How to Stop Feeling Self-Conscious About Running

Woman running on sidewalk in a city
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Starting a running program can be intimidating. Very few people "feel" like a runner from the first moment they hit the pavement. Some people wonder if they look the part. Others simply assume that they look silly.

But rest assured, these short-term concerns shouldn't deter you from reaching your running goals—no matter what those goals are. There are several sure-fire ways to manage newbie nervousness and gain confidence as a runner.

Do I Look Like a Runner?

It is not uncommon to wonder if it looks weird to run around the neighborhood when your neighbors don't know you as a runner. Fear of being seen running on the roads or even on a treadmill at the gym keeps a lot of people from starting (or continuing) a running habit.

What Runners Think

It's not helpful to be concerned about what others think. As a runner, you deserve respect from other runners. And whether you realize it or not, you're probably getting it.

Runners love seeing others out on the roads or trails. Runners get enjoyment out of their sport, so why wouldn't they want to see other people doing the same thing?

Also, remember that all runners were new to the sport at some point, so they can relate to the struggles that you face as a beginner.

If you feel self-conscious around other runners, remember that they were new once, too. Start a conversation—ask them about their experience and you're likely to get some great advice.

What Non-Runners Think

If you're worried about what non-runners think, try not to get too hung up on that. Just remind yourself of all the great benefits that you're getting from running—benefits that they may be missing out on.

Also, the people who really matter to you are very likely impressed with your efforts. After all, you're taking noticeable steps to improve your health and fitness. Be proud that you're doing something good for your physical and mental well-being.

Steps to Boost Confidence as a Runner

Of course, just because you shouldn't worry about what others think doesn't mean that you won't worry about what others think. To reduce your feelings of self-consciousness, try some of these strategies so that you look and feel like a runner.

Dress Like a Runner

Wearing the right clothes for running might make you feel more comfortable when running in public. Sports-specific clothing sends a message that you know what you're doing—whether you do or you don't.

Running Shoes

Wearing running shoes rather than generic gym shoes or tennis sneakers will not only help you to look the part but they may give you a stronger, more confident gait. They'll also help you to feel better during your runs so you can run with a self-assured smile on your face.

Running Clothing

Also, running in high-tech fibers will help to reduce your overall weight for a lighter faster run. Check out running tops, jackets, and pants made out of CoolMax and other moisture-wicking fibers to lighten your load and make your runs more comfortable. You'll also reduce the risk of chafing when you wear running-specific clothing. Which will help you to move with more confidence after your run.

Sports Bra for Running

For women, it's especially important to wear the right sports bra. Bras with little structure and support might work well when you are walking around the house but once you start running, you may start bouncing in ways that look and feel uncomfortable. It may take a few tries to find the right running bra for you.

To find the best fit for you, experiment with different styles. Either visit a running store or website that offers guidance about cup size and activity level, then choose a style that fits your needs.

You don't need to go out and buy five new running outfits, but a few key pieces—a comfortable pair of running shorts or pants and a sharp-looking running shirt, paired with the right running shoes—can really give you a confidence and motivation boost.

Learn Proper Form

You may also feel more confident about running if you are using the proper running form. If you can follow a few basic tips, you can learn the proper gait and upper body posture to project confidence.

For example, to look and feel more comfortable and at ease while you're running, look forward (not down) and relax your arms into a bent position with hands at waist level.

You might also want to consider your stride. There are differing opinions about whether you should strike with your forefoot or your heel, but many distance runners tend to be forefoot runners. Most experts recommend a mid-foot strike.

You can also count the number of times that your feet hit the pavement in a minute. A comfortable stride pace is often around 180 steps per minute.

If your stride is slightly off, don't worry. These are just guidelines. And even if your form isn't perfect, you'll feel better knowing that you're working on it.

Grab a Running Buddy

You may also feel less self-conscious if you get a friend or family member to come along on a run with you. An added bonus to running with a buddy is that you can keep each other motivated before, during, and after the workout.

You could also look for a local running group. Check with your gym, local running store, or your town or city's recreation department to see if there are any programs for beginner runners. Running with other people in the same boat as you might make it easier to show up on a regular basis.

Be Safe

If you're running by yourself, follow basic safety rules—rules that veteran runners practice on a regular basis.

For example, if you're running alone, you can talk to yourself so that it looks like you have someone who knows where you are and what you are doing. You're less likely to be a target if your whereabouts are known.

If street harassment is a problem, try to ignore the person, hold your head high, and keep running. Yelling back or flipping him off will only exacerbate the situation. Running in public areas such as a park, bike path, or trail will reduce the chances of random people driving past you.

It's also smart to wear an ID bracelet or bring identification when you run. No one expects an accident to happen, but you are more likely to fare better if emergency responders know who you are and who they can contact in an emergency.

A Word From Verywell

Like anything else, the first time that you go out for a run is likely to be the hardest. Once you've run in public a few times, you'll feel a lot more confident and comfortable, and be less concerned about others watching you. Just remember to hold your head high and remember that you are taking bold steps to increase your fitness and well-being.

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