Whether you’ve been running for years or you’re just starting out, there are a few common running mistakes you need to avoid. These mistakes can spell disaster, turning your healthy running habit into a serious injury. What are these common running mistakes, and how can you avoid them? Read on!
1. Forget to Warm-up or Cool down
Line up at the start of any 5k race, and you’ll see runners doing some pretty strange things: bouncing, jumping, jogging in circles. They’re doing kinetic stretching, warming up before they run. That sort of warm-up is important, just as important as a cool down (static stretching) at the end of a run. Skip it, and you’ll risk sore muscles, cramps, and more. This is probably the most widespread of the common running mistakes, one that leads to innumerable injuries each year.
2. Skimp on Shoes
I can’t count how many times I’ve lined up for a race next to a girl wearing the most adorable, expensive running outfit, all matchy-matchy and sexy, then looked down and saw that she was wearing cheap shoes, or shoes not made for running, just because they matched her outfit. Running is a sport, not a fashion show. Like any other sport, you need the right equipment, and the most important equipment for running is a good pair of shoes, whether they match your cute running clothes or not.
3. Too Much, Too Soon
This mistake is most common among newer runners, and it’s easy to see why: going the distance, and doing it faster, seems like a natural goal, right? But it’s not safe to run too far, too soon. Experts agree that, to avoid injury, it’s best to add no more than 10% to your current distance when it’s time to upgrade. A good formula to follow is adding 10% for three weeks, then going back down a little for the fourth week as a recovery week.
4. Ignore Pain
There’s a big difference between running through a side stitch because you forgot to eat your banana, and running through an intense, horrible pain because you think you can just push through it. Pain is your body’s way of telling there’s something wrong, and intense pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop, NOW. Ignore that pain, and you’ll risk compounding whatever injury is causing it. Listen to your body, especially about pain.
5. Run at Someone else’s Pace
Near the end of each race I do, I focus on a runner a couple feet ahead of me, and try to slowly catch them, then pass them by picking up my pace just a little bit. This is quite different than trying to match someone else’s pace from the start line. Even when you’re just doing your morning jog, it’s important to realize that we each have our own pace – mine is an unimpressive 10:30 mile – and that pace is natural. Yes, step it up on race day, but don’t try to match someone else, someone faster, from the get-go.
6. Choose the Wrong Fuel
If you’re just starting out as a runner, you might still be following the same diet you did before you started running. Over time, you’ll notice that you’ll naturally start making better food choices, to help fuel your run and boost performance. If not, you ought to consider it. Runners needs better fuel than people who lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Remove fatty, processed foods from your diet, and add lean proteins (like eggs and salmon and beans), wholesome whole grains, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies instead.
7. Don’t Rehydrate
You might not feel incredibly thirsty at the end of your run, but if you pushed yourself, you broke a sweat, and you need to rehydrate. Lately, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about chocolate milk as a prime recovery drink, but I stick to my old standard: water. On long-distance runs, of course, it’s important to rehydrate with a real sports drink, but after my morning run, I just make sure to drink plenty of water.
8. Stop Running
One of the worst mistakes a runner can make is to stop running. It’s surprising how quickly your body gets used to NOT running once you’ve fallen off the wagon and missed your run for a few weeks. The best fix for this, of course, is to start running again. If you lack the motivation, it’s time to change up your route or start running with a friend who can hold you accountable for showing up at the trail head every day.
Now it’s confession time! I’m particularly guilty of trying to match someone else’s pace on race day, but I think I’ve conquered most of these running mistakes. Which of these running no-nos have you been doing? Or is there another running mistake you’ve made that I didn’t include in my list?