I fell in love with running in my 20’s. At that time, I was an exchange student in South Africa and wanted to lose weight.
It wasn’t long before I discovered running’s powerful positive effects on my mental health. My relationship with my body changed from self-criticism and fault finding to one of thankfulness and awe.
Running up mountains was painful and exhilarating at the same time. I discovered that I could do more than I ever thought I could. That I could find the courage to explore my limits. And I was amazed at how strong I could be.
The strength I found through running spilled over to other areas of my life.
Comparing myself to others is a source of anxiety that I can switch off by simply ignoring what other people do. Limit my social media use. Don’t go over the results from races for too long.
However, the fear of being judged is a beast harder to tame.
It’s a quiet undercurrent of my life. Not always noticeable, but always present. This fear of being judged was once a substantial driving force – or should I say “stopping force” – of my life. It stopped me from doing things I wanted to do. It stopped me from speaking my mind and voicing my opinion – even about something seemingly insignificant, like what kind of music I liked.
Nowadays, I am more self-aware and notice when this fear wants to stop me. I also know, however, that I need to pay attention to my mental health to keep it in check.
And that is the primary reason I don’t use Strava – or any other social running apps for that matter.
I can not imagine having my runs displayed in public would have zero effects on my mental health.
I am afraid it would fuel my obsessive and addictive tendencies. And I am sure that I would run faster and farther than I should – even if I make these decisions subconsciously. My easy runs would probably get faster. Maybe I would do more speedwork.
I surely would be anxious about what other users think of my training.
What would happen if someone left snarky comments on my runs? Imposter syndrome would undoubtedly kick in, and my mind would conjure up all the reasons why I am not a real runner.
Besides, I am already highly self-critical. Seeing daily how I compare to other runners would certainly not help my attempts to be more self-caring.
I also want to keep running in its proper place. Running is something I cherish.
Because of how it makes me feel.
Because I love how it quiets my overactive mind.
Adding an external source of anxiety would surely erase all the mental health benefits I have experienced through our wonderful sport.
A risk I am not willing to take.