The power of the newbie (mindset)

The power of the newbie (mindset)

THE NEWBIE: comes late to practice on the first day, gets lost on trail runs, has no clue how to run a certain pace, no idea what racing is, running more than 1 mile a day is a HUGE accomplishment (me circa spring 2014), doesn’t even own a running watch (also me when I showed up to my first day of practice at Santa Clara).

Go forth with beginner’s enthusiasm!

While being the newbie to the running world certainly has it’s downsides, it has many perks as well. So many perks, in fact, that to this day I have tried to maintain my newbie mindset from when I first started running, and here’s why I think you should try it out too…

  1. Ignorance is bliss- There are some things in life where ignorance is definitely not bliss, and knowing as many things as possible about a subject is very helpful. For instance, as a civil engineer knowing as much as I can about building a bridge is a very helpful thing indeed. A bridge left standing is a job well done. However with running, some level of ignorance can definitely lead to bliss. Not over analyzing every race or workout can help you to just focus on the simple facts of the race. Maybe you don’t know every hill and curve of the cross country course or maybe you don’t know all the PR’s and facts about your competitors and that’s okay. All you need to know to be successful in running is that you believe in yourself and all the work you have put into your training. I’m not saying to not learn from your mistakes, or to refuse to learn new things but the essence of running is really quite simple. That is what you don’t need to overthink. You just need to know that giving it your best and trying your hardest is all anyone is asking for, and you can be ignorant about some of the rest just like the rookies do.
  2. Every day is an adventure- My first day of cross country practice at Santa Clara University, and the many practices and races that followed, were scary. EVERYTHING was new. The only way I was able to get myself through this huge transition period in a relatively civil manner was by telling myself that each day was just one new adventure. Newbies do this because to them everything is new, and fun, and exciting. Look at each day as a chance to experience something new, overcome a new obstacle, and make new memories along the way.
  3. Less pressure, more fun- Did you have any expectations for your very first race? Any at all other than just giving it your best go? I know I didn’t and I hope you didn’t either. As the rookie in racing, you get a sort of free pass and no matter what happens, whether you run fast or DFL everyone seems to be supportive and happy with the effort. Even yourself! So what I am saying is, why can’t you maintain this newbie mindset forever? Even now as a professional in the sport, I try to remind myself that at the end of the day as long as I have given every race every ounce of energy I had then I have done a good job. Keeping my expectations to a minimum has made running and particularly racing more fun as I have less pressure to achieve specific goals and more flexibility to achieve improvement in whatever terms that may be for the day.
  4. Keep your passion alive- This is my particularly favorite excuse for maintaining the mindset of the newbie, and I think the most powerful reason as well. As a newbie to the sport you are acutely aware of why you started running in the first place. For me, I started running 4 years ago as a way to fill my time. Reluctant to let go of sports altogether when I quit soccer I knew I needed some sort of competitive and physical outlet in my life. I chose running because it seemed like a good new challenge and mostly because being on a team, making new friends, and competing in a sport was FUN to me. So every time a workout gets hard or a race seems scary I go back to this: this is supposed to be FUN. In pretending you are the perpetual newbie you can keep yourself close to your roots, reminding yourself of why you started running in the first place, and keeping your passion for the sport alive and burning hot.

So there you have it, a few of  my favorite upsides to being a newbie. As a newbie to the professional running world myself I have kept these things in mind as I approach new workouts, longer weekly mileage, and more competitive races. The moral of this story is to not act like a newbie (don’t get lost on runs and show up to training prepared) but that the mindset of the newbie is something powerful that we can tap into. As for me, I intend to keep approaching life with beginner’s enthusiasm and a newbie mindset and maybe you can give it a try too!


5 thoughts on “The power of the newbie (mindset)”

  • I really enjoyed this post, it reminded me of my 2 year HS XC career. I started running during the summer between 10th and 11th grade while spending the summer with my grandparents about 250 miles from home to get in shape for wrestling. I would run the same 6 mile course everyday and by chance, I found an entry form for a 10k race near my grandparents cottage, so I entered and that race completely changed my life. While picking up my packet on race day, a couple of guys from my HS approached me and invited me to try out for XC. I had never heard of the sport before, but I decided to give it a try. I found that the team was stacked and undefeated the previous year and had only lost two runners to graduation. Somehow I managed to win a spot on the Varsity team by the third race of the season and worked my way up to the number 5 position on the team. We crushed the League Meet, placing 6 runners in the Top 10 including the top 3 spots. The team was coached the prior year by a former State Champion who sabotaged our chances to go to States as a team by convincing one of our runners that he had to be in the Top 10 at the mile in order to qualify and he was hanging on for fear life at the finish and was passed by 2 runners in the last 30 yards. We missed go to States by 1 point despite only having 12 seconds separating our Number 1 Runner from me, our Number 5. As a Senior, we won the League again and the Regional and Place 9th as a team in the State. I was 33rd in the State overall. The reason your post reminds me of my HS career is because I was the perpetual newbie. I rarely heard my splits during a race, and wouldn’t know what to do with that information if I had heard them. I was a racer pulled along by my talented Teammates. I ran each race just working to pass everyone that I could catch. I was oblivious to any sort of race strategy and only ran by feel and desire to beat as many competitors as I could. Most of those teammates have remained my very best friends for nearly 40 years now. Cross Country is a beautiful sport that has provided me with the greatest memories of my HS days.

  • Hi Grayson, I’m a high school runner, and my first year in cross country I made it to State (Wisconsin) and came in 19th. I was proud, but it put a lot of pressure on me for the next year. I got an injury and didn’t run very well. I was afraid to be hurt, and I was so nervous before each race that I would get sick. I felt like I was letting everyone done. This past season, as a junior, I made it to State again, but didn’t do well. I’m just so nervous about it all the time, and I find I run more to not get injured than to win. This next fall I will run my last XC race as a senior. How can I get my old confidence back? I want to go out on top, make my team proud and myself too. Have you ever gone through this type of thing?

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