The Benefits of Running Alone

A number of times on this channel I’ve mentioned that running is really a social activity. And it’s great to find a group or a club or a team or friends, somebody you can run with, to make your run more enjoyable, keep you more consistent.

A number of times on this channel I’ve mentioned that running is really a social activity. And it’s great to find a group or a club or a team or friends, somebody you can run with, to make your run more enjoyable, keep you more consistent. But there are plenty of benefits of running alone, and that’s what I’m going to give you today.

If you haven’t been with me before, or if you have, especially if you have, you’re going to want to hit that subscribe button to stick around with me for more videos of this show I call Runner’s High. Now, I want to talk about doing things alone, like shooting this video for you. I’m here by myself, except my cat who likes to be in the way all of the time. You may see him on screen or maybe not. You have to know that there are certain things you can get out of being alone and certain things that you can get out of with being in a group. So, they each have their place, and you have to decide which is going to benefit me at a certain time.

Now, the biggest thing you’re going to get out of with being alone is learning your own internal pacing. If you are goaded on easily by somebody else’s pace, and you pick up the pace too much, then learning your own internal pacing by spending time by yourself is a perfect way to spend a run by yourself.

Now, you have to take that pacing, that you’re learning by yourself, whether it’s going for a long run, or doing work on the track, or doing the fartlek, whatever it is, whatever kind of pacing you’re working on, you have to now take that internal sense of pacing, and when you get back together with a group or you’re in a race, then you have to be able to rely on yourself, and be really confident in your own abilities to set your own pace and not rely on somebody else.

The thing with racing is sometimes often actually, there are a lot of people who are very inexperienced, and even some people who are experienced and just forgetting, that go out too hard. When you’re confident in your own pacing, you let them go, know I’m doing the best I can do. And often those people that went out too hard, they’re going to come back to you. If they don’t come back to you, then you probably weren’t able to keep up with them in the first place.

So, the other benefit of learning your own pacing is injury reduction. Because injuries happen when you push yourself too far too hard for too long. So, knowing that self-pacing for whatever strategy you’re going for; long run, fast, tempo, whatever it is, keeps you, hopefully, injury free, and also optimizes your running for racing and completing workouts, whether you’re alone, or with a group.

One of the overlooked things that you get from running alone is that you’ve got time to clear your head. I often prescribe not running with music. And the reason I do is that there’s a lot of mental clutter going on in all of our lives. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m alone in the universe, and nobody else has mental noise going on in their head. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s likely you’ve got all these thoughts and things distracting yourselves all the time.

But you don’t necessarily give yourself time to let them play out and subside. We’re so distracted by our screens, we’re so distracted by social media, by all the entertainment we could be watching, by the work we need to do, by our family life, by our home projects; all of these things swirling on all the time, and running by yourself can be a great opportunity to let all of those things go and just run.

Sometimes you’ll work through things when you’re out running. Your head becomes clearer, you become a little bit more creative. I know, often, there are times when I’m out running, and I’m trying to work on a song beforehand. And then suddenly, it comes to me and I’m sitting there going… and it’s playing inside my head. And then when I come back, I can notate what I was thinking as long as I can hold on to it and then get back to a place of clarity and creativity. So, running alone gives you space to clear your own head.

And along the lines of a busy schedule and all the things that are going on, it can be tough to schedule running with somebody else. I know when I was racing triathlon, I had a number of the guys around me because I raced kind of in the top five, top 10 guys here in the city. And they would say, hey, why don’t you come out to this or that, and it would often be at six, seven o’clock at night, typically when I wanted to eat dinner, because they work normal jobs, and I don’t.

So, I had the flexibility to get my stuff done early on in the day. At that time, I was working out twice a day, so I’d get both my workouts in before they would be off of work. Whereas if I had to do it on their schedule, then I’ve got to plan everything around, I’m going to be more tired in the evening. I optimized it for my own particular workflow, and that is a benefit you simply can’t get when you’re running with a group.

Now, does that mean that you should never run with a friend, never run with a group? No, it doesn’t. There’s still plenty of benefits from there. But it is one upside is that you don’t have to schedule around anybody. You fit it in exactly when you can, when you want to, and you don’t have to do anything for anybody else. Now, that may present its own problem, and that is that sometimes running by yourself is tough. But look at the upside of that is now a mental toughness challenge, and that’s another upside of running by yourself, working on your mental toughness. And if you know anything about running, you’ve been running for more than two days, you know that mental toughness is huge.

Having mental toughness allows you to get over those challenges, to get over those hurdles when maybe it’s inside of the set, and you’re running intervals and you just don’t feel good. Having that mental toughness helps you break through that and stick with it. Or you’re fatigued or you’re tired at the end of a couple of weeks and it’s almost rest week, it helps you stick with that.

There’s all these little inflection points, where having mental toughness that you’ve developed, because it is a development game. It isn’t simply a I was born mentally tough or I wasn’t. You can become tougher mentally, and do that through practice.

So, by running alone, by relying on yourself, by going through these challenges by yourself, you’re building up your own confidence, your own mental resilience, so that when something comes up that’s tougher than you’ve faced before you know, I’ve got this reserve of strength that I can use that keeps me mentally tough to get through this till I get back to an easier place; something that feels a little more fluid. Are there any other benefits of running alone that you don’t think I’ve touched on? Leave them in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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