The notion of having a negative title doesn’t seem like a good idea, right? But, my sincere hope is that new runners continue running, so with that, I’m sharing the top seven reasons why new runners quit. The most common hiccups, issues, and challenges that a new runner will come across that derails the most impassioned plans and motivation.
As with anything, we often start something new with lots of excitement, motivation, energy, and big expectations. The challenge is to maintain that, or at least a portion of it! As you’ll read below, some issues are physical, others are around mindset, but all contribute to why new runners quit.
7 Reasons Why New Runners Quit
This often happens with a runner that sets a very lofty goal, or has unrealistic expectations. Frustration sets in when the task seems too difficult, or we sense that we are not making enough progress.
How to solve?
Set a practical goal. A half marathon is in most instances NOT a realistic goal for a new runner. Or, picking some random, high mileage goal or pace you want to achieve is a motivation zapper, too. If you’re new to running, a 5K as a goal race (even virtual) by running three days per week is a better, more achievable goal. And, put your pace aspirations, and comparisons to other runners aside. Everyone was a new runner at some point with similar challenges.
Injuries can deter the best plans and intentions, and is one of the most common reason a new runner quits. Often, some rest, or a few days off is all that is needed. But, some runners will think it’s a sign to put their shoes in the closet for good; it’s not! Or, your routine is disrupted, and you find it hard to get back in the groove.
How to solve?
First, it’s important to train within your physical limitations; this is closely related to setting practical goals at the beginning based on your current fitness level. Two, ensure you do a dynamic warm-up and cool down for your runs (takes just a few minutes).
Three, don’t fall into the too much, too soon, too fast trap (or any of the three), likely THE most common mistake for new runners. Going from very little activity to relatively high-volume training in a short period of time can not be balanced by the perfect pair of running shoes. It takes time for you to adjust to the increased time on foot, and impact to running (it IS an impact sport).
Related Topic: Top Running Injury Rehab Mistakes
Pssst – running is an aerobic activity. It will test your cardiovascular strength like few sports will. And, it’s one of the reasons it is SO EFFECTIVE for improved cardiovascular fitness. Yet, with that you’ll experience some discomfort as a new runner – the dreaded “huff and puff.” The discomfort initially can be such a confidence zapper, and thus, our beloved new runners quit.
How to solve?
First, know that some difficulty breathing means your body is trying to meet the physical demand of running; it’s part of the process, and don’t let it deter you.
However, here’s some specific things to make it more manageable:
Slow down your pace; a new runner should be running at a pace where they can maintain a conversation.
Try the run-walk method. It is an excellent choice for new runners, and will allow you to continue exercising and increase your fitness level sooner.
Breath through your nose and mouth, and maintain good posture (shoulders back & down, not bending forward at waist).
Keep at it! The more you run, the easier your breathing will become.
Same route, same pace, same time, same energy put forth is a recipe for boredom! As a new runner, you may not notice it at first, but soon enough you’ll feel like you’re starring in the movie Groundhog Day (if you haven’t seen it, you need to!). It is fairly easy to get into a running rut routine, even for seasoned runners.
How to solve?
You guessed it, vary your route, distance and speed. Distance and speed initially may be more difficult to do if you’re at the point of building your running base/aerobic strength. Yet, you can certainly vary the route: go in the opposite direction, try a trail run. Other options: run at a different time of day, listen to an interesting podcast or motivating music.
Extreme weather conditions or temps can make us want to stay inside where the air is “comfy.” Clearly, Mother Nature has it out for us, and we are not meant to be a runner after all. False.
How to solve?
A treadmill certainly can be a welcome friend when conditions are less than ideal, if you have access to one in your home, or at a gym. The second option is to just suck it up, and run anyway with these things in mind! 1) Dress appropriately given the temperatures (layers if it’s cold). 2) Pick a time of day that makes it more pleasant (ie: earlier in day before temps rise). And 3) remember running in heat and cold can help boost your performance, thus baking you a faster runner.
This is often the #1 excuse/reason why runners quit. Given the current pandemic, many of us have MORE time on our hands than usual, an experience quite unlike our lives before. It’s likely the busyness will return, eventually. At that point, work, social, family commitments will edge their way in, and seemingly, your new running habit phased out.
How to solve: A busy life does not mean you can’t also be a runner! You can still have health benefits by running ~20-30 minutes a few times per week. And, it’s a matter of prioritizing your time. Many runners choose to run in the morning before they’re tied up in commitments, and their energy is zapped.
30 minutes is the equivalent to a sit-com/favorite show, or time that is easily sucked up by being on social media. Being conscious of choices you’re making with your time will help you find the time. Lastly, run with someone at a predetermined time. Currently, that’s not a viable option, but it will be once the pandemic is over, and will hold you more accountable.
Choosing and Wearing the Wrong Shoes
Form over function is a big mistake when it comes to running. Your running shoes are your #1 investment, and likely the biggest contributor to minimizing your injury risk. Professor Barb Hoogenboom, who works in the Physical Therapy department at Grand Valley University states “When we see people in our clinic, nine times out of ten, if they haven’t consulted with a good running store, or a good provider of footwear, they’re choosing a shoe by color.”
How to solve: Therefore, Hoogenboom recommends going to a running shoe specialist and being very careful when sampling the choices. Try on at least three-four different pairs while there, and don’t feel rushed.. Also remember that you typically have to size up at least a half-size with running shoes to have enough room in the toe box.