Home / Advice / Learning to run is learning to manage fear


By Nicole Sattler from Run 2 Wellbeing

Isn’t it an odd thing that a fundamental movement, something we mastered in toddlerhood, could become by the time we reach adulthood such a source of fear, trepidation and misunderstanding? While small children dash about in sheer delight, we adults fear how we look, worry about whether we are “doing it right” and wonder if people are laughing at us. As adults we allow our fears to take control of how we use our bodies.

As a running coach the most common thing I hear from beginner runners is that they ”can’t run”. When I dig a little deeper I inevitably discover that “can’t run” is actually “can’t run in the way I have decided in my mind is the ‘right’ way to run.” A little more digging and I discover that many beginners believe they aren’t fast enough to run, that the running community doesn’t have space for people who look/run/walk like they do and that running isn’t an option for them because it just plain old hurts too much. Sound familiar?

Together, my clients and I begin breaking down these barriers. We expose these often long held beliefs as myths and clients begin to manage and then overcome the many fears they have held about running.

First up is busting that myth that it’s not ok to walk. It is ok to walk. In fact, it’s more than ok to walk, you should be using a run/walk strategy when you first begin running. I’m going to say that again a little louder in case you missed it the first time. You SHOULD use a run/walk strategy when you begin running. This will help you build up the necessary cardiovascular fitness required for running and also allow your muscular-skeletal system time to build the strength necessary for running. So run a bit, walk a bit, walk some more, then run a little. It’s not quitting or giving up. It’s what the coach told you to do!

Next up we bust the myth that you are too slow. You are not. How do I know this? Because literally every beginner runner sets out at a pace that is far too fast and cannot be sustained. Unless you have decided to take up 100m sprinting, I guarantee that you are running too fast. Slow down already! An ideal pace is so slow that you could actually sing. When beginners learn to slow right down, they soon come to realise that running is something they are capable of and this has a huge impact on wellbeing. But it’s not all smooth sailing from here. There is still another important myth to bust.

The next myth is that the running community does not cater for slower runners. This is simply not true. The growth in popularity of running has come, not at the pointy end, but at the back of the pack. Events simply wouldn’t survive if they only catered for fast runners or even the mid pack. Community events such as Parkrun quite literally cater for all abilities and celebrate a lot more than just fast running. These events encourage and acknowledge personal improvement and achievements over and above “winning”. The volunteers won’t pack up before you finish. There will be other people walking or run/walking. People who finish ahead of you will wait to cheer you as you cross the finish line. Nobody, I repeat, nobody, will treat you as anything less than another runner, out there doing your best to improve.

With these common myths busted and your fears now managed, your body becomes yours to do what you like with. You are in control of how you use it. There’s no stopping you.

Nicole Sattler is a certified running coach and a qualified social worker. Nicole is Head Coach at Run 2 Wellbeing, a running coaching service that focuses on using running as a tool to improve mental and physical health and wellbeing.


Website: www.run2wellbeing.co.nz