Whether we like it or not, mistakes are a normal part of any runner’s journey. Ask any seasoned runner about their early running blunders and they’ll likely have more than one cautionary story to share.
But you don’t need to learn every lesson the hard way. By making note of the following running mistakes, you can side-step many of the errors that befall new runners:
Mistake #1: Doing Too Much at Once
In the early stages of running, your motivation is most likely at its peak. Maybe you’re dreaming of the moment when you cross the finish line of your first half marathon, or the reaction of family members when they see how much weight you’ve lost.
But be careful not to let your motivation take control of your workouts. This early enthusiasm makes it all too easy for new runners to over train, resulting in serious injuries that can lead them sidelined for months.
Reigning in your motivation is difficult, especially when you know that it won’t always be there. However, your body will thank you for it in the future when you’re strong and healthy come race day.
Mistake# 2: Not Fueling Properly
An unhealthy diet may not stop you from completing a 5K, but it can make it far less enjoyable. Why make running any harder than it needs to be?
Developing good eating habits now will help you build up your mileage and fuel your longer training sessions in the future. Just keep in mind that nutritional needs vary from runner to runner, so what works for your running buddy may not necessarily work for you.
Sports nutrition is a confusing topic, so don’t feel bad if it leaves you with more questions than answers. If you need help, consider working with a sports dietitian to create a personalized nutrition plan.
Mistake #3: Downplaying Your Safety
It’s a simple fact that you expend less energy on a treadmill than you do running outdoors. As much as we love running outdoors, we also need to acknowledge that it comes with a certain amount of responsibility.
When running outside, popping in your headphones and zoning out isn’t an option. You’re no longer in a controlled environment, which means that you need to be aware of your surroundings.
Cars, animals, even a sudden turn of the weather can make an ordinary run dangerous in an instant. We aren’t saying this to scare you away from running outdoors, only that the following precautions should be taken:
- Use only one earbud while listening to music.
- Wear reflective running gear at night.
- Keep identification/emergency contact information in your pocket.
- Bring mace while running in dangerous locations.
- Don’t trust cars to stop.
- Be aware of cyclists.
Mistake #4: Wearing Old Running Shoes
Starting to feel aches and pains after you run? This might be a sign that you need new running shoes.
How quickly running shoes wear out depends on the type of running shoe and the person who wears them. Generally, they should be replaced every 300-500 miles.
An easy way to check the condition of your shoes is by looking at the treads on the soles. If the soles are worn out, the mid-sole cushioning material has likely lost its absorbency as well.
You can also check by using what’s called the “twist test”. Simply grab your shoe at the heel and the toe, then twist it at the middle. If it twists easily, it’s time for new shoes.
Mistake #5: Skipping Rest Days
Once you’ve caught the running bug, it’s hard to give your body time to rest. While you might feel like you’re wasting time on a rest day, this recovery time is essential to coming back stronger and reaching your running goals.
When you push your body during a long run, your muscles get tiny tears (called “micro-tears”). After this damage, your muscles need a day off to rebuild themselves stronger.
If you don’t give your muscles time to repair themselves, you may find yourself dragging on your next run. By taking a day to recover, you’re making all your hard work go to good use.
Mistake #6: Comparing Yourself to Others
After seeing your friend’s Facebook post about completing a marathon, your first 5K race suddenly doesn’t feel praise-worthy anymore. Comparing yourself to other runners only reduces your sense of accomplishment and keep you from achieving your running goals.
Even seasoned runners can fall prey to the comparison game. The only difference is that many experienced runners can recognize these negative thought patterns and stop them before they affect their performance.
The next time you catch yourself falling into the comparison trap, remind yourself that running is a personal journey. The only person you should be competing against is the person you were yesterday.