How to Gain Your Confidence Back After a Running Setback

If you’ve run any amount of time, you’ve probably had a running setback. Sometimes the hardest part of coming back is getting your confidence back after a running setback!

I know I have from injuries to overtraining to burnout, to even just a “bad race.” Most of us have had running setbacks! Like an injury, each one is different.

This post is part of series about the mental component of running. More posts include: 

How to Combat Negative Thoughts While Running

How to Build Mental Toughness for Running

How to Gain Your Confidence Back After a Running Setback

How can you get your confidence back after a running setback?

If you’ve ever had a bad race, been injured, or had to take time off, you know how hard it is to gain confidence about yourself and running. Like anything in the fitness world, it’s important to remember it takes time. Your running fitness wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t gain it back in a day.

The biggest piece of advice is slow and steady wins the race. Seriously. By taking things slow, you are less likely to get injured or even burn out.

First Ask Yourself: “Why Have a Lost My Running Confidence?”

Gaining confidence back after a running setback largely depends on why it was lost.

Was it a bad race?


Extended time off? 

Whatever the reason, it will affect how you gain your confidence back after a running setback.

Gaining Confidence After a Bad Race:

After a running setback with a bad race, Gaining confidence should be handled differently than injury because it is different.

Bad races happen, we have all been there, and it’s ok. Remember, you don’t lose fitness from having a bad race. Ask yourself what created your bad race:

Was it the weather?

Did you take it out too fast?

I just didn’t feel “good” that day.

Gaining confidence after a bad race takes time too. It’s ok to let yourself be sad for a few days, but it’s important to take steps to look at the why and how you can improve next time.

It’s equally important not to sign for a race too soon because you can end up injured or burned out.

Are you struggling with gaining confidence back after a running setback like an injury?

These tips can help you gain confidence back after a running setback. Many of which help me when I feel like I “may never get back”.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race:

The biggest piece of advice with most running and gaining confidence back after a running setback is slow and steady wins the race. The faster you come back, the more likely you are going to burn out or get injured. It is easy to want to do more and faster, but it’s not healthy, and you probably won’t gain confidence back after a running setback because you’ll have another setback.

Track Progress:

Tracking progress helps you see your overall progress. Looking at overall progress really does help gain confidence back after a running setback. You can see last month you were running X pace, and now you are running Y pace. Seeing actual numbers does wonder for your running confidence.

Goal Setting:

Create realistic goals. Create both short and long-term goals that are smart for you. Don’t create what you think others want you to do or what you think you should. Create goals that make sense but aren’t too easy.

By creating both short and long-term goals you are able to work towards something, without it feeling overwhelming. By only having long-term goals”, you might feel overwhelmed. By only having short-term goals, you’ll have no big picture and could even become uninterested with running!

Identify Your Weaknesses:

We all have weaknesses, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. By identifying your weakness, you can help take care of them and grow as an athlete. Growing as an athlete means getting stronger and better, leading to gaining your confidence back after a running setback.

In 2013, I got a nasty case of plantar fasciitis. It pulled the muscle off the bone and fractured it. It took months to realize one of my weaknesses as a runner were my calves. I began working and strengthening them, and nearly 8 years later, I’ve never had a plantar fasciitis issue.

Focus on your strength:

Just like weaknesses, we all have strengths. It’s important not to completely focus on the weaknesses, though, because that can and will send us into a negative space. We are training to gain confidence back after running a setback, not going into a bad headspace.

Focus on what you are good at! Are you a strong hill runner? Do you excel at fast track workouts? Are you also good at biking or strength training? Don’t forget about that and include it in your training! Seeing your strengths does wonders for gaining confidence back after a running setback.

Positive Self Talk:

I used to think “positive self-talk” was silly and a load of garbage. Honestly, it very much helps. When you find yourself talking negatively, reframe and combat your thinking. It’s ok to be sad but it cannot consume you!

For instance: “I am not achieving the times I want,” BUT I have come so far in the last few weeks (or months).

Ask Yourself: Would I Talk to a Friend This Way? 

Seriously, usually, we are the hardest on ourselves. Ask yourself: would you really talk to a friend this way. Call them slow or tell them they weren’t coming back fast enough. No. No, you wouldn’t, so be your own friend.

Finally and most importantly, enjoy the process:

Running is a hobby and supposed to be fun! Of course, it won’t be fun every single day of the day, but we are supposed to have more good days than bad days. Don’t forget that!

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Questions for you:

How do you gain confidence back after a running setback?

What has been your worst running setback, and how did you come back from it?