England international runner, Hannah Irwin, looks at both the benefits and pitfalls of comparing yourself to other runners…
In the age of Instagram, Strava, Facebook, Twitter and many other social media platforms, it is easier than ever to view the training and performances of other runners.
You can see what they are doing at the touch of a button. Whether it is watching how often they run, how many miles they clock a week, how well they seem to be training, or how well they are recovering – you can see it all.
Some of the time, this can be motivating and it might inspire you to get off the sofa, put your trainers on and go for a run, but at other times it can make you question what you are doing.
You might start to wonder whether you are running enough, feel like you should be going faster, or need to be recovering better. Whatever it prompts you to think, it can cause you to question yourself.
We are all on our own journey
It is important to remember that we are all on our own journey and we all run for different reasons. It can be easy to lose sight of what running really means to you, when you see so much online about what running means to other people.
You can even find yourself feeling as though you should have a different motivation.
For example, some people run purely as a method of losing weight; others do it because they love the feeling of the act itself; and some do it for the competitive drive it gives them.
Whatever your reasoning, trust it and believe in it. Don’t change your motivation based on what drives someone else. Our unique sources of motivation are what make us get out of the house and go for a run. Different things motivate different people.
Comparison doesn’t help everyone
Comparison can be beneficial. For some of us, it gives us that extra bit of motivation we need to get running.
If we see on Strava that a friend, or a rival, has been out running regularly and we haven’t had the motivation to get going, it may provide us with the extra drive we need to get back to it.
However, for some, too much comparison can be detrimental to our mental health and consequently our performance. If we focus too much on the journey of another person and compare ourselves to them, we can convince ourselves we aren’t good enough, and will never be as good as we want to be. If this happens, it might help to remember that we only run for one person – our self.
Therefore, how we feel when we see the other people’s training, does not need to make us feel insufficient. If this is the case, it may help to take some time away from the social media platform that causes you to think in such a way and focus on what running truly means to you.
Don’t worry what others think
It is only natural that you might worry about what others think. We probably wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. However, some of us worry a lot more than others. For those of us that do, it can get in the way of our enjoyment of the sport.
This is true whether you run a lot, or not so much. For example:
Worrying that people might think you’re obsessed with running.
I truly believe dedication can easily be confused with obsession.
Or, worrying that people think I don’t run enough.
Who is to tell you how much is enough?
Running is completely individual, so what one person does will be different to the next.
It may be that you overthink the reasoning behind why you run. If you feel that others are questioning what your motives are, it can cause you to question them too. Try not to let this get to you, because whatever your reason for running, it’s the right one!
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Despite what social media may look like… it’s not all smiles and easy going. Some days are tough, you feel down for no reason and your legs feel like lead… but you know how I deal with them? I blast some Taylor Swift tunes out and sing till my hearts content! (I know it’s working when my family and @gillettcallum say they have a headache!) 🤣 #mizuno #mizunouk #mizunorunner #mizunoathlete #nevergiveup #lovewhatyoudo #reachbeyond #singyourselfhappy #ukrunchat #runner PC: @r_browne99 💖
Methods of tracking your own progression
Social media does have a lot of positives when used in a beneficial way. I think the likes of Strava and Instagram are a great way to track your own personal progression and journey, or provide inspiration.
Strava is a great tool – alongside apps such as Garmin Connect – for documenting what you do each week, as well as how you felt. Such apps act as a virtual training diary, allowing you to record your training and look back on your achievements.
Instagram is an amazing platform to both inspire others and be inspired by. Different people, whether they are runners or not, can convey important messages that may make you think in a slightly different way. They may speak to your positive side and give you that little bit of extra motivation you need to.
However, if you find having too much access to what goes on in other people’s lives or running makes you feel self-conscious, demotivated or insufficient, don’t be afraid to unfollow them. You can decide who you do and don’t follow.
You don’t have to face your journey alone
Whilst comparing yourself to others may not help you in many circumstances, this doesn’t mean that all people will serve as a source of comparison or negativity. For some, running with others and spending your Sunday long run with friends is exactly what you need to feel motivated.
Having a few people you can rely on to get you out of the door when your motivation is flagging, can be incredibly important for some. The time spent with friends whilst running may even be the reason you run.
Running can be tough, but the friends we make from it can make it feel a lot easier.
Just do you
Ultimately, we are all unique and running means something different to all of us.
It might not bother you what other people think, but if it does, stop to remind yourself why you run in the first place. Resetting your motivation in this way can help you get back on the right track.
Your journey is the only one that matters to you.
Hannah Irwin, is an international runner, who has represented England over 10K and cross country.
Check out Hannah’s other articles for Lonely Goat Running Club and keep an eye out for more, coming soon.