Fitness Friday – 8 Most Common Running Mistakes

Hello and happy Fitness Friday! It feels like it’s been a while, no?

Seeing as it’s the new year, I know it’s a time when a lot of people are setting race goals for 2011, or even just getting back into exercise! I’ve already gone over the 5 Most Common Weight Lifting Mistakes, but today I’m addressing the most popular form of cardio. Everyone wants to be a runner, but many of us are doing it wrong. Here are the most common running mistakes to ensure you don’t get sidelined this year.


1. You’re running too fast.

A lot of newbie runners tend to sprint right off the bat. After three minutes they feel like they’re dying and determine that running is either too hard, or they’re just not cut out for it. Fact is, it takes a looooong time to figure out what a comfortable pace is for yourself. Chances are it’s waaaaay slower than what you wish it was. If you can’t muster up a sentence, or if you’re frequently getting side stitches, try taking it down a notch. We’re not shooting for the Olympics here, there’ ain’t nothin’ wrong with a slow and steady jog.


2. You’re running too much.

Running is fantastic for releasing those feel-good endorphins. Problem is, some people get hooked. As soon as you can run, you want to do it all the time. Keep the 5-day-a-week schedules for the marathoners. If you’re a recreational runner/racer, try to take a few days off once in a while. Remember the 10% rule – never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. Jumping from 15 miles one week, to 25 miles the next is setting yourself up for injury. Shin splints for example, are usually caused by running too much too soon.


3. You’re running route sucks.


This point means two things:

a) You need to find a route that suits you. I hated running outdoors when I first started because I was doing all city routes. But then I discovered trail running and fell in love. Some people on the other hand love the noise of a city, the pavement, or even prefer a treadmill! Experiment with different settings until you find one you like best.

b) You’re doing the same route over and over. As with anything in fitness, you should be changing it up. Some streets and sidewalks are tilted, which can cause pain in one leg and not the other. Running too many hills can do a number on your achilles tendon, but not running enough won’t challenge you as a runner. It’s okay to have a favourite route, but changing it up is sometimes motivation enough to get you out the door.


4. You’re in the wrong shoes.


And I’m not just saying that because I sell running shoes for a living. I see so many people frustrated with aches and pains that are all the result of a stupid cheap shoe. Splurge the extra hundred bucks for the proper shoe, it’s worth the pain and injuries it will prevent. I know, I was off my feet for two months once thanks to a long run in old ratty shoes.


5. You’re not eating right.


If you’re cramping up, feeling lightheaded, pukey, burpey, or feeling like you gotta go youknowwhat, take another look at what you’re eating before a run. I can’t counsel you in what’s perfect for your body. It’s something that is best discovered through personal trial and error. Personally, I like a quick digesting carb (bread, banana, apple) with a little bit of nut butter about an hour before. If you’re running in the morning, make sure you’re eating a decent snack the night before so you don’t run out of energy first thing.

For me, I have to stay away from anything salty before a workout because I get so thirsty after. Worst bike ride of my life was the day I ate a bag of popcorn before setting out for 40k.


6. You’re not stretching


Runners by nature are “go-go-go” type people, which means they typically don’t have the patience for static stretching after a sweaty run. Or morning runners neglect to make time for stretching before they jet off to work. Well too bad. Just do it.

You have no idea how many injuries I see as a personal trainer because people ignored their flexibility. Back injuries that put you out of commission, plantar fasciitis that makes simple walking hard, hip injuries that make it near impossible to put pants on. If you’re running for your health, then you can stretch for your health too. Otherwise, you may just be doing more harm than good.

Click here for a list of running stretches.


7. You’re not icing.

Running causes inflammation, sometimes to the point of pain. If you’re running long distances, get into the habit of icing any trouble areas you may have for 10-15 minutes once you get in. This will help bring down the inflammation and prevent any future pain or hobbling. I still have a cranky hip from an old hip injury that I know to ice even if it doesn’t hurt right away. If I don’t, chances are I’ll get a little pain walking around for the rest of the day. Without ice, I would have given up on running a long time ago.


8. You’re not cross training.

Now that you’re following point #2, you’re finding yourself with lots of spare time. Instead of running every single day – cross train! Ride a bike, do yoga, go swimming, hop on the elliptical, take a kickboxing class. Other activities will actually improve your cardiovascular and muscular condition for running.

But most importantly, weight train. Because it’s a repetitive motion, running only uses certain muscles over and over, while others are neglected. This causes muscular imbalance in your body, which in my opinion is one of the main reasons for injury. You can hurt yourself when one part of your body is trying to compensate for a weakness in another part of your body. Runners especially need to work on their glutes, hamstrings and calves. But moreso, focus on every muscle group in the body to create equal strength overall.


Question of the Day: Runners, help me out with this list! What are some running mistakes you’d advise against?


Posted on January 7, 2011, in Fitness Friday and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a while. I’ve been through a lot of those and they really are important points to consider. I really liked the “route” and “icing.”

    When I first started running I’d run my gym’s track for four miles straight–boring as hell. Once I got outside, my passion for running really kicked in.

  2. I love this post! Great reminders! I would add foam rolling if you’ve got one. I started doing it religiously during my half-marathon training to prevent my IT band from acting up and it is great. It can be a bit painful at first, but eventually it just feels like a deep tissue massage.

  3. Great post! I confess, that I think I’ve made all these mistakes over the course of my running career.

  4. Awesome tips!

    I’ve been struggling with really bad side stitches when I run, which is frustrating, because I feel like it’s limiting my endurance! Do you think maybe I’m drinking too much water before my runs? Normally I don’t eat anything heavy the couple of hours before – e.g. today I had a handful of pumpkin seeds and a couple of Mary’s crackers.

    • Try slowing down or taking a 30-60 second walk break every 5-10 minutes. The newest studies are showing that side stitches during running are mostly due to running too fast, and not related to water or breathing as much as we previously thought. I do however find breathing out in one big loud puff of air every now and then helps too.

  5. Another one is always doing the same kinds of runs. My training really plateaued last fall until I added high intensity interval (faartlek) sessions in place of one of my long runs. Helped vary the muscles I was working and placed a different kind of stress on my cardio. Plus is shortened my training time!

  6. Oh this is soooo true!! “Fact is, it takes a looooong time to figure out what a comfortable pace is for yourself. Chances are it’s waaaaay slower than what you wish it was.”—Lol, and yes, true!

    Something to add…some people, no matter what, are just not runners. They have tried it all in an effort to become a runner. But they just arent runners. They are walkers, hikers, yogis, lifters, bikers, but they arent runners. They can run, but it’s just not a natural thing. I have a few friends who are really athletic and can bike 100 miles but can hardly run 2.

    I love these posts of yours Susan…you cover…it all!!!

  7. What a great post! And a definite wake-up call for me because as an avid runner for over five years now, I STILL do/don’t do a lot of these things. But I will use this list and work on it!!

    I would also say hydration is a biiiig thing… it’s own point, I think. Sometimes I forget to drink water before I go out and I always have to cut my run short!!


  8. I break all these rules! But as a long-distance runner (my weekly mileage averages at 75 miles) for 15 years now, I just know what works for me. For me personally, cheap shoes, not stretching (I do yoga, but not after I run – just as a separate kind of workout), high mileage with very few days off (at most, one day off a week), not icing (I have NEVER iced before!) does not affect me at all. I also eat a light dinner the night before around 5:00 pm and then run on a pretty empty stomach the next morning. I’ve never had a single shin splint, hint of knee pain, or anything – BUT I totally agree with your list for most people and especially beginners. I know I’m just lucky! It is just funny how everybody’s body is different.

  9. I love this post!

    I think a huge mistake that many runners make is becoming too dependent on listening to music while running. Running outside while plugged into an iPod can be dangerous, first of all, because you’re not completely aware of your surroundings, like traffic. Secondly, many races don’t allow use of iPods, so it’s not a good idea to get used to running with music. Runners need to be able to find their motivation without music.

    • I agree with this. Also for me I change my pace when I’m listening to music without being aware of it. That is until I look at my watch and realize I’m running way too fast and that this is probably the reason I’m out of breath after just 1 mile.

      I would suggest doing runs with no music, especially for people that haven’t found their comfortable pace yet.

  10. This is such a great post!!!

    I waited too long to get fitted for the right shoes but once I did last year they made a huge difference. Plus when I first started running I thought it meant “run as fast as you can for as long as you can”. LOL Um…no.

    Plus, after a few races (and a few injuries) I realized my body just cannot handle really hilly routes or races. I need them to be generally flat. It sucks but it’s true. If I run too many hills I get bursitis in my ankles, tendinitis in my Achilles, and problems with my hips. No fun (which sucks because we live among tons of hills).

  11. greensandjeans

    Not replacing your shoes! It’s amazing how many people are running in shoes they’ve had for 2+ years!

  12. Great post! I totally agree with everything. I’ve been running for 7 years or so and I still start out way too fast. Especially in a race situation, where I get, um, a little competitive :) Running with a buddy who has a similar pace has helped me tremendously.

  13. This is great! I’ve been running on and off for 3 years (on consistently since January!) and I do all of these except icing right now. I do need to start doing it though, as I notice my right knee becomes sore occasionally. When I first starting running, I did EVERYTHING ‘wrong’ and felt it. Now, I’ve mostly found what works for me but I’m always tweaking it!

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