Runner Mindset: Responding to Naysayers

Recently, I was chatting about running with someone I know and respect who is a non-runner. After briefly discussing the upcoming half-marathon that I’m training for, the conversation shifted. Suddenly, he knew more about running than me. He declared that running is bad for the knees. He then went on to imply that the reason my knees were not yet ruined was because I had only been running a short while. What? Stunned, I couldn’t speak. Instead, I let out a little laugh. Inside, a fire had started because I knew he was very wrong.

Although I have only been running for a few years and am by no means an expert, I have read many books about running and listened to countless experts speak on the topic. One thing that I have learned is that running is actually good for my body, not bad, assuming that I continue to build strength and follow good running practices. So, when I heard what I knew to be an old wives’ tale proclaimed with such certainty, I wanted to correct him. Actually, I wanted to scream it from the rooftop. Running is not bad for your knees!

Instead, I kept it in. It wasn’t the time or the place for the conversation and I was far too heated up to express myself clearly. So, what do you do when others try to convince you that running is bad? How should you respond to naysayers? Should you correct them or just leave it alone?

One thing that may help you decide how to respond is to think about the other person’s possible motivation. Is the naysayer speaking out of jealousy or ignorance? As a runner, you are not necessarily the norm. Many folks are content with their sedentary lives. Your running may seem unusual and even serve as a source of guilt. People may be envious because they secretly wish they were more active like you. Tearing you down with negative comments about running might convince you to stop, which would, in turn, make them feel better about themselves. Or, proclaiming the perceived dangers of running may make a naysayer feel more confident in his or her own decision not to run.

Perhaps, the other person is just ignorant about running and the research that has been done. I’m convinced this was the case in my conversation. People can base their understanding on anecdotal evidence and personal stories. If you know a woman that ran and suffered a knee injury, you may deduce that running is bad for the knees. If you hear this type of story more than once, it can be quite convincing.

Sometimes, I think people unintentionally say negative things about running to runners without even realizing what they’re doing. They are not necessarily trying to hurt or dissuade you from running. They just don’t understand it. Before I began running, I didn’t understand it either. Why would anyone choose to run? Until you have experienced a running lifestyle for yourself, you can’t comprehend it.

So, should you correct a naysayer? If the person is operating out of jealousy, it may cause friction. If that would cause you stress, then just let it go. He or she may not be receptive to correction anyway. If the person is just ignorant, maybe it’s best to enlighten him or her. I look forward to a future conversation with my naysayer because I don’t want him to inadvertently discourage anyone from running. I want to encourage people to run and correcting his misguided ideas may do just that.

Don’t let anyone disrupt your mindset. The foolish words of naysayers can silently creep into your mind and cause you to have doubts. Hold fast to your reasons for running and let them propel you forward. Just as Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!,” I say to you “Just keep running!” and leave the negativity and the naysayers behind.