If you feel like you’re stuck in a running rut, there’s an app for that. Of course apps and GPS watches are a great way to keep track of your mileage, paces and splits, but there is a huge part of their functionality that you may be missing out on. Thanks to apps like MapMyRun and tech like the Under Armour UA HOVR running shoes, you can access your stats, share with your friends and take advantage of a whole new community that is already established (and at your fingertips).
Even if you prefer to run alone, you don’t have to train on your own. Whether you aren’t able to sync up your schedule with that of a training group or you just prefer to pop in your headphones and listen to a podcast as you cover your daily miles, you can find your tribe online.
“A lot of runners, like myself, enjoy solo runs, but still want to be part of a community,” mentions Amanda Brooks, the voice behind popular website Run To The Finish. “Social media provides the space for connecting with others over a shared passion to share frustrations or motivation.”
So why — and how — should you navigate this virtual running world? Whether its an app or you create a blog to share your workout journey, here are some of the benefits you will notice.
Thanks to technology, you never have to run alone. Whether you share your runs in real-time or sync your stats later, runners have even more ways to train with running buddies near and far. Research has proven running partners — even those who are virtual — can make you a faster runner, so in this case, harnessing motivation is really as simple as creating a social media account or downloading an app.
“Sports psychology is said to have been invented by a man who noticed he rode his bike faster when he was with his friends than by himself,” notes Brian Baxter, sports psychologist and the founder of Baxter Sports. “Most people get more out of their workouts under a coach, with a training partner or with a team, so cultivating a community is a really good idea.”
Joining a virtual community is a great way to grow as a runner and even get advice, though it is important to note credentials when changing up your training. It can be helpful to hear what works for another runner, but understanding that it may not work exactly the same way for you is key.
“As with most things, it’s important to understand the background of those you’re following,” offers Brooks. “Are they a certified trainer showing you exercises? Are they brand new to running but telling you they’ve got the keys to a Boston qualifying time?”
Though you do need to consider the source before completely changing your routine, sharing your triumphs and setbacks is all part of being a member of a running group. Whether you are in-person or virtual, sharing what you’ve learned is an important part of cultivating community and helping others reach their goals.
It can be scary to put yourself out there, but when it comes down to it, positively adding to your community comes down to a few simple things.
“Be honest,” urges Baxter. “Post successes and failures. Ask questions. Develop relationships with other members.”
Brooks agrees, adding that shifting your mindset of having friends versus followers really makes a difference. She encourages you to comment on others’ accounts and become engaged, which is what social connections are all about.
When it comes to building your virtual running community, you will gain far more than you’ll lose. Getting ahead of ‘imposter syndrome’ and recognizing when it’s affecting you is important. If you find yourself pushing even harder on runs to catch up to the stats of others or downplay your accomplishments because others are ahead of you, it may be time to take a step back and refocus your attention on your own progress again.
“It’s super important to follow people who make you feel good; don’t fall into the trap of following people who have what you think you want,” remarks Brooks. “Someone else maybe faster or fitter, but it’s all about how they share that information. Do they lift you up and excite you to try for it yourself? Those are the people who should fill your feed.”
There is a difference, of course, between taking the success and stats of others and using it for motivation, instead of playing a comparison game. Brooks adds that it is OK to see the accomplishments of others and use it as fuel as to what is possible. She encourages you to turn it into hard work instead of frustration and fuel your goals, whether big or small.