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Thinking About Running? How to Overcome Objections of a New Runner

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Last weekend a running coach I follow on Facebook re-posted a great article about martial arts fitness that made me think about the objections people have to running.   The author asked the classic question to his self-defense students, “Why are you here?”  Most people think the answers are obvious.  Nevertheless, they humor the instructor.  Then he says things like,

“Then why are you fifty pounds overweight?”

“Why do you still smoke?”

“Why don’t you wear a seatbelt?”

“Why do you eat junk food?”

When I was 40 # overweight and not running

The students think about it and realize that this lifelong desire we all have for self-preservation requires something more.  Runners are no different.

Do you object to running because you heard it will ruin your knees?  So will the extra fifty pounds you carry up top.

Do you object to running because you are afraid of getting hurt?  So will a car crash without a seatbelt.

Do you object to running because it will mean you have to give up your eating habits?  Nobody told you to give up eating.

You see, objections, no matter where you encounter them in life, are a matter of perspective.

A Fun Formula

On a less serious note, I learned this little salesman’s tactic for overcoming objections.  It’s called Feel-Felt-Found.  As a runner, you might encourage someone to start running.  They offer an objection like, “I’m too old.”

“I know how you feel,” you reply.

“I felt the same way when I started training for a half-marathon when my wife suggested it for my fiftieth birthday bucket list.”

Half-marathon complete
Down 40# and Half-Marathon Complete

“But then I found out that I could start training by walking.  Everybody walks right?”

You make the personal connection at the emotional level.  You defuse the strong emotional resistance by identifying with the other person.  You can relate.  You understand.  You have a story to tell about how you overcame your own objection to the same problem.  Once the defenses are down and they want to know your story, then you launch into the “How To.”

“You walked a half-marathon?”

“No.  But that’s how I started by using Jeff Galloway’s walk/run method.  Did you know that he won an Olympic gold medal by actually walking during the marathon?”

It’s true.  People still think he’s nuts.  But you look at his gold medal and you wonder.

Yes.  You can do it.

Running is mechanical but storytelling is personal

Telling your story shows you care.  We are all imperfect.  We can all look in the mirror and find some reason to object to running.  Over time we learned how to not listen to that inner voice any longer.

People already know they should be fit.  They know running would be good for them.  They know their diet sucks.  They know they make mistakes.  Emotional baggage like this is the real hidden objection.  So telling somebody to just do it without first tearing down the wall is a waste of time.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine somebody telling you right at the moment of making that decision to either run or stay in your shell.

“Sure!  You just put one foot in front of the other.”

“Find a really good coach.”

“Join a running club.  They’re such great people.”

Making the critical decision to change your life is not a mechanical issue.  When someone objects, they don’t want to know how to run.  They want to feel better about something.

They might be scared.  They may feel guilty.  They may have failed before.  You need to identify their story and then share yours.

I’ve been hurt before

I had a very bad experience with running when I was in high school.  I never wanted to repeat that again.  So when my wife came up with the brilliant idea to run a half-marathon together, she already knew my issue.  She tackled my objection with a two-pronged story that touched my emotional base where the real problem was.  She knew I did not want to get hurt again.  Fear lurked deep inside me.  Fear.

“I know how you feel.  I felt the same way when I started running.  I was forty years old, got some blood work done at my routine physical, and the numbers came back really bad.  Bad numbers and bad family history scared me.  But I found out from my doctor that I could overcome those issues by losing a little weight, getting my heart in good shape, and eating better.”

If that was the end of the conversation, I suspect my wife may have already had the heart attack she feared.  But it got worse first.  She had never done anything athletic in her life.  She was a total wall flower.  She had no idea what to do or who to ask.  She was literally scared to death.

“I also found out that I could run.  It sounded easy enough and not too terribly expensive to get started.  And I found this book by Jeff Galloway that showed me how to do it.  That made me feel much better.”

Run Bridge 10K
Run the Bridge 10K

Four years later she had far exceeded her goals and her doctor was very happy.  Now it was my turn.

Fear factor

I knew how she felt.  She knew how I felt.  She showed me that I didn’t have to be afraid.  I could take the same path she took and expect the same results – no pain.  “After all,” she said, “you’ve done two years of P90X without injury.  You’re in great shape.  You can do this.”

Her example, her story, her reflection on my situation helped me to overcome my objection.  I realized there was no guarantee.  Learning to run again was not going to be easy.  But the emotional baggage was left at the house once I hit the street to start the mechanical process of running.

Overcoming objections is not about having all the answers.  It’s about sharing in the negative emotions of the other person and showing them you’ll go along for the positive ride.