Runners World Articles: Archives - May 2001
Going It Alone: Many runners prefer solo workouts,
and for good reason
In these running-boom days, we hear so much about the pleasures
of group running that you might think solo running is only for those
with a social disease. Not so. Many runners prefer to run by themselves,
at least some of the time. And solo running can bring many important
For beginners, let's not forget the first rule of running: Listen
to your body. When you run alone, it's easy to tune in to your legs,
your shoulders, your breathing. You can monitor all systems, adjust
pace, and quickly notice those early hints of calf tightness. Solo
running also allows you to relax and de-stress. You don't have to
worry about anyone else, so you feel in control of the workout.
It's easy to adjust your goals and expectations up of down. This
sense of freedom releases your mind to tackle issues you're dealing
with at work or home. Often you'll reach creative solutions on the
Despite these clear advantages, some runners still find it hard
to motivate themselves to run alone. Here are five tips to help
make flying solo a positive and enjoyable experience:
1. Psych up with music. Many runners psych themselves up
for workouts by listening to their favorite music. Take your pick:
rap, rock, classical, or any other genre that engages your mind
and body. I have some of my best runs after listening to my favorite
Bob Dylan tunes.
2. Read something inspirational or thought-provoking. Keep
a file of inspirational quotes or a shelf of motivational books,
and pull one out on those days when you're not fired up for training.
I find that a thoughtful article also works well. Most mornings,
I run for 45 minutes after reading several features in the Wall
Street Journal. During my run, I "debate" with the journalists
who wrote the stories. The best part is, I always win!
3. Read your own journal or training log. Oscar Wilde once
said that he always carried his journal with him so he'd be guaranteed
great reading material. Reviewing your own journal or training log
can likewise motivate you for a run. Whenever you have a really
great workout, make sure you note whatever preparations, thoughts,
or observations helped carry you through your run. You may be able
to use them again and again for more great workouts.
4. Phone a running buddy, teammate, or coach. When a long
day (whether at work or home) leaves you feeling too drained for
your planned workout, call one of your running pals, and ask him
or her to reinforce your intentions. Chances are, a few minutes
of phone time with an understanding friend will re-energize you.
5. Dare to fantasize. About running, I mean. Imagine that
you're going to win a local race or qualify for the Boston Marathon.
No harm done if your fantasies don't come true. And sometimes they
do. For 3 years before the 1964 Olympics, Billy Mills visualized
himself sprinting past the world record holder to win the gold medal.
This was a crazy dream, as Mills was a virtual unknown at the time.
However, in the Tokyo Olympics, Mills charged past world record
holder Ron Clarke to win the 10,000 meters.
Here's a list of three common traps that solo runners can fall into,
and advice that will help you avoid them.
You skip your workout, because no one's waiting for you.
Make an appointment with yourself. Write it down in your
You start your solo runs too fast.
Slow down. You're not racing. When you run alone, you have
a chance to ease into a comfortable pace. Take advantage of
You feel bored because you have no one to talk to.
Practice ³mindfulness² by (1) understanding that you (and
not the situation you're in) determine whether or not that
situation is interesting; and (2) ³playing² with the situation,
noting all its details and possibilities.
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