I am a newer runner and I have anxiety surrounding running alone in the woods. How can I feel more comfortable?
Thanks for a great question! First, I want to reassure you that this is an extremely common concern for newer trail runners. Part of the anxiety is appropriate and normal. It is important to be safe and cautious when alone in the wilderness. When trying something new for the first few time, you do need to be aware of your surroundings and prepared for the environment you are in. There is a balance between being safe and being so cautious that it takes away from the pleasure of running and the desire for adventure. There are many steps you can take that can help prepare you, keep you safe and help keep your anxiety in check.
1). Start with an appropriate level of challenge! If you are newer to trail running, it’s ok to acknowledge that going to a remote area alone and trying new things is overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable:
– Find an easy-to-navigating trail system.
– Run with a friend in the beginning.
– Run at a time when others are out on the trail
– Be aware of your surroundings (no headphones)
2). When you feel comfortable with the above steps, start to venture out on more difficult trail systems. When going out into more remote areas consider:
-Downloading a map system in your phone (I use AllTrails)
-Purchasing an Inreach Garmin (100% global Iridium satellite coverage enables two- way text messaging from anywhere, allows for an SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center, and track and share your location with family and friends)
– Carry a running pack with the necessaries (small first aid, water, filtration, etc.).
- Even experienced trail runners should always:
- – Be aware of any challenges you may encounter on the trail system (animals, weather, etc.).
- Always tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be gone
Once you have safety measures in place and are starting to get comfortable on the trail, you can start to challenge yourself and spend more time focusing on the messages you are sending to yourself. It is common to be extremely nervous when you try something new and your brain might tell you all the reasons you can’t do it. You may feel overwhelmed with messages of fear. Instead, take time to build up your confidence with small steps. Maybe run farther each time you are out on the trails. Maybe you pick a remote trail that you know will have people on it during the weekend. By taking reasonable measures to be safe, you can use self-talk to find pleasure and joy in an adventure instead of anxiety. Few people become adventurers by racing off into the woods alone for days on end. Like children, we learn by doing things slowly and picking up skills along the way, finding courage in conquering small challenges. It is important to be encouraging of yourself and remind yourself you are capable rather than build on anxiety and worse case scenarios.
If you find yourself continuing to have such overwhelming fear that it makes it difficult to enjoy the woods or running alone, reach out and speak further with me. The above information is a few quick techniques to help improve your confidence but there are many other strategies to take in order to feel more confident and run in the wilderness.