The importance of self-love as a runner

Coming up to Valentine’s day, I thought it would be of particular importance to address the issue of self-love in the context of running. Of course, it’s applicable to everyone and I’m not trying to label it as a ‘running-only’ concept, but I think its significance is especially overlooked by runners which is why I’m contextualising it in this way in this post. (Warning: despite the name, this post is not particularly romantic).

Although running is a team sport, it is mostly focused on as an individual one because at the end of the day, no one can run the race for you and you have no one or nothing to fall back on apart from yourself and your training. It’s very easy for others to congratulate you on an ‘excellent run’, but in what is an unforgiving sport nine times out of ten you will be disappointed with how you raced (or trained). As runners, we always strive for improvement and, more importantly, success, but it is impossible to always achieve this, and in our constant attempts to succeed, we often forget to appreciate ourselves for who we are. I think this is especially true when you’re classified as an ‘average’ runner; for me, as I’ve never been one of the best – the elite who have either trained their whole lives or repeatedly placed in the top 10 of competitive races – I find that the only people who will recognise me as a runner are my parents. Since I’m rarely showered with praise, I can find it difficult to sometimes give myself this much-needed praise, and wait for others to essentially ‘validate’ me as a runner. I have come to realise (at my ripe old age of 16) that this is unsustainable and has had detrimental effects on not only my running, but my well-being and happiness as a whole. I’ll talk about this more in a later post, but it led to me having to take about 8 months off running a few years ago which obviously had a severe impact on my fitness and confidence.

I have to be honest with you; I’m still not great at this concept of self-love and applying it to myself both in and around running, however I’ve definitely improved and have noticed a significant effect on the way I run. I no longer wait for other people to congratulate me on a run, but indulge myself in self-appraisal if I feel proud of the way I ran or trained, and try not to be too harsh on myself after what I feel to have been a bad race/ session. After all (especially as runners), we are our worst enemies due to a certain tendency to perfectionism and a disappointment that stems from this when we fall short of our goals.


A photo from Saturday’s league race.

So how does self-love help, and where does it come into the running picture?

Well, first things first, never doubt the power of positivity (cringe); if your thoughts are always focused on negative aspects of your life, such as a bad race or training session, then your brain will be in a constant cycle of negativity, expecting the worst for each training session and race and eventually, after repeatedly realising these bad experiences, you will lose your motivation and begin to dread running. By teaching yourself to self-love, you’ll learn to forgive yourself more readily for those below-average runs, and this forgiveness will empower you as a runner as it will allow you to channel this disappointment into positive energy that you can use to push yourself harder and achieve those goals of yours.

Furthermore, it’s in the name: self-love. By practising it, you begin to learn to stop focusing on others and how they’re improving quicker than you, training more and achieving your goals before you, and start focusing more on yourself. I’ve said this before, but it’s okay to be a bit selfish when it comes to running – your body and mind will thank you later. Yes, comparison can add an element of competition which might, in the short term, help to motivate you more, but in the long term it can severely impact your running and turn a stress-relieving activity into a stress-inducing one. Rather than distracting yourself with other people’s PBs and successes, focus your attention on your PBs, however small they may be, and remember to appreciate them when they do come because they’re a demonstration of your hard work paying off – which will then motivate you to push yourself to achieve another one, a spiral upwards rather than downwards.

Finally, self-love will help to ensure your health and happiness, which go hand-in-hand towards making a better, faster and stronger runner. Why? Because if you can love yourself, it means you can accept yourself for who you are which is a key step towards optimal mental and thus physical well-being. Remember that unhappiness outside of running will seep into your training and negatively impact it, giving you the wrong mindset for improvement. If you are happy and healthy, then all you need to add to the equation is hard work and the rest will come in its own time.


Sunday’s smoothie bowl – red-themed for valentine’s day 🙂

On a slightly different note, you might’ve already seen on my Instagram but my race on Saturday (the last Sussex league race of this cross-country season) went surprisingly well. I may not have come first, but during the race I felt strong and enjoyed myself which allowed me to push harder. Over the past few weeks I had to learn to appreciate myself for the runner that I was and accept that maybe I had ‘plateaued’. This acceptance made an improvement feel so much better and taught me a valuable lesson in self-love, and I’m going to make it one of my non-running related goals to continue practising this and hopefully preserve my love for running for years to come 🙂


Coming in on the final straight on Saturday – feeling strong!

PS Sorry for how late this post is, I meant to upload it Sunday but when we arrived in France there was a power cut which meant we had no Wifi/ electricity/ hot water etc for 24 hours – gale force winds have also prevented me from doing my long run which is incredibly frustrating, but with trees falling down left, right and centre it’s simply not safe to go out in this…

Emma xx

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