How To Deal With Haters When You Start Running

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Whenever you act to make a positive change in your life (starting a running regime or reading books, for instance), you may – unfortunately -come across a ‘hater’.

A hater is characterised by negative, distasteful, critical thoughts and opinions towards something or someone. Haters can be anyone: a friend, colleague, someone on the street, your boss, a family member, someone vaguely in your network of friends, even your romantic partner.

Why do people ‘hate’ on a new behaviour, like running?

1) Insecurity about themselves

Starting to run is a powerful step to getting more out of life: being mentally sharper, having the energy to do the things you want, being a certain weight, developing conscientious traits like industriousness and organisation that will transfer to other areas in life.

For someone who already feels insecure about their weight, productiveness, fitness and energy levels, seeing you begin a running regime and getting these benefits can highlight the fact they are not taking any action, and haven’t got these benefits for themselves.

For example, a group of people with ‘average intelligence’ may work comfortably in an office. Suddenly, the introduction of a new super-smart employee can highlight the ‘average intelligence’ in comparison of work performance, which can lead to feels of bitterness or contempt for the new worker for “making them look bad”.

People may spout – publicly or private – negative comments like “I don’t like her, she thinks she’s better than me” or “he runs because he wants to highlight my flaws and remind me of all the things I’m not. I hate him”.

Sad as it sounds, family and friends may harbour such negative opinions when you start running. Not through sheer dislike or malevolence towards you; they may feel inadequate when living or associating with you.

2) Fear they will lose you

When you start running, you might have less time for some people in your life. They may feel like they're losing you, and start acting negatively as a defence mechanism.
When you start running, you might have less time for some people in your life. They may feel like they’re losing you, and start acting negatively as a defence mechanism.

“You always run on the weekends, you never have time for me” “You’re new running friends think they’re better than everyone else. I don’t like you hanging around with them.”

Becoming a runner is a new pursuit in life which requires commitment. Anything that’s worthwhile in life, likely to achieve excellent results and be meaningful, typically commands commitment.

A successful marriage, writing a book or learning a language requires a commitment for the long term.

The commitment to running finds itself in time, energy, money, a change in mindset and massive amounts of action. This commitment may be misinterpreted as an interest in leaving a partner or leaving a friendship. A misinterpretation that often leads to fear.

Someone close to you may feel your new commitment to running takes you away from them, promoting them to become fearful. An early morning run may mean sacrificing a long lay in with a spouse or buying a decent pair of running shoes means you can’t go to the movies with your mates as much.

Negativity may be a defence mechanism to discourage your commitment to running, so they don’t lose you.

3) Different beliefs

People who run – or do any exercise – regularly, tend to have different beliefs than those who don’t.

Runners may have beliefs that “running is good; it can help me achieve my life goals like being happier, more fulfilled, driven, disciplined and a healthier weight.”

Someone else, however, may think “running is bad; it takes so much effort, costs a lot of money to buy equipment and enter events, uses valuable time which could be spent on other tasks.”

Naturally, your views are going to conflict which might cause someone to dislike or not get on with you. Ever heard someone say, “why bother spending so much time and effort running?” or “the money you spent entering that event could have been used on something more useful”?

4) People don’t like to change

We like routine, repetitiveness and predictability. Most people sleep and wake at the same times every day, associated with similar groups of people, frequently eat the same foods, and use the same roads or trains to travel. People don’t generally warm to change.

Doing something new, like running, means a change in your life. This change can be difficult for people who know and have gotten used you before you were running.

Running means, you’re likely to be more disciplined, organised, diligent, meet new people, travel to new places, participate in different events, and change your diet. Positive changes, no doubt.

For someone used to you when you didn’t exercise regularly, had less energy, not as driven or organised, seeing even a small change in your attitudes and behaviours can be overwhelming.

Do the phrases “I miss the old you” or “you’ve changed” or “your so different to how you used to be” ring any bells?

Tips on dealing with haters

Note: If you can’t remove them out of your life i.e. living with someone, limit your interactions or follow one of the other tips provided.

1) Be understanding, then speak precisely

Be precise in your speech to haters. Don't beat it around the bush, be direct by telling the hater you understand their concern and are willing to help solve their issue.
Be precise in your speech to haters. Don’t beat it around the bush, be direct by telling the hater you understand their concern and are willing to help solve their issue.

A quick, effective way to deal with a hater is to communicate with them firmly and politely.

If you get angry and excited, not only will you react badly and escalate the situation further i.e. arguing and shouting, you will miss out on an opportunity to learn and understand ‘why’ the person is hating on you for running.

You can proactively approach the situation by saying “I know you’re not happy about me running. I value our friendship, and want to know why? Maybe we can work something out.”

Not only is the polite style likely to reduce the likelihood of an argument breaking out, it tells the person you respect their concern and value their acquaintance enough to understand their negativity.”

The response might be “you’ve changed”, “you’re spending so much time running” or “you make me feel bad about myself by running so much.” Whatever the response is, tell them you value and appreciate their reason for being negative.

Respond in a PRECISE manner which reflects your motivation for running. Don’t beat it around the bush with a vague response which would make you seem unsure, susceptible to the person convincing you to stop running so much, and likely to confuse the person.

Tell them why you run, and that you will continue running because it not only benefits your life, it benefits the lives of those around you (having more energy, being healthier and happier i.e. for a better family life).

Often, criticism comes from a lack of understanding.

People will likely stop bothering you with negative, critical comments when you know your reasons.

2) Use the repair/ upgrade analogy

One of the easiest, most effective ways to co-operatively bring someone to your way of thinking is to use an analogy.

What’s an analogy?
An analogy is where you compare one thing to something else, with the goal of explaining and strengthening a larger concept.

An example would be:

Without inspiration, we’re all like a box of matches that will never be lit.” David Archuleta.

Some people find it hard to understand what inspiration is, or why it’s important. The above analogy takes an everyday household item, then uses it to explain the importance of inspiration i.e. relating inspiration to a bright, bold, burning flame.

The upgrade analogy: People upgrade their things all the time.

From this...
From this…
to this. Tell haters you’re simply running to ‘updrage’ yourself.

Think of a materialistic item you’ve owned in your life like a phone, musical instrument or car. Though you’ve liked the item and it produced average results, there’s a high probability you upgraded to a better, higher performing model to get even better performance.

Think of swapping an iPhone 4 for an iPhone 7 because it has a better camera, processor and is slimmer, or swapping a value Argos guitar for a Fender Telecaster because it’s made of stronger wood, has higher quality pickups, and has a slicker design.

When you start running, think of it as an upgrade for yourself. You will be increasing your energy levels, becoming slimmer, becoming more knowledgeable and less likely to break down (running has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases like heart attacks and type 2 diabetes).

You could say the following to a someone when they hate on your running:
“I respect your opinion, but I’m trying to upgrade myself. Think of how you felt when you got bought the latest iPhone model more expensive car, for better quality and performance. Like the upgrade you bought, I’m running to upgrade myself.”

Why does it work?
The upgrade analogy is powerful because it rationalises why you are running, in a polite manner they will be familiar with and likely to understand.

If you just said, “I’m running to improve myself”, there’d be nothing for them to relate this to something they understand.

Most people buy upgrades, so the upgrade analogy is easier to grasp for haters which encourages a shift of view as they understand your motivations and reasons for running.

3. Focus on yourself. It’s better to be a participant than a spectator/ commentator

Imagine if we spent our lives trying to correct everything and everyone around us.

Trying to glue a broken coffee cup back together, sending someone with what we deem ‘poor music taste’ a playlist of our favourite tracks or stopping in the street to correct someone’s poor posture.

This would not only be time-consuming and risk causing offence to some people, it means diverting important attention away from yourself.

Attention which could be spent improving on running technique, building a targeted weekly plan, writing in your running diary and purchasing ingredients for your weeks’ meal plans.

Haters are focusing on others, and not themselves
If you’ve been proactive and tried to stop someone hating on you for running, then find they persist in their defeating behaviour, just remember they are focusing on others, not themselves.

Haters have an external focus. Calling you out for running, shows they are not focused on their own goals.

Instead, they are spectators and commentators on other people’s lives meaning they either don’t act on their own goals, take average amounts of action, or have tried running in the past but have failed and had a bad experience so they try and talk you out of it.

Whatever a hater says about you running, remember you need to focus on you. You’re pursuing your own goals, changing your life and enjoying yourself. You’re a participant. Not a spectator.

4) Associate with people who want what’s best for you

The last resort. If you find people you’ve associated with for a long time, you trusted and liked, only to find they discourage you, put you down and criticise your new running behaviours, it might be time to cut them out of your life.

Even when you’ve told them how much you love running, the benefits it’s had to your life and how you’re determined to keep going. Harsh as it seems, these people clearly don’t want what’s best for you and want to keep you on their level, then to see you succeed.

This one is difficult for many people. People voluntarily remain in toxic ‘romantic’ relationships, professionals keep absurdly lazy friends as their business partner, choose to listen to dis-empowering advice from a mother or father who discourages a child to follow their dreams because it’s “realistic.”

It’s okay, and in your best interest, to cut these people out of your life. You have no ethical, duty-bound or moral obligation, to listen to these people or act upon what they say. You owe it to yourself to eliminate or, at best, reduce these negative influences so you can continue to run habitually and continue to enjoy and gain its benefits.

Imagine cooking a meal on a heated hob. The meal is the product (a unique running goal). During the cooking process, you may accidentally burn your arm by getting to close to the flame.

Even though the flame (toxic people) could be of help during preparation, you wouldn’t choose to keep your arm close to the flame. You’d stay away from the flame, or even opt to buy a different electric based item with less risk of burning yourself on the flame.

The key message of the analogy, is even though people (the flame) can be instrumental and share in the enjoyment of achieving your running goal, you shouldn’t  continue to associate with them. If you do, you could get metaphorically burnt which means less satisfaction and having a poorer end result or “meal.”

Convince the hater running has many life changing benefits, their mind will change, and they will stop hating on you. 

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