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.

You don't have to let these short-term concerns deter you from reaching your running goals. Here are several 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. 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?

Remember that all runners were new to the sport at some point. 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. Ask them about their experience and you're likely to get some great advice.

What Non-Runners Think

Try not to get hung up about what non-runners think. Remind yourself of the great benefits that you're getting from running (which others are missing out on).

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

Knowing that you shouldn't worry about what others think doesn't mean that you won't worry. To reduce your self-consciousness, here are some strategies to help you look (and feel) like a runner.

Dress Like a Runner

Wearing the right clothes for running might help 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 not).

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.

The right running shoes will also help you feel better during your runs so you can run with a self-assured smile on your face.

You don't need to go out and buy five new outfits just for running, but having a few key pieces will keep you comfortable and can boost your confidence. You might find it motivating to look in your closet and see a good pair of running shorts or pants, a sharp-looking running shirt, and the right running shoes.

Running Clothing

Running in high-tech fibers can help 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 that only offer a little structure and support might work well when you're just walking around the house but might not be enough to prevent discomfort when you start running

It may take a few tries to find the right running bra for you. Experiment with different styles until you find the best fit. You can visit a running store or website that offers guidance about cup size and activity level, then choose a style that fits your needs.

Learn Proper Form

Knowing—and using—proper running form can also help you feel more confident as a new runner. By following a few basic tips, you can learn the proper gait and upper body posture to project confidence.

To look and feel more at ease, look forward (not down) while you run. Relax your arms into a bent position with your hands at waist level.

You'll also want to consider your stride. There are differing opinions about whether you should strike with your forefoot or your heel—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 one 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. 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. A bonus of running with a buddy is that you can keep each other motivated before, during, and after the workout.

You could also join a running group. Check with your gym, local running store, or the recreation department in your town or city to find beginner programs. Running with others who are new to the sport might make it easier to show up on a regular basis.

Be Safe

If you plan to run by yourself, there are some basic safety rules you'll need to know and follow. Even veteran runners practice these rules on a regular basis.

For example, if you're out for a run on your own try talking to yourself (like you are wearing an earpiece for your phone). This will make it look like you have someone who knows where you are and what you are doing. If your whereabouts are known, you're less likely to be a target.

If you experience street harassment, ignore it and keep running. Yelling back, using profanity, or making profane gestures will exacerbate the situation. Running in public areas such as a park, bike path, or trail will reduce the chances of random people harassing you as they drive past.

It's also smart to wear an ID bracelet or bring identification with you when you head out for a run. No one expects an accident to happen, but you will fare better in an emergency if first responders know who you are and who they should contact.

A Word From Verywell

The first time that you go out for a run is likely to be the hardest. After you've had a good run out in public a few times, you'll feel more confident, comfortable, and be less concerned about others watching you. Remember to hold your head high and that you are taking bold steps to increase your fitness and well-being.

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