Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The worst thing you can do for your running is to tie your worth to your running performance. That is a recipe for disaster.
When your running is going through a negative cycle, if your worth is tied to your performance, that’s a sinking ship. You’ll feel poorly about yourself, poorly about your running potential, and it’s not a great motivator for training.
And when your running is on top, it’s great. You’re feeling amazing about yourself. That is, until someone else does better. Or you ran well in a race—but you could have run better. Even when we’re on top and running our very best, we can find reasons to be so tough on ourselves, which can impact our mental health.
That is why, fast or slow, it doesn’t matter, we should never tie our worth to our running performance.
I spent years feeling so poorly about myself because I had four really tough marathons in a row where I underperformed. I allowed my performance to be how I saw myself. And because they went so badly, I really felt like a failure and I thought everyone else thought I was one too. My self-esteem and confidence were totally in the dumps because I let my worth be impacted by my running performance. How you feel about yourself can be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I’ve found.
Then I finally rebuilt my confidence and started running stronger workouts. And I felt like I was back on top. When I ran the marathon of my dreams, the next day, I went back into a negative spiral with my running. I started to compare myself to other running friends that had run faster, or realizing that while I ran a strong race, I could have pushed myself more.
Somehow even in a good moment, because I still had tied my worth to my running performance, it took away all the joy I had initially had in having a breakthrough performance. While I had come so far with my running and mental health, I still had a bit more to go in finding the best and most balanced relationship with running.
You are more than your times.
That right there is one of the most powerful things you can internalize and believe about for your mental health and your relationship with running.
Your times do not define you. They don’t give you more worth or importance. They are a fun aspect of running. But they aren’t running. It’s crazy how we can let times ruin the joy of running for us. At least I have.
Running is such a gift. It’s there for you to enjoy, there for your mental health, there for you. It was never meant to be ruined by you putting this unnecessary pressure in tying your worth to running.
The irony is if you enjoy the process, if you love to run and don’t put that pressure on yourself, if you can shake off the tough running days because you know your value and your future potential, that it will help your running performance.
Our running performance is a bonus of running. But there is so much more to us than our running performance. And realizing that helped me to reset my relationship with running and actually start to love it again.
Running is supposed to help us with our mental health. I know it did for me. I got into it because of how it made me feel: strong, confident, empowered, at peace, and motivated. In the right balance, that’s what running should do for all of us. If running isn’t doing those things for you, it’s likely that it’s out of balance.
And if it’s out of balance, recognizing that is the first step. And knowing that you can get into a much better balanced relationship is so important. It starts by knowing your worth and your value and knowing 100 percent that running doesn’t even come into that equation. With or without running, you are so valuable and special and important.
I hope that you let running be something that helps your mental health, that each run brings you some joy and peace in this crazy world we live in, that you’re able to use runs to process things and feel at peace with life. We deserve to have running enhance our mental health and the second it starts to tear ourselves down, it’s worth the time to invest to get it back in the right spot.
Running is a gift for our mental health. Let’s keep it that way.