Two-time American Olympian, NBC sports analyst and author Kara Goucher says that running can be a powerful vehicle for bonding. In her book Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence, Goucher shares some strategies to elevate your ties to your running community, whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned veteran.
Even if you lace up and head out alone on most runs, you’re probably connected to some like-minded athletes in some form. You may not be maximizing these relationships to their fullest potential: studies have shown that connecting with others even in small ways increases self-esteem, helps to prevent burnout and strengthens your ability to handle life challenges, injuries and setbacks.
Here are Goucher’s strategies to create strong, uplifting bonds with your fellow runners.
Find accountability partners to run with
“A good running partner can help you make wise training decisions and provide the right amount of push,” says Goucher. While connecting doesn’t come easily to everyone, Goucher suggests being willing to ask someone in your network to help hold you accountable. If you haven’t found a network yet, try searching online. “I am constantly inspired by the amazing women who I meet and connect with online,” Goucher adds. She offers her own Instagram account as a starting point.
Spend time with runners who inspire
Pinpoint the people in your life who support, inspire and influence your running. Nurturing connections with your running family can create bonds that endure over decades. “Spend most of your time and energy with those who make you feel good about yourself,” says Goucher. “The confidence I have gained through my supportive social connections has contributed directly to my success,” she adds. Invest in others and their success, and the support you give will come back to you.
Help other athletes whenever you can
Social connections can be undemanding and still be impactful. “A smile, a word of encouragement, or a simple ‘you’re doing great!’ during a race goes a long way,” says Goucher. Seek out opportunities to show support at races or charity events you care about. Spending time with a younger or less experienced athlete can do wonders for both of you. “Social connections cause chemical changes in your brain, providing a hit of positive emotion and confidence,” Goucher adds. The common experience of running, with both highs and lows, is powerful.