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7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner

7 Life Lessons Learned From Being A Runner

Running seems so simple. You just put one foot in front of the other over and over again really fast. Who would have ever guessed there was more to it? Yet, in its elementary lack of complexity, you stumble into the profound with each swish of your shorts. If you listen, running can tell you about yourself in a way that few things can. The more you embrace each mile, the more you understand that the wisdom found in the quiet, dew-filled morning runs is unique and spectacular, all wrapped up in one heart-pounding combination.

So how can running teach you about life? Read on. Then lace up your shoes and see what you can learn!

1. Synergy isn’t just a buzz word; it’s how you get better!

Synergy simply means that 1 +1 = 3. That is, you are so much more powerful working with others than alone. If you have been a runner long, you know that we form a global community. I can pass another runner on the road, or find out someone is a runner, and we instantly share a connection that warrants getting up at the crack of dawn to meet a total stranger and go pound the pavement together. Because, if you’re a runner, then you instantly get a huge part of me—no explanation necessary. What better way to start a friendship?

Runners support each other. They push each other. They unite over running together. You find you become so much faster when you are surrounded by the sound of other feet slapping the sidewalk right next to you. With a good support group at your heels, the miles fly by, the mountains become molehills, and you suddenly discover that you are faster than you ever thought possible.

2. Your body is capable of more than you ever dreamed.

When I first started running in high school track, I never dreamed I would run farther than the few miles needed to train for the mile race in the track event. I thought a 5K race was a huge deal! Now, I’ve completed a marathon and I am training for my first Ironman triathlon; which has you running a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles to warm up first.

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I can honestly say that finishing my marathon made me realize that endurance running wasn’t something only obtainable by those born to run. Regardless of genetics, any healthy person can become a distance runner as long as they put in the proper training time. Your body can do truly impressive feats when given the right training and nutrition.

Now, when I drive distances, I think, “Hey, if my car broke down right now, I could run that!” It’s actually an empowering concept!

3. Your competitor isn’t the one beside you; it’s the one inside you!

Sure, it’s nice to outrun other runners. I like winning my age group just as much as the next girl. But, the real war is inside. It’s that voice that tells you it’s too dark, cold, and windy to get out of your unbelievably soft, warm bed and go for an early morning run. It’s the very sound, logical whisper that tells you it’s better to slip on your slippers then your running shoes after work. After all, you’ve worked hard all day. You deserve a break. If you do manage to overpower that siren of sleepiness and make it out the door, it’s that whimper nagging your mind the entire run that you’re going to get heat stroke if you don’t turn around right now and go back and get a nice, cold lemonade.

If you want to become a serious runner, you have to learn to silence that voice. I can promise you, running a marathon is not easy. It hurts. And, if you don’t learn to defeat the enemy in your head, your feet will never take you very far.

After running, I see that enemy inside everywhere. When I want to eat healthier, she’s tempting me with the junk food. When I want to be productive, she’s arguing how a movie would be a nice way to relax.

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Every time I want to move against the current of easy, my inner enemy wants me to stop struggling and just let life happen to me. But, even a dead fish can swim with the tide. I want to live! And that means defeating my mental monster and giving up what’s easy to discover that you can push past the pain to the impossible. There’s a war inside, but for now, I’m winning!

4. You are what you eat!

When I’m seriously training, I think about every meal as it relates to my run. Are my food choices helping me or hindering me? You see, some things I eat will reduce soreness, strengthen my body in muscle repair, and help keep me lean so I can cover distance more easily. Other foods will slow me down, make me feel sick when I’m running, cause me to pack on pounds, or loose my immunity to illness. While I don’t remember every amazing thing that I’ve tasted, I do remember what it feels like to lose my fitness, endurance, and health. It is directly related to my daily eating habits.

When you run, you can easily see a direct link between what goes in your mouth and what energy pulses through your feet. Once you see how much better you can perform with clean eating, you start to see a connection with how food affects the rest of your life too. I now understand how my food choices impact my mental clarity, performance, confidence, mood, and relationships. I never would have seen the causation so clearly without running.

5. A little grit is required in life for anything worthwhile.

If you want to get better at running, you have to stress your body. In order for your muscles to get stronger, they first must be slightly damaged through exertion. Then, your body builds the muscle fibers up stronger to handle the increased workload. The damaged muscles are what cause you to feel sore after a good workout.

While you should be responsible and manage how much pressure you put on your body to avoid injury, you can’t get better without adding in some stress.

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This also translates to other areas of life. People who are successful are usually so because they didn’t shy away from hard work and a little pain. They stepped outside their comfort zone. They put in the extra elbow grease that most won’t exert to reap the rewards many will never achieve.

While gaining fitness in running and life is always an uphill battle (especially if you’re doing hill repeats), the view from the top is spectacular! You learn you really can live a life of no limits, and it’s worth every painful moment needed to reach your full potential.

6. People who are better than you should motivate you, not intimidate you.

When I’m training, I love to seek out people who are just a little faster than me. It helps push me to catch up to them. I also love watching elite athletes race, because I mentally envision how they move when I’m running and strive to replicate that. Emulating someone who has reached higher levels helps keep me excited about improving, and to remember to never be content with a stagnant life.

Your life is always fluid as well. You can either be moving towards good or bad in your relationships, health, fitness, career, and mentality with every choice. For me, running is like the canary in the coal mine. I can see results very quickly for my decisions. In other areas of life, it takes more time for your choices to produce change. But, if I want to become better, I need to surround myself with people who know how to get me there. After all, who better to show the way than those who have already been there before me?

7. You begin to see potential in everyone.

Fitness is attainable to everyone, no matter what your waist size or body fat percentage. When I see an unfit person sweating and slogging through a walk / run workout on the track, I know if they keep at it in a few months, they will be transformed into a different person. A fit, fast, confident runner is being chiseled out from their exhausted attempt to move with each trembling step.

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How do I know this? Because I’ve completed that metamorphosis a few times myself. I’ve gone from an overweight, depressed couch potato to a sleek, fit marathoner and triathlete. The great thing about running is that you don’t have to be incredibly talented, just determined.

And, honestly, isn’t that how we should view everyone? As a potential success story in progress? While someone may not live up to the stereotype currently, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be successful when they put some actionable work behind their dreams.

Running mirrors life in so many philosophical ways. I think that’s why I love it so much. As I dig deeper into each mile, I learn so much more about myself. With each pair of running shoes I wear out, I gain a deeper perspective on life’s journey.

Plus, running gives me a valid excuse to collect copious amounts of psychedelic shoes! And, really, what girl could resist that?

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on January 16, 2020

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

The way you feel about yourself greatly influences how you live and interact with others. If you are confident about yourself, you tend to see yourself positively and actually enjoy spending time with and around people. You don’t feel self-conscious or awkward around others, and that allows you to live your fullest and happiest life.

However, if you’re drowning in a sea of self-doubt, hesitancy and shyness, you often withdraw and isolate yourself from others and avoid interacting and connecting with people. That anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are around people is holding you back greatly and it is not good for your emotional health and overall well-being. You need to do something about it if you are low in self-confidence or have friends or family members who are not confident.

“Confidence isn’t walking into a room thinking you’re better than everyone, it’s walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone” – Anonymous

Here are simple, practical tips to boost your confidence right now and make you feel and act your best.

1. Stop labeling yourself as awkward, timid or shy.

When you label yourself as awkward, timid or shy, you sub-consciously tell your mind to act accordingly and psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. Instead of labeling and entertaining negative self-talk, visualize and affirm yourself as confident and strong. Close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself in different situation as you would like to be.

Be your own cheerleader. Experts believe that positive affirmation and good mental practices like picturing yourself winning or achieving a goal can lead to greater feelings of self-assurance and prepare your brain for success.[1] As the saying goes, “seeing is believing.” Picture yourself as confident and soon enough you will begin to manifest behavior that gives evidence to this new ‘fact.’

2. Recognize that the world is not focused on you (unless, of course, you are Kanye West).

That means you don’t have to be excessively sensitive about who you are or what you are doing (or not doing). You are not on the center stage; there is no need for preoccupation with self and perfectionism. As rap music star Rocko sings, “You just do you and I will do me, aight?”

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Forget about trying to please everyone or being perfect. Trying to be perfect and being a people-pleaser puts too much pressure on you and creates unnecessary anxiety. Besides, people are too preoccupied with their own issues to pay much attention to your every move unless, of course, you are a mega famous, super celebrity like Beyonce or Kanye West.

3. Focus on other people as opposed to yourself.

If you are low on confidence, self-conscious, nervous and shy in social situations, focus your attention on other people and what they are saying or doing instead of focusing on your own awkwardness.

For example, think about what it is that is interesting about the person who’s the centre of the party or the guy or girl you are talking with. Prompt them to talk more about themselves and be genuinely curious and interested in what they say. You will instantly come across as confident and warmhearted.

People generally want to talk about themselves, be heard and understood. They will love it when you’re eager and willing to listen to them and really hear what they have to say.

This habit of focusing more on what you love in others as opposed to what you dislike in yourself will not only help you become more assertive and comfortable in virtually all social situations, but also instantly make you feel great about yourself.

4. Know (and accept) yourself for who you are.

Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Art of War, said, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” Even in the battle with lack of confidence, you will need to know yourself to win.

Knowing yourself starts with understanding that people are not all the same, neither are all social situation suitable for everyone. You might not be confident in large gatherings, but you could be bold and confident in one-on-one and small group interactions. We all have our own unique gifts and unique ways of expressing ourselves. Embrace yours!

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Introverts, for example, have a quiet confidence that is, unfortunately, often confused for shyness. They are naturally low key and prefer to spend time alone. However, this natural disposition affords them certain unique gifts, such as an ability to listen better than most people and notice things that others don’t.

Your uniqueness is where your strength and advantage lies. You won’t be comfortable and confident in all situations all the time. Albert Einstein said,

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

5. Crack a smile.

If there is one sure way to instantly boost your confidence, it’s cracking a smile. Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at The George Washington University, says that flashing those pretty, pearly white teeth will immediately make you appear both confident and composed. But, the effect of smiling is not just external. Studies show that smiling can also help nix feelings of stress and pave the way for a happier and more relaxed you.[2]

Not a bad return for something seemingly so trite, wouldn’t you agree?

6. Break a sweat—with exercise.

Working out is another great way to make yourself feel amazing and confident. Science has shown that exercising increases your endorphins, helps reduce stress, tones your muscles and makes you feel happy and confident.[3]

And hey, all you have to do is take a walk a few times a week and you’ll see the benefits. What seems to matter—as far as your confidence goes—is whether you break a sweat, not how strenuous your session is, which is pretty cool. Start working out now.

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7. Groom yourself.

This might seem mundane, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a shower and shave can have on your confidence and self-image. And when you spritz on a scent, the boost on confidence and self-esteem is incredible. As it turns out, your favorite fragrance does more than make you smell oh-so-nice.

A study found that a fragrance can inspire confidence in men. Interestingly, the study also found that the more a man likes the fragrance, the more confident he might feel. Another study found that 90% of women feel more confident while wearing a scent than those who go fragrance-free.

8. Dress nicely.

Another one that might seem trite, but it works. If you dress nicely, you’ll instantly feel good about yourself and give your confidence a real boost. That is largely because you’ll feel attractive, presentable and sometimes even successful in nice clothes.

While dressing nicely means something different for everyone, it does not necessarily mean wearing $500 designer outfits. It means wearing clothes that are clean, that you are comfortable in and that are nice-looking and presentable, including casual clothes.

9. Do activities you enjoy.

Whether it is reading a book, playing a musical instrument, riding your bicycle or going fishing, do what you really enjoy and what makes you truly happy often. It will boost your self-esteem, soothe your ego and allow you to identify with your gifts and talents. That will in turn bolster your self-belief and grow your confidence exponentially.

You might not become popular for doing what you love, but you might not even want to be popular at all. Being popular doesn’t make you happy; doing what you love does.

10. Prepare for the possibility of rejection / setback.

Late World No. 1 professional tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation.” You need to prepare for the possibility of rejection and setback.

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Why?

Everybody suffers rejection and setback at one point or another. You are not exempted. The question on your mind, therefore, should not be if you will be rejected, but how you will handle rejection when it comes.

Prepare yourself adequately in every situation to minimize the risk and effect of rejection and so that your confidence is not broken. For example, learn public speaking and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand if you have landed a public speaking engagement. That way, you are sure of yourself and confident you have what it takes to hack it. If you are rejected, don’t take it personally.

Rejection and setbacks happen to the best of us. Take it as a learning experience. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

11. Face uncomfortable situations square in the face.

Don’t run away from uncomfortable situations. Running away from people or situations because you feel scared, shy or timid only confirms and reinforces your shyness. Instead, face the situation that makes you uneasy square in the face. For example, go ahead and talk to that person you are afraid to approach, or go straight to the front of your yoga class! What’s the worst that can happen?

Prepare and be ready for any eventuality. The more you face your fears, the more you realize you are stronger than you thought and the more confident you get. This simple, yet admittedly courageous, act makes you unstoppable. You get comfortable being uncomfortable and begin to feel like you can take on the world. And that is the hallmark of someone destined for great things.

12. Sit up straight and walk tall—you are awesome!

Yes, sit up straight and believe you are awesome. Don’t slump in your chair or slouch your shoulders. Experts say the right stance can not only keep your self-esteem and mood lifted, but also lead to more confidence in your own thoughts.[4]

The way to sit is to open up your chest and keep your head level so that you look and feel poised and assured. And when you get up, stand tall and walk like you’re on a mission. People who sit up straight and walk tall are more attractive and instantly feel more confident. Try it now: you’ll feel fierce and confident just by sitting up straight and walking tall.

Featured photo credit: Freshh Connection via unsplash.com

Reference

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