Are You a RUNNER?

RUNOHIO Monthly Newsletter

Sign Up Now


Are You a RUNNER?

Written by Richard Ferguson, Ph.D on 27 March 2015.

                  Hey, who are you? In other words, what do you think about yourself and how do you define yourself? I would venture to guess that if you are reading  RUNOHIO you might just define yourself, to varying degrees, as being a runner. You have probably developed this identity from years of running, seeing yourself improve as a runner and even through socially associating with other runners. In many cases you do indeed want others to think of you as a runner.

                  Everyone has some form of identity because everyone has roles in life, whether these roles be parents, gardeners, cyclists, writers and on and on and on. Having some identity serves some very important psychological needs. Socially, your identity may actually influence your past and future friendships, help you find a significant other and determine just how your family and friends interact with and perceive you. Like the old saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together”. Identifying yourself as a runner can also change how you view the world around you. Being a runner may mean you don’t just see a dirt road, you see a great place to run, or maybe it means the first thing you think about when you travel is where to run. You may also be more motivated to train because you are indeed a runner and running is what a runner does! And hey, you’re proud to call yourself a runner! You feel good that you’re a runner and you don’t mind one bit having people refer to you as a runner.

                  To identify as a runner certainly has many, many positives. A running identity can mean positive psychological, physical and overall health benefits. Obviously, Americans need more exercise. The health benefits of exercise are well documented and range from decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, better self concept, better mood and a reduced incidence of depression. There is simply no question that exercise is good for human beings and, on average, most people get far too little exercise. Well, not if you identify yourself as a runner! Runners greatly value, what else, running! As such, you value running and make it a part of your life, either daily or often during your week. You believe in running for its psychologically enjoyable aspects, but you also believe in running for the physical and overall health benefits. We need a healthier country so it would certainly be a positive if we could get more people to identify themselves as runners.  Numerous psychological benefits come with a strong running identity. The self-discipline running brings can transfer to other aspects of life like diet, sleep and work habits. A solid work ethic is often developed and enhanced once running identification develops. It simply takes a high degree of self discipline to be a runner. Add in a better mood as a result of running and the psychological benefits are significant.                        


  Running and exercise in general, can improve self-concept and with enhanced self-concept comes enhanced self confidence. By identifying as a runner you simply feel better about yourself. Running can give you confidence that can transfer to other aspects of your life. Your running identity can also have a positive impact on your social life. Running is a great way to meet new people and spend time with people who share your love of running. These positive social interactions can further serve to increase self-confidence and can add to the overall quality of life.

                  A strong running identity may even help you run faster. Strong identification with any activity can increase motivation to perform that activity. With running the more motivated you are the more you tend to train, eat well, and sleep adequately, all of which can help you run faster on race day. Because strong identification can increase confidence, a strong identification as a runner can mean more self-belief which can result in you taking on more challenges and truly testing your physical limits by going after personal best times and trying different distances and surfaces for your races.

                  On the other side of the coin, there may actually be a few drawbacks to having a strong running identity. Injuries do occur in running and when they do, the mental ramifications of the injury may be even more of a challenge to deal with than the physical ramifications. When you’re injured and can’t run it can be hard to cope with from an emotional standpoint, especially when running is a big, big part of your life. You may get anxious, frustrated and cranky to be around, and if the injury is long term, there may be an increased likelihood of depression. It is indeed hard when you no longer can do something you love. An injury may also cause a huge loss of self-confidence if there is a strong running identity in place.

                  If you have a really strong running identity you probably spend a significant amount of time running. In some cases running could possibly, in theory, lead to neglect 

of other things in life. Of course, if you spend all of your time running and miss work, neglect your significant other, or fail to live up to family responsibilities, then there is a problem. However, cases of neglect of responsibilities due to running are probably few and far between. Such running behavior probably points to exercise addiction rather than a strong identity as a runner. Finding balance is always a critical aspect for all activities in life, whether it is work, family responsibilities or running.

                  Having a strong identity as a runner can indeed be a big positive, leading to increased motivation, more confidence, better health and more positive social interactions, but a running identity should not be your exclusive identity. Being a runner should mean running enhances all aspects of your life. So love your running and work hard at it, but keep a balance with other roles in your life.

Read more of Dr. Ferguson articles on -

A Different View -

The Components of Peak Performance -

Running and Sleep -    

Don’t Panic! -

The Mental Maximization of Training -

With the Help of a Friend -

Beating the Winter Blues-

Go For It -

Beating Burnout -

A New Outlook -

Expect the Unexpected -

Pain or Discomfort? -

Keep Your Eye on the Prize -

 Running Free -

Running and Role Models -

Current Issue