Overcoming Anxiety: Tips For Getting Out The Door

Seven tips for overcoming running-related anxiety.

By on December 7, 2016 | Comments

So, yeah, I deal with anxiety from time to time. I’ve faced it socially, in my previous careers, and, oddly enough, with my running. Yup. Despite having run regularly for nearly a quarter century, I’ve increasingly battled anxious feelings when headed out for my near daily run. Anxiety is common and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. However, to get the most out of life, it’s something that should be addressed rather than avoided. The following are merely examples of some ways that I personally deal with my running-related anxiety.

Please keep in mind that I’m no medical professional and that persistent anxiety that affects one’s physical health, work, or relationships; causes one to miss out on life; or leads to self-medication with drugs or alcohol may warrant professional assistance.

  • Ax the Avoidance. I’ve been avoiding writing this point. Really. I’ve been avoiding it by attending to the other points in this article and other work more broadly. It’s easy to find something else, anything else to do when we need to overcome an anxiety hurdle. Taking care of email. Straightening up one’s desk or one’s room. Researching an upcoming race or purchase or travel on the internet. These are ways I might avoid facing what’s causing my anxiety under the guise of “doing something useful.” I learned of the whole concept during a short-term go with a therapist back in my attorney days, and it’s been so helpful. I both recognize my old favorite avoidance techniques and can catch whether I’m doing something that doesn’t need to be done at a certain moment in order to avoid an unpleasant task. Hint: That avoidance often looks like busy work.
  • Acknowledge and deal with triggers. Often enough, the anxiety I encounter when I consider heading out for a run originated somewhere else. That anxiety might come from a confrontation with a loved one, dealing with an unpleasant work situation, or thinking about contentious neighborhood politics. If I’m in a period when I’m prone to anxiety, I’ll plan on running when I’m less likely to have had an anxiety-inducing event (such as heading out in the morning) or avoid opening a particular email that’s likely to trouble me.
  • Prioritize. Many days I create a to-do list for myself and that list tends to be predominantly work related. It keeps me on track. I incentivize it. I love it. If I need a little help, I simply add “go run” on my to-do list. I suppose this could create even more anxiety if my current workload is what’s really troubling me, but much more often it succeeds in getting me out the door and running.
  • Go casual. There are numerous days last winter when I’d get up from my desk, throw on a hat and gloves, and start running… in my casual pants, flannel shirt, and whatever shoes I was wearing. I was quite the sight, but I was also out running. Cutting out the couple minutes it took to get changed increased the chances that I’d make it out the door. What’s more, once I was out there I was apt to view my run more casually and less critically.
  • Have fun. Sometimes when I need a little extra something to get me out the door, I make it a fun run. For instance, on Thanksgiving Day I felt buried with work and was tempted not to run… so I decided to set out on a “turkey chase.” That is, I’d start running and see how fast I could find turkey. (Answer that day: 33 minutes.)
  • Streak. While it has the potential to increase anxiety, I find that starting and sticking to a streak can at least help me get out the door and run. I don’t set conditions of any sort, I just need to do a bit of running, even if that’s just a one-mile lap around my neighborhood.
  • Start small. Speaking of one-mile laps, I find that I’m less anxious if I set out for the most modest of runs. The mile loop from my doorstep is great, as it’s as easy as my local terrain offers and I can easily add on more laps if I feel like it.

Call for Comments

  • So, does anyone else out there get anxious about running sometimes?
  • If so, how do you work through it?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.