12 Running Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

So you’re a runner…or deciding to run? Great! Running is a great way to get in and stay in shape, relieve stress, and compete against yourself and no one else.

However, it’s important to avoid making certain mistakes that could leave you burned out, or worse, sidelined with an injury.

Here are 12 running mistakes runners need to watch out for. Some you may have already heard of (or perhaps all), but still good things to remember/work on!

running mistakes
1) Doing Too Much Too Soon: This has been said over and over again. Don’t run too much too soon. Follow the 10% rule which states that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. This rule may not make sense with lower mileage (such as 10 miles per week), or work for everyone. Instead, start off by tracking minutes instead of miles. Start with a 20 minute run, then the following week move up to perhaps 25-30 minutes, and so on. If you feel any pain, then back off or stay at the current level you are at.

2) Not Running Enough: As opposed to doing too much too soon, sometimes it’s possible to not be running enough. I ran my first marathon in 2011, and completely bonked. Why? Because I didn’t run enough in training. I was scared of getting injured, but that caused me to not be fully prepared. I ran the same marathon in 2013, and doubled my monthly mileage averages in training. The result was a 33 minute personal best. Don’t be afraid to increase your mileage, as long as you have a good base.

3) Not Strength Training: As a personal trainer, I know the importance of strength training for runners. But, as a marathoner, I also know how hard it is to incorporate it into your already full schedule. During the off-season, increase your strength training and include full-body workouts. While training, at least make sure you’re doing body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and hip raises, as well as core exercises.

4) Not Fueling Properly: It’s easy to fall into the mindset of, “I ran 10 miles today, I can eat whatever I want.” However, it is important to fuel your body for the demands of training, especially post-run. Make sure to have a good intake of healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats. After a run, a protein shake, or chocolate milk makes for a great recovery meal. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water daily! Track how many ounces you drink via an app, or simply writing it down. I also wrote a post on muscle recovery.

5) Not Getting Enough Sleep: If you’re training for anything, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, you will be pushing your body during hard workouts. You need to make sure you are giving it proper rest to recover. Do not skimp on sleep or your workouts will suffer.

6) Not Wearing The Right Shoes: Another tip that has been repeated many times before. Go to a specialty store and get fitted for the correct shoe. It took me a couple of tries until I found the right shoe. Experiment and don’t be afraid to try other brands. If you can, buy more than 1 shoe at once, so you can rotate them.

7) Not Wearing The Right Gear: Furthermore, wearing the right gear is so important. Sure, cotton shirts and shorts may cut it for shorter runs, but once you switch to dri-fit tops and wicking material, you’ll never go back. These materials are lighter, wick away sweat, and prevent chafing. Make sure to wash them correctly in order to make sure they last.

8) Running Too Fast Every Day: How do you get faster? NOT by running fast every day. There are times when running fast is necessary. You should have about two-three hard days per week, followed by easy recovery days. Those days should be run at a slower pace, giving your body a chance to truly recover. It might feel like a slog to you, but doing so will actually help you get faster. Running hard every day means your body never has a chance to truly recover.

9) Not Incorporating Speed & Tempo Workouts: Going along with the above point, in order to run faster, you need to incorporate speed and tempo workouts. These will really help you pick up the speed and improve your kick in races. A track workout could be something like 10×400 meters, while a tempo workout maintains a certain pace for an extended period of time (2-10 miles depending on what you’re training for).

10) For Marathoners-Not Practicing Fueling: If you’re going to run a half-marathon or a marathon, it is so important to practice fueling on your training runs. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to practice everything, down to how you will store your fuel. Will you take walking breaks to take a GU? Or run while eating/drinking? Will someone hand you fuel on the course? Or will you carry it all. What type of fuel will you take? Experiment and find what works best for you.

11) Not Warming Up or Cooling Down: If you only do one of these, at least make it the warm up. Dynamic warm ups help prime your body for the run or workout you’re about to do. You warm up your heart, muscles and joints. You can do dynamic moves such as skips and hops, or simply walk at a brisk pace for 5 minutes. Post-run, make sure you do stretches for your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. These can be dynamic as well, such as toy solider walks, or simply sitting on the floor and holding stretches for 20-30 seconds. Here are some dynamic warm-up exercises that I do.

12) Not Enjoying The Run: Last but not least, enjoy the run!!! Don’t let it become monotonous and a task that you HAVE to do every day. It should be something you look forward to. A challenge that awaits. If running becomes a chore, it may signal that it’s time for a break. After a long training period, whether it’s for a half marathon or a marathon, I always take a month off to relax. I may run if I feel like it, but it’s no longer scheduled. Sometimes that’s all you need to really jump back into training and remember why you started running in the first place.

What are some mistakes or tips you would add for beginner runners?

Have you ever made any of these mistakes?


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