Running is one of the best and most efficient cardiovascular exercises available, but despite its apparent simplicity, there are many ways to run “wrong.” For such a seemingly simple activity, there’s a lot you have to learn about running before you can do it safely and well – either through research or through experience.
In this guide, we’re going to introduce the biggest mistakes made by novice runners – and how you can avoid them.
Types of Running Mistakes to Avoid
Some mistakes are nothing more than a temporary inconvenience, but other mistakes can be downright destructive. These are some of the types of running mistakes that are most important to avoid:
- Health/safety mistakes. If you’re not careful, you could hurt yourself. Some mistakes increase your likelihood of injury, and others could put you in a dangerous situation.
- Exercise efficiency mistakes. Some mistakes reduce your effectiveness while exercising, making it harder for you to reach your long-term goals. For example, if you train inefficiently, you may end up hitting a plateau prematurely.
- Psychology/emotional mistakes. You can also make some mistakes that disrupt your psychology or cause you emotional distress, eventually resulting in loss of motivation or other issues.
The Biggest Mistakes Made by New Runners
These are some of the biggest mistakes made by new runners:
1. Doing too much, too fast. If you have a good 3-mile run on Tuesday, but you’re not supposed to run again until Friday, you might try and cheat the system and attempt another 3-mile run on Wednesday. Once you have experience, you’ll be able to make this kind of decision responsibly. But in the early stages of establishing your stamina, this could be a major mistake. Increasing your weekly mileage too quickly, pushing your speed too far in a run, we’re attempting distances that are beyond your capabilities can all increase your chances of being injured and make it take longer for you to recover.
2. Buying the wrong shoes. Most runners quickly come to realize that their shoes are one of the most important pieces of gear they have. In the wrong pair of shoes, you’ll lose speed, you’ll be less comfortable, and you’ll be at greater risk of hurting yourself. Unfortunately, buying running shoes isn’t always easy. There are many good brands to choose from at a wide variety of pricing tiers, and each individual will have different needs – such as a unique foot shape that makes standard shoes hard to wear. Still, it’s important to do your research and find the best fit for you.
3. Failing to warm up (or cool down). It’s tempting to start running at full speed, especially if you’re excited for this exercise come but if you want to limit your chances of injury, it’s really important to warm up. It’s also important to cool down once your main run is over. This doesn’t have to be a long activity, nor does it have to be sophisticated; any effort you make will be better than nothing.
4. Neglecting stretching and flexibility. Being a better runner is all about improving your strength and stamina, right? Those are major components, but they’re not everything. If you want to reduce your injury risk and continue improving as much as possible, it’s important to work on your stretching and flexibility. Being more flexible will allow you to conquer your plateaus faster, mitigate the risk of injury, and stay limber as your muscles grow larger.
5. Ignoring supplementary muscle groups. Your quadriceps and your calves get a lot of attention when you’re running, as do your hamstrings. That’s why most dedicated runners also incorporate resistance training, utilizing squats, calf raises, and other exercises to build up those specific muscles. But if you want to maximize your effectiveness, it’s also important to work on supplementary muscle groups that could otherwise get neglected. For example, your hips are vital for maintaining your balance and propelling yourself forward. Working on your hips, the muscles in your feet, and even the tibialis anterior muscle in front of your shin can all be valuable.
6. Overdressing or underdressing. How you dress can have a big impact on your run. Obviously, comfort comes into play, and some people worry about wind resistance. But the most important function of clothing is protecting you from the elements. If you overdress in summer, you could run the risk of dehydrating yourself or overheating. If you underdress in winter, you could end up with frostbite or other complications. Make sure you dress appropriately.
7. Overbuying accessories. When you’re a new runner, you’ll likely be tempted to buy up several accessories, such as stopwatches, specially made water bottles, and high-tech gadgets. But for the most part, it’s better to start minimalistic. Only buy what you really need to get started as a runner; this will help you stay focused on your true objectives and save you some money in the meantime. If you decide you want to upgrade later, you can.
8. Forgetting about nutrition. Running a lot will definitely make you better at running, but you’re not going to improve as quickly or as safely if you ignore the importance of nutrition. You should have some carbohydrates before your run to provide fuel for the exercise. You should be getting plenty of protein after your run and throughout the day to support recovery. And of course, you need to be getting enough nutrients from fruits and vegetables to stay healthy.
9. Eating right before a run. You need to have some fuel in your system to run effectively, so that means you should eat before a run, right? Not necessarily. Be cautious, choose easily digestible foods in small portions, and give yourself at least 30 minutes before hitting the road.
10. Following all generic advice blindly. Every runner is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. Always be cautious when following advice meant for someone else – or a general population.
Running is much more complex than it seems, especially if you’re interested in training for a marathon or becoming an elite sprinter. But that’s what personal trainers are for! Contact me today, and we’ll talk about your current fitness, your past experiences, and your goals – and we’ll put together the perfect running plan for all your fitness objectives!
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!