I’m now preparing for two back-to-back, really difficult marathons in Boston and New York City, which, aside from a lot of early morning runs and good hydration habits, necessitates a substantial amount of self-belief. And I learned a long time ago that comparing my progress to others’ by publicising my pace on social media was causing me to lose confidence in my running. As a result, I made the decision to cease doing it altogether.
Community run sharing has expanded in recent years, thanks to an inflow of wearables that make it easy to collect running statistics (looking at you, Apple Watch and FitBit). Runners may track and share their times, splits, and progress using apps like Strava and Map My Run, as well as social networking platforms like Instagram and Facebook. On the one hand, these are fantastic tools for fostering community, but they also have the potential to harm people’s mental health.
Nike Run coach Jes Woods adds, “Platforms like Strava are simultaneously the best and worst things that have happened to the running community.” “Sharing your runs on social media or a running site is fantastic for camaraderie and developing a virtual community, but it can also be a source of negative anxiety.”
For me, this was definitely the case. Sharing my statistics on Instagram made me feel like I wasn’t “good enough” to call myself a runner because I wasn’t as fast as my peers—a dilemma that many runners confront, according to Woods. While it may be tempting to compare your speed to that of others on social media, she warns that “comparing yourself to your competition, teammates, or online running pals leads to questions about your fitness and training, which may be a downhill spiral.” What is her recommendation? Curate your feed (that is, turn off or unfollow anyone whose run-related postings irritate you), and only share your runs and paces if they make you happy.
It’s worth emphasising that this type of comparison-related anxiety isn’t limited to social media—trackers, too, have the ability to cause internal pressure. I was obsessively checking the trackers on my watch and phone at one point during my training (since I had to run two at once, right?!). Looking down at my wrist every 30 seconds while running was distracting and anxiety-inducing, and it became harmful when I began to criticise the numbers I was seeing. Hillary Cauthen, PsyD, CMPC, certified mental performance consultant with the Association of Applied Sport Psychology, recently told Well+Good, “Sometimes we’re so concentrated on our tracker that we forget to listen to our body, which is our most essential advice-giver.” Comparing my data to those from previous runs caused me to have negative thoughts, so I decided to stop living by the numbers and instead let my body do its thing.
Of course, paying attention to your pace is necessary when training for a marathon, but you don’t have to make it your major focus every time you put on your running shoes. “There are times and places for focusing on pace, like as speed training or prescribed long run programmes,” Woods explains. “However, I often fantasise of tossing my runner’s watches into the Hudson River.”
Moving away from tracking my pace (and, in effect, sharing it with my followers) has taught me to run from the heart, and it has helped me realise that I am who I am, and I don’t want to change that. These days, my slogan is: “No Problem, No Pace.”
Hello everyone! You appear to enjoy free workouts, savings on cult-favorite wellness brands, and access to unique Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online network of wellness insiders, and you’ll have quick access to your rewards.