There are five well known, widely agreed personality types that can be attributed to people’s personality:
Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
If you took a personality quiz, chances are you’d receive different scores for each trait. You may be more open and extraverted, meaning you value getting along with others and constantly seek external stimulation.
What’s the number one personality type for running success?
Conscientiousness is, without a doubt, the most crucial personality type to be a successful runner.
In fact, conscientiousness is often described as the biggest indicator of success in anything in life.
Whether someone owns a profitable company, writes award selling books, plays football in a major league team, plays piano in concerts halls or is a famous chef, success is often attributed to a conscientious personality.
If you understand what conscientiousness and how to apply it to your running life, you’re going to benefit from huge results.
What is conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness means you desire to perform tasks exceptionally well. You take tasks seriously, are self-motivated, and attach great importance to high standards. Feel like you’re conscientious?
If this doesn’t sound like you there’s some good news; you can learn about conscientiousness, understand it, then apply it to your running life. Becoming a conscientious runner yields remarkable results.
The five facets of conscientiousness
Highly conscientious individuals will consistently display the following five behaviours:
Industriousness– Hard working, putting in lots of effort, high inputs of labour.
Organization– Arranging things systematically, having a schedule, ordering your routine.
Diligence– Persevering when the going gets tough, being driven and determined to achieve a goal,not giving up easily, fighting through pain.
Prudence– The ability to make appropriate choices, taking the best course of action, being a firm and confident decision making.
Perfectionism– Checking your technique, evaluating your performance, making minor tweaks.
Why bother to become a conscientious runner?
Some people think they already are a conscientious runner, reasoning with the fact they put in lots of hard work (industriousness). Whilst hard work is crucial for running success, it’s only one piece of the conscientious puzzle.
If you are only industrious, you could waste hours and hours running with the wrong technique, lack of goals, absence of a plan, and feel disheartened when confronted with a challenge (like a steep hill). Though you will be working hard, the other four pieces of the conscientious puzzle are missing and you’re likely to fail and get poor results i.e. through injury, poor performance and feeling down.
To become a conscientious runner, it’s essential you understand each of the facets and examples of putting them into your running practice.
Think of being industrious as being a hard worker. It means a high input of labour to complete a given task.
You’ve probably been industrious when studying for an exam. Maybe you put in lots of hours studying the content, writing example answers and asking a teacher question.
To remember industriousness, you could link it to the factories of the industrial revolution. The factories required huge amounts of manual labour from workers, supervisors and foreman’s, to mass produce like they did. Being a successful runner means you must be industrious.
How can I apply industriousness to running?
1) Physically go and run. Don’t just think about it.
It seems obvious, but it’s easy to become preoccupied thinking about, planning, strategizing and in some cases dreaming about the run. Physically getting around to doing the run can, counterproductively, can assume low importance.
When you want an output from anything, you need an input. A laptop needs battery (input) so it can function (output), you need flour and eggs (input) to make a cake (output), you need a GPS signal (input) to drive to a new location (output).
Put simply, you’re not going to get an output without an input.
If you’re not running (input), how do you expect to get the benefits (output) like improved fitness, mood, energy and so on?
Whatever you do, make sure you do some running. Even if you’re not 100% confident or competent, you will feel much better afterwards.
2) Increase the number of times you run a week.
If you want to become smarter, you’d read more books. To grow your business, you’d send more emails and make more calls. If you want to become a more successful runner, you’d increase the frequency you run weekly.
Increasing the number of runs you’re doing will make you more conditioned, fitter and help establish a more consistent routine.
This isn’t to say you should make a gigantic, unrealistic change like going from running once every two weeks to running every single day. That will probably result in injury.
Gradually increase the frequency to sensibly and safely be more industrious.
If you run twice a week, increase this number to four times a week. If you run once, increase this to three.
3) Increase the distance you run.
Every week, add a mile or half a mile onto a familiar route. You could go around the block a few times at the end or add the extra distance by slightly altering the route.
It may be a struggle at first, but as your muscles heal and you recover your body will build its endurance and allow you to go much further, more comfortably.
Suddenly, you’ll reach the end and think “I could go for a little bit longer”.
Increasing the distance of your runs gradually, improves endurance and makes you a more industrious runner.
4) Enter more events
Book yourself into more events like 5Ks, 10Ks, fun runs, half marathons, marathons. Not only will you be doing more (increased input) of these events, booking a place can be good for motivating industriousness.
If you know you have a 10K in a few weeks, for instance, you’re more likely to run more often, for longer distances so you can perform well on the day.
For bonus points, book yourself into three events at one time i.e. one for each upcoming month. Doing this will reduce temptation to run less after one event finishes, because you will have a reason (the events) to run more.
An organised runner will arrange everything into a system. They carefully follow a well written running schedule, write down their progress in a diary and makes sure essential preparations are completed like washing and laying out running gear, planning a route and purchasing energy gels before a big race. Organised runners create and follow systems to build consistency, ensure everything gets done, and can have order.
Being an unorganized runner sounds like this. Not following a running plan which means running arbitrary, unknown distances regularly. Not writing progress down, like how far and fast was run on a day, so the runner does not know if they are improving. Frantically searching each nook and cranny of wardrobes and draws for the other running sock just before an important run. Getting halfway into a marathon then reaching into an empty pocket, with horror, which should have been occupied by a much-needed energy gel.
Organization means you don’t forget what’s important, you don’t neglect the importance of a system and you enjoy order in your schedule.
How can I apply organization to my running?
1) Have a goal and write down progress in a running diary
Get a diary to write down your goal and document your progress.
Make sure your goal is specific and can be measured. Your goal might be “Complete a 5K under 19 minutes by the end of the year”. Write this on the first page to remind yourself exactly what it is you want to achieve.
The next pages should contain a record of progress including the date of each run, distance, time and any thoughts you have after each run.
2) Make and follow a plan
Creating a running schedule and following it does wonders for organization. At the start of each month, take at least 30-45 minutes and make a running plan for the next 4 weeks. Think about what you’ll need to do to achieve your goal.
Include what days you’ll run, how far you’ll go, what type of training you’ll do (intensity, endurance, muscle building). It takes a bit of time, but following a map makes life so much easier.
3) Lay out your clothes the night before
Spending 5 or 10 minutes finding clothes before a run can be discouraging, especially if you lack motivation in the first place.
Whether you run in the morning, afternoon or evening, life is so much easier when your clothes are conveniently laid up, ready to go.
Before you go to bed, choose and lay out clothes and shoes for tomorrows run so you can easily chuck them on and go.
4) Create a checklist before running in an event
Like a shopping list, clearly define what it is you need to do before participating in an event. This way, you won’t forget anything, and you will have the best resources for the run.
A list could include: lay out running clothes, fully charged Garmin watch, 2 energy gels, charged phone, wireless earphones.
Cross each item as you complete it.
Being a diligent runner means you have a determined mindset. You won’t shy away from a challenge and persevere when the going gets tough.
When a diligent runner is exhausted halfway up a steep hill, they push themselves onwards despite feeling uncomfortable. Diligent runners have a growth mindset, understanding the only way to develop running ability is to go outside one’s comfort zone.
How can I apply diligence to my running?
1) Have a powerful ‘why’
In difficult times, it can be hard to motivate us to keep working through pain and hardship.
Without a powerful reason why, you’re going through some pain i.e. discomfort, putting in time and energy running, it’s unlikely you’ll persevere and be a diligent runner.
Identify exactly why you’re running and write it down. You could be running to lose weight for a wedding, to have enough energy to perform well at work, to represent a charity in memory of a loved one. Make your ‘why’ highly emotional and relevant to you, so it can motivate yo in difficult times during training.
It could be written in your running diary, on your phone, written on a canvas and framed on your wall.
3) Adopt a growth mindset
There are two mindsets you can have.
A ‘fixed’ mindset means you believe your behaviour is determined and you can’t change. You could say ‘I’m not a fast runner, I’ll always stay unhealthy, I will never enjoy running.’
A ‘growth’ mindset means you believe your behaviour can change. You could say “I’m not very fast, fit or energetic now but if I run properly I can improve in these areas”. Having a growth mind-set is essential; it recognises you’re not perfect now and you can act to improve.
3) Learn from setbacks
Understand set-backs are part of the learning curve. If you injured your hamstrings, think “what can I learn from this to improve my performance?”. Maybe you ran too quick, too fast, had the wrong technique.
Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling, Madonna, Dr Seuss, all suffered their fair share of rejection before making it big. They didn’t throw in the towel and say, ” I’ll never be successful”, they learnt from their mistakes to and believed in themselves. Eventually this lead to success. Adopt a growth mindset and become a diligent runner.
Some believe this trait is unrealistic; life is never perfect right? Being a perfectionist does not mean you are a perfect runner. Such a person doesn’t – and will probably never – exist. A perfectionist continually strives to be perfect.
Even having a little bit of perfectionism can be hugely effective in pursuit of successful running. Being a perfectionist means checking your performance, evaluating your technique and holding yourself to high standards.
Imagine writing an important message to a friend explaining directions to a party. It’s quite a detailed message, with 5 key bits of information you need to convey. Before you send it, you’d be wise to check through the message, to make sure directions and details are correct.
Similarly, running without checking technique and not evaluating performance means you could be wasting a lot of time and energy running incorrectly, and you may be ignorant of the fact you are performing poorly.
How can I apply perfectionism to my running?
1) Learn and apply a good technique
Understanding the importance of running form: good posture, style and cadence (how many steps taken per minute) to name a few.
Applying a good technique reduces the risk of injury, saves energy and makes you more efficient. Check your technique by getting a coach to watch and comment on your form. For a self-analysis, ask a friend to film you running from the side. The recording will allow you to observe your technique, informing a few changes.
2) Constantly monitor and evaluate your performance
Writing down progress from each run in a diary, allows you to mentally assess how you are performing and what could be improved.
For instance, if you have a significantly slower miles per minute for your long run compared to your short run it’s clear you’re not as effective when running long distance. As you hold yourself accountable to high standards, you make a notable effort to pick up the pace during long runs.
Being a perfectionist means monitoring performance, then evaluating strengths and weaknesses to inform a change in training. Successful runners are perfectionists.
A prudent runner will make appropriate decisions which guide effective training. Prudence means you’re cautious, have a desire to understand things and prioritise properly.
Non-prudent runners either fail to make decisions, or make the wrong decisions, meaning they adopt poor training habits that aren’t suited to purpose.
For instance, a non-prudent runner might book a marathon 3 month in the future with a goal of developing fitness and endurance but only has time and desire to run twice a week, only 3 miles at a time. The goal of running a 26.2-mile marathon to develop endurance, clearly doesn’t match the runner’s motivation or time constraints. They will likely struggle during the marathon.
Develop prudence to become a conscientious, successful runner.
How do I apply prudence to running?
1. Match your goals to your ability to meet them
When you set a goal, whether it’s to run 5K, lose a couple of pounds, or develop enough endurance to run a marathon, carefully think about whether you can meet the expectation.
2. Vary your running routine
One mistake non-prudent runners make, especially when wanting to develop fitness, is not varying routine. They decide one route works well for them, so they think “why bother trying another route?”. Trying different routes, being flexible, is key to be a successful runner.
If you run the same route repeatedly, you will become accustomed to the same set of variables.
You will know what to expect and won’t feel challenged or pushed.
Mix it up: run the route in reverse, run with faster friends, try new routes, be a parkrun tourist, join a running club, mix up the terrain (hills and riverbanks for instance). Deciding to vary your routine is a good sign of a prudent runner.
You’re now ready to become a conscientious runner
There you have it. The 5 key facets of a conscientious runner: industriousness, organization, diligence, perfectionism and prudence. Inject these traits into your running, and watch your results explode.