Encouraging Women to Run!

Encouraging Women to Run! May 10 2017, 0 Comments

Starting anything new can be daunting, but as someone who loves being in nature and running I always want to encourage everyone else to do the same.
This past fall I was at the USTAF Trail Running conference and joined a discussion about women in trail running.  We noted that many women often have the same reservations about running and especially trail running.  I'd like to address and suggest ways around some of these concerns.
1. I'm not a runner, I feel like a fraud.
Ladies, and men too, if you put on shoes, and you move one foot in front of the other and you do this at any pace- you are in fact a runner.  Runners come in all shapes and sizes.  Recreational, professional, fast, slow, trail, road, ultra, 5k, whatever.  Don't worry about labels. Do your thing!
2.  I feel unsafe.
This is probably something I heard the most.  I'm sure almost every women at one time or another has been cat called or whistled at (and unfortunately even worse), and often the result is that the woman is left feeling uncomfortable, especially while alone.  I lived outside of Baltimore city when I first graduated college and after one week of watching the local news and seeing all the gun violence was terrified of getting shot so I ran on the treadmill for a whole year.  Eventually as I got comfortable with my surroundings I built up the courage to run outside alone at 6 am.  After a while it became just an every day thing for me.  I decided that I was not going to let what might happen stop me from doing what I loved.  While we cannot change other's behaviors and where we live, we can change what we do.
  • Run in a group!  Safety in numbers can be key.  Join your local run club, or start your own running group in your neighborhood.  For example, Myself and a few other friends lead an all woman's trail run through our local REI store, I also know of several group runs from all the other outdoor/running stores close by.  Get online or pop by a running store and see what kinds of group runs they offer.
  • Leave a map of your route.  Sometimes just leaving a map of where you will be running and what time with friends or a spouse can make us feel safer.
  • Run with mace.  My mother bought me mace years ago, its been hanging on my fridge ever since.  For myself, running in the woods I feel quite safe, if anything I bring a small pocket knife on really long runs more for first aid than anything else, though.
  • Carry your phone.
  • Don't run with music, or keep one earbud out so you are aware of your surroundings.
  • Run a different route at different times of the day.  If, on the off chance, there is someone watching you changing up your route and time that you run it will make it that much harder for someone to anticipate where you will be.
  • When running at night wear reflective gear, and even a low powered headlamp so cars can see you.
  • Get your spouse to join.  I know several couples, myself included, that will bike while the other runs.  Also, if I am going to run a really long loop and need refueling I will have my husband both check on me, and refuel me at a pre-agreed upon meet up spot in the car.
  • Run smaller loops around the house, or other busy public area.
  • Adopt a dog to run with.  The last thing an attacker wants to deal with is your dog.  Plus you get to save a pups life when you adopt!
3. I don't have time. 
We all do it, we pack our days full of things, putting ourselves and our self care last.  Keep running clothes/shoes in your car for last minute runs!  Run laps around the soccer field while your kid is at practice.  Don't mindlessly scroll through social media while your kids are at practice/art lessons/music/after school activities.  Use that 30 min, hour, whatever as a chance to get out for a few miles.  If at all possible, get up really early.  I have started many a run at 4:30 in the morning.  There is something to be said about the early morning quiet and watching the sun rise. 
4.  I want to, but can't motivate myself! 
 This one is hard sometimes, and is often only alleviated by having very good running buddies who will encourage you to go out in the rain/snow/heat.  Other ways are;
  • Hire a coach.  If you can afford this, it can be quite liberating to just wake up and look at some already planned mileage for the day.  Also, you're paying for it, so might as well get your money's worth.
  • join a gym. This can satisfy both the fear of running alone in the dark, and also accountability because, again, its something you're paying for.  Also, many gyms have great daycare center, which also frees up some time when you have kids all day.
  • Make a date on your calendar, or with a friend!
  • Don't put pressure on yourself to use it as a weight loss tool. Running will make you healthier, but expecting to lose weight and checking your scale often will just turn it into a chore.
5. Its too hot/cold/rainy. 
One of my favorite quotes I tell myself when the weather is just blah is; "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear."  Invest in one good outer layer for each type of weather; rainy, cold, windy, hot. Also, there's always the treadmill.
 
6. For more advanced runners who are already trail running but want to go further but fear the unknown, take an wilderness first aid course and learn how to survive in all sorts of conditions to boost your outdoor confidence.
7. Chronic injury keeps me from running. 
To this I would suggest a few things. Invest in a really good PT and figure out what it is that is causing your chronic injury. Are you lacking in strength? We, especially women, lose muscle faster as we age, so keeping basic strength training can be important to injury free running. Also after having children women's bodies change, a good PT can also help you address your body changes.
8. I might get lost. 
Many watches now have features that allow you to pre-download a route into them.  When I run in new places I have done things like carry my phone, or write a turn sheet.  A turn sheet, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is basically what it sounds like.  I go look at a map beforehand and write on a little piece of paper either RIGHT or LEFT turn onto each road, and sometimes I will write the distance between each turn.  For trail running, learning to read a map is actually a pretty important skill. 
 
One last comment, be prepared.  When I go out for long trail runs in places I am unfamiliar with I always leave extra water in the car, I usually carry a small first aid kit and some sort of lightweight blanket, a map, maybe even a headlamp and usually more calories than I think.  If there is a trail map at the start of the run, I will take a picture of it, keeping in mind those maps aren't always to scale, but it will at least help me orient myself on my own map.
I really love how I feel through running; it brings me peace and makes me feel grounded; connected to the world.   It also has created and strengthened friendships I would not have otherwise made. I hope these suggestions can help entice other women to lace up their shoes and explore all that running has to offer.
Guest Blogger Rachel is an avid trail and mountain runner, she can often be found exploring trails with her dog and friends.  When she's not out running, she's often dreaming of mountain adventures from her art studio where she relives her adventures on canvas. Check her out on Instagram @wisp_kelly
 
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