Impostor Syndrome and My Tips for Runners

Running the West Side Highway in a rainstorm. 

Running the West Side Highway in a rainstorm. 

A little over two years ago, I stood on a track in a park in Brooklyn and set out to run as much of 3 miles as I could.  It was about two laps, or half a mile.  I thought I'd never be a "runner."  I didn't know how I would ever make it to three miles.  But I came back the next day and ran a little further.

Last week I ran over 7 miles for the second time in two weeks.  Still as I pass other runners and smile or nod, I can't help but hear a tiny whisper in my head that says, "they think I'm a runner!  I fooled them!"  It's a little touch of impostor syndrome, I guess.  But when I finished my 7 miles I jumped up and down in celebration.  The first time, I nearly cried and also not quite as nearly almost threw up.  

I am a runner.  I've been a runner for a while now.  But feeling like a newbie to the club is part of what keeps me going - the excitement at each new mile, or milestone, is easy to tap into and is always fresh.

Here are my tips for beginning, or bettering, your running:

Learn How You Breathe

Everyone's breathing needs and patterns are different.  The most universal tip here is breathe a lot.  Take in more air than you think you could possibly need, and exhale powerfully so as to make the best use of breath VS time.  Do this very consciously.  At my steady pace, I inhale for three steps and exhale for two.  Sometimes 4/2 when I'm just starting my run, and I throw in some 2/2 breaths when I'm really pushing a fast pace.  Practice; Learn what works for you.

Figure Out Your Pace Pattern

My mom and my friend Lindsay both run a faster first mile right out of the gate.  So when I run with either of them I have to automatically fall behind or I wear out too soon.  My first mile is my slower mile - it takes me a bit of time to warm up and speed up.  If I'm running further, like my new 7 mile stretches, I have to keep it very slow for a while early on.  Do this when you're adding distance.  Start out so slow it feels ridiculous.  You're going to need the energy later on.  

Bonus tip: I read somewhere that when you add distance, treat the distance before your normal miles as pre-miles.  So if I'm going from 3 miles to 5 miles, then I take my first 2 miles easy and run the following 3 how I would normally run 3.  Make sense?

Mental Case

Running is pretty much all mental.  If you believe you can do it, you will.  If you aren't sure, you're more likely to head home again before you initially intended.  So how do you, moment by moment, keep your thinking on the positive side?  At first I did a lot of self-talk, like imagining myself a cheering section, or focusing on a different goal for each lap I ran.  Now it's easier for me to just let my mind wander, or to observe the people, houses, and scenery around me.  On my new longer runs, I don't hut the button to check my pace or distance until I'm well after halfway.  No need to get into an "are we there yet?!" mood.

Gear Matters

Have good shoes.  Wear stuff that's moisture-wicking.  Keep your hair up and out of your face.  Don't wear anything that rubs or is uncomfortable in any way - the last thing you need is that kind of distraction.  I keep a few dollars in my pocket to get a Powerade at the market at the end of my route.  And most importantly, wear sunblock! 

Keep Your Tunes Fresh

Need some new love for your playlist?  Check out my 5 new favorite songs on my run playlist.

What is it you love most about running?  What are your running goals for the upcoming season or year?  Share in the comments below!