becoming a runner is easy, attainable and enjoyable if you ease your way into it and work on overcoming the barriers you face. The first step is to simply get moving, start out by walking and then slowly progress your way into doing some walk/runs at a decent pace, which will help you gradually increase the amount of time and distance you are able to run. You will get just as much benefit from extending the whole workout longer with a run/walk mix, than you will by doing a shorter workout that is only a run. Couch-to-5K programs are based on a walk/run method and are very successful. Chris Caire, who has been running for nine months says, “a Couch-to-5k is a great starting place.  It got me thinking about how to run, how to acclimate my body to running so I don’t get hurt, and finally…to relax.”

Another barrier is not having any goals to work towards. Without a goal, some people find it hard to stay committed to running. According to James Imhoff, “if you have a set goal, you have a reason to get out there and attain it. Without that “why” you start to give yourself reasons to not run.” Goals can keep you focused on running for a specified period of time, which will help acclimate your mind and body to accepting running as simply part of your lifestyle, part of your routine.

Setting unrealistic expectations is another barrier that first time runners have. Setting your initial expectations too high can lead to disappointment. It is ok to set a high expectation with the understanding that you need to set aside the appropriate time to train properly and build up to a level where your goals are achievable. You can’t train for a marathon in six weeks and can’t go from zero exercise to running a 5K in two weeks. Putting in the effort, the work, will ensure success, so set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. It is helpful to set an overall goal and then back it up with smaller mini goals that will help you stair-step your way to the larger goal. For example if your overall goal is to run a 5K, your mini goals should be to run a set distance three times a week and gradually increase that distance until your goal becomes attainable.

The final barrier many beginners face is going it alone. Running can seem intimidating to beginners so its helpful to encourage some friends to start running with you, so you can take the journey together. Having some support is also helpful. Most people who start running, know more seasoned runners; it is great to utilize their experience and seek their advice as you start running. You will find that runners love nothing more than encouraging new runners to join in on the fun.

So whether you are just starting out or are beginning to take running a bit more serious, the best road to success is to identify your goals, and work towards them with gradual progressions that are sustainable.