Running is a great sport. It challenges you physically and mentally, pushes you to limits you didn’t know you had, introduces you to new friends and provides a great way to explore new places. Like with many things, however, it’s easy to become obsessive about it, which can ultimately lead to burnout and disappointment. Steve Magness, performance coach and author of Peak Performance, The Passion Paradox and The Science of Running, shared his own experience with an obsession for the sport in a thread on Twitter and offered several tips to help runners avoid the same pitfalls.
THREAD: When I was in high school I was a running phenom.
Then I largely failed.
Here are lessons for the driven that I wish I knew when I was obsessively training and neglecting just about everything else:
— Steve Magness (@stevemagness) February 4, 2021
Learn to zoom out
Magness’ first piece of advice to runners is to have perspective when looking at how running fits into your life, and notes that having the ability to zoom out is one of the most important skills you can develop. He reminds runners that just because you’re good at running doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that matters, and being obsessed about something isn’t the only path to success.
Hard work isn’t the only thing that matters
He goes on to say there are plenty of things that matter just as much (if not more so) as hard work. This includes things like recovery, spending time with friends and family or working on other hobbies. This will allow you to enjoy running even more, and be more present while you’re doing it.
Separate your identity from what you do
Magness explains that when you tie your identity too closely to what you do, any time you fail, it becomes a personal failure. Instead of you failing at running, you’re now a failure. It’s important to understand that running is something that you do, not who you are, so you don’t end up beating yourself up every time a run, race or workout doesn’t go well.
Don’t get stuck in comparison mode
Magness points out that comparison lacks context, and often we’re not very kind to ourselves when we’re evaluating our own performances. “We look to our best performance and have amnesia on the rest,” he says.
Keep things in perspective
Runners tend to attach a lot of self-worth to their performances in races and workouts, which can be a dangerous mindset to fall into. Magness reminds runners that the people you’re closest to don’t care how fast you run, and won’t love you any less if you have a bad run or race.
Don’t get weighed down by your goals
Having goals is a great idea, but as Magness says, goals have a tendency to shift from aspirational to anchors. This can weigh you down and stop you from enjoying the process of getting better, which can ultimately lead to burnout.