Exercise is a great natural remedy for anxiety. It reduces stress and releases endorphins to improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed. Running is particularly good for anxiety because it gets you outside so you can get some fresh air and spend more time in green spaces, which has a big impact on your mental health too.
Unfortunately, people with anxiety often struggle with running because it is a trigger for their worries. They feel self-conscious about getting outside and running because people will judge them. They might also be concerned about their form and whether they are going fast enough or not. Concerns about safety also play a role, especially when running at night or on busy roads. This lack of confidence and anxiety about running stops people from doing it in the first place, which is such a shame because it can help to manage anxiety.
If you struggle with anxiety and running in public sounds like your worst nightmare, here are some great ways you can get around it.
Push Yourself To Do It
Getting started is the hardest part and the longer you leave it, the more your anxiety will run wild and you’ll come up with more and more reasons to avoid it. Even though it is incredibly difficult, you need to push yourself to do it if you can. Once you get out of the front door and start running, you are already past the biggest hurdle and it will get easier each time you go for a run.
If you are really struggling with this, why not start by walking? Walking is still good exercise and it gives you the opportunity to get outside. You can also try out some different routes so you know what to expect when you do eventually start running. Preparing yourself in this way will help to alleviate some of your anxieties and make running feel less daunting.
Choose A Quiet Route
When you are running down a busy road or around a busy park with lots of people around, you will feel very anxious that people are judging you. It’s important that you learn that this is not the case and most people don’t give it a second thought. However, when you are first getting started, it makes it much easier if you choose a quiet route. Use a running route planner and see what different routes you can take. You can then walk some of these routes and see how busy they are. If you avoid the big parks and main roads, you won’t see that many people along the way and you can focus on your running.
Think about the time of day that you run as well. If you go early in the morning or in the evening when people finish work, you’re likely to encounter a lot of other runners. Consider going at a different time of the day when it will be quieter, if possible.
Invest In Good Running Gear
When you wear proper running gear, you feel more confident because, even if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, you still look the part. Spending a bit of money on some good quality stuff will boost your confidence and you’re more likely to keep up with your running because you have invested in it. It’s also important because it helps prevent injuries and improves performance. A set of high-quality Asics Runners, for example, will give you the right support so you are comfortable while you run and you reduce the risks of knee and ankle injuries. Compression clothing can also prevent muscle pain and help you improve your performance. When you are comfortable and you are improving your times on each run, it gives you a big confidence boost, so you’re more likely to keep up with your running program.
Put Some Music On
Finding ways to distract yourself from anxious thoughts so you can get in the zone and focus on running instead is crucial. The best way to do this is to listen to music while you are running. Put your headphones in and turn the volume up so you can focus on the beat and shut out all of the noise. Before long, you won’t even notice that there are other people around you. Studies show that music can actually improve running performance in a number of different ways. Following the beat can help you keep a steady pace so you can run for longer. It also distracts you from feelings of tiredness because you’re focused on the music rather than your aching legs. Listening to your favorite songs will also boost your mood and improve the anxiety-reducing effects of running.
Follow A Running Podcast
People often get anxious about running because they don’t know where to start. How far should they go and how quickly should they be running? How many times a week should you go running? These worries about getting it wrong lead to more anxiety, but you can get around that if you follow a running podcast.
There are some great sites like Podrunner where you can find lots of different podcasts to listen to while you run. They will take you through the run, telling you how fast you should be running, and playing music at the right tempo to help you keep pace. There are some for complete beginners that will help you get into running, but you’ll also find more advanced ones to help you improve your speed and distance as you become more confident. Having that program to stick to helps manage those fears about getting it wrong, and it keeps you motivated too. You are also focused on the podcast and the instructor that is guiding you, so you won’t be worried about the people around you.
Consider Joining A Running Group
Running on your own makes it feel more daunting, so why not join a running group? Having other people around you makes you feel less nervous because you can blend in with the group. You’ll also get support from more experienced runners and you don’t need to worry about being a complete novice because the people in running groups are always happy to help you learn.
However, this may not always be the best choice for people with anxiety because it adds a whole new layer of social interaction. If you struggle with social anxiety, walking into a big group of strangers might make the situation worse, not better. If that is the case, why not see if you can find some friends that want to start running as well? Working out with a friend helps a lot with motivation and you can get the support of a running group without worrying about the social aspect of it.
Track Your Progress
It’s always easier to keep up with a fitness routine if you track your progress. Following a podcast is a great place to start but you should also invest in a fitness tracker that measures your heart rate, speed, and distance. As you continue with your running program and you see that you’re getting quicker, running longer distances, and your fitness is improving, it gives you a massive confidence boost.
As well as tracking the practical progress you are making, consider the impact that it is having on your anxiety. When you get back from a run, take notice of how you feel and be aware of the reduced feelings of anxiety. You could even start a mood tracking journal to track how your anxiety is changing as you continue with your fitness routine.
When you start tracking your progress, it helps you get over the anxiety. If you are planning to go for a run but you are feeling particularly anxious that day, think about how far you have come and all of the tangible benefits you see from your running. The positives will outweigh the anxieties that you feel and you will be more likely to push yourself to run more often.
Seek Treatment For Your Underlying Anxiety
By following the steps outlined above, you can get over your anxiety about running and stick to a good fitness routine. This will help you manage your symptoms day to day, but running a few times a week isn’t going to solve your anxiety issues. Although running is a source of anxiety, it is not the reason that you feel anxious in the first place and it’s important that you seek treatment for the underlying anxiety disorder.
Start by speaking to your doctor because they can point you towards treatments. For some people, online counseling is a great option, and your doctor may also prescribe medication to help with your symptoms. If you can deal with the wider problem, you will find it much easier to manage your anxiety about running.
Running is a brilliant way to make anxiety more manageable, but it’s also a big trigger. If you follow these simple strategies, you can beat anxiety about running in public.