We live, and now run, in the digital age. Social media for runners can be both a powerful motivator or a dangerous component to your running success. This article dives into the benefits and dangers of social media for runners so you can maximize this tool, and know what to avoid.
Benefits of Social Media for Runners
The loneliness of the long-distance runner is a lot less now that you can share and be inspired by those on social media. The key benefits of social media for runners are as follows:
Sense Of Community
Social media is a great place to find a community of runners. There are apps like Strava that help runners come together virtually to share tips and track their times together. You get to track runners and enjoy a little friendly competition. These virtual friendships often transfer into the real world so you can meet friends in real life for a jog or to train for a marathon.
Apps like Strava and following accounts on Twitter for runners help people find the strength to get going. These apps and accounts help people on and off the track. Users record their activities after they’ve found the strength to lace up their shoes that day. After they take off those shoes, they can log in to see the routes of other runners and check on friends’ times. All of this gives runners the strength to get back out there each day.
You often want to shout it from the rooftops when you conquer a great run. Social media gives you the platform to celebrate your accomplishments with other people. You’re capturing a moment in time where you stand out. You snap a pic at the end of the marathon and get to share it with your virtual world. You’re giving light to others on their running journey while boasting with pride about your own running journey.
Competition can be good and bad in the virtual world of running. Studies conclude that running is contagious. It’s a fact that if all your friends are running, you are probably running as well. It’s not the same thing as everyone jumping off a cliff when it’s a positive experience. As runners push themselves to their extent, online friends try to do the same. When a virtual friend posts they ran ten miles today, you might try to run a few more miles to catch up with their numbers. It’s a friendly, fun way to keep up with friends.
Runners are influenced by couch potatoes. It’s true. A couch potato will motivate a person to run because a runner will want to be their time once that couch potato decides to get up off their cushioned seat. Runners see friends online logging times that are getting dangerously close to their time. The runner then decides to kick it up a notch. Motivation is found as you scroll along Strava, checking out other runners’ distances and wondering how they did that today. How did this person that never ran before run six miles today? This leads the runner to push themselves another day.
Strength In Numbers
There is strength in numbers when it comes to the running journey. This is because accountability is a huge thing in the world of exercise. It’s tough for many people to get off the couch when they don’t have any motivation. It’s easier for most runners to get off that couch when they have virtual running friends cheering them on. Those extra people watching your run make you push harder. When an online running friend shares other mutual friends, each gathers to push the other to their full potential in running. This tiny social circle begins to grow as the runner surrounds themselves with more cheerleaders.
An online world is full of people that can help with your training. You may be stuck in a rut wondering how to push past a certain wall. An online friend may have the perfect advice for you. If you follow Twitter for runners, you’ll find numerous ideas. Many of these ideas will differ, so you aren’t stuck doing the same thing over and over. A great thing about social media is the community it creates for runners isn’t all about competition but about helping each other achieve greatness.
Dangers of Social Media for Runners
While social media can offer some great benefits for runners, like motivation, there is a dark side. Some of the dangers of social media for runners are as follows:
Social Media Doesn’t Show The Entire Picture
It’s tough to remember that social media is a highlight of someone else’s life. Many runners aren’t showing the whole picture of their life to the world. They don’t usually post about their bad times. Runners might not post the days when they could barely run around the block. They don’t talk about the days when they decided to watch movies instead of run all day. Many runners just look like the running superhero to the rest of the world. It can lead many followers to think other runners never have off days. Remember that every runner has a down day. It’s so easy to forget about the highlight reel of social media.
All Runners Are Not Created Equal
You may run alongside someone at the same speed and go the same distance yet have a totally different running experience. The truth is that runners just aren’t created equally. Some people make running look as easy as taking a stroll to the mailbox. Others make every run seem like a marathon. Social media can make it tough to understand that all runners are different. Many people don’t get that they can’t run like the person they are following on a certain account. They’ll try to duplicate a follower’s fun yet fall short. The thing to remember is that you aren’t that exact runner. Social media will make them look like a running god. You just need to find your own strengths in your own running style.
Some people are natural Debbie-downers. They love to throw out their self-disclosure online. They’re posting all about their horrible day on the trial or how the stress fracture in their foot is keeping them off the track. This brings other runners down. They don’t need to see the negative posts. This just makes them shy away from running that day. The best way to combat this downside is to stay away from negative accounts. If people are just going to complain about their workout, they aren’t worth following.
The Downside Of Competition
You’re done with running and pumped about your time. The euphoria fades as you realize someone else conquered your time. You’re left in the dust. The downside of competition on social media is that you often feel as if you’re in full-out comparison mode.
We should understand social media paints the best picture. We have to understand we cannot always have the best days running. You aren’t failing just because you’re not at the same pace and time as other users. Social media can leave you scrolling in tears. If you cannot rise above the competition and understand you’re just as good as the next runner, you shouldn’t be scrolling on social media.
Pushing Too Hard
You know you need to post your mileage, or you know your app is going to post your mileage, so you cannot hide from it. This means you might push your body further than it needs to go that way.
If you don’t have recovery days, your body can’t relax. You need to relax for the bigger days. Limit those hard-running days to just one or two a week. You can boast about those when they happen. Real runners know you will have days to relax. If you can’t relax under the pressure of social media on slow days, leave the tracker at home, forcing you to chill out.
Meeting In Real Life
There is a safety component one must always remember when connecting online. It may seem like a safe place to post times and visit online, but it’s another step when you decide to meet users in “real life.” You need to always take safety precautions when you’re online. Never give out your personal information to other users. Never agree to meet them in a private place. Social media is a great place for runners to connect, but it can also be deadly if you aren’t careful.
Needing Digital Detox
You don’t have to be a runner to know that you need breaks from social media. If you’re constantly on social media checking times and distances, you’ll get sucked into that world. It’s important to make time in your life for a digital detox. Get off the screens at times to just enjoy the run. You don’t have to be immersed in the online running world all of the time. It’s wonderful for your motivation, but remember it can also bring you down.
Slow You Down
Those mid-run selfies aren’t always a good thing. You stop to take the sweaty selfie proud of your running, but you’re stopping everything. You’re pausing the pace of your race as well as your tempo. This doesn’t help you maintain your intensity. You’re letting go of the true meaning of running for a selfie. It’s important to remember that you can save this type of fun for those easy days. Don’t stop a race for a picture just to post it on social media.
Social media has transformed the way we communicate… and run. However, it is not all positive. While the benefits of online motivation, coaching, and community are great, you need to be cautious of the dangers.
It may be best to schedule regular digital detox days or only share a few runs a week to avoid burnout. Some runners share daily, especially those engaged in “run streaks,” but don’t let social media pressure you into an injury.