Four Common Running Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Don’t expect to be amazing at first
As with anything else in life, if you go into running expecting to be brilliant straight away, you’re going to be disappointed. When you first start running, your form will be sloppy and you likely won’t last for very long. The important thing is just to get out the door and stick to a routine – don’t try and copy professional athletes who have had years of training and conditioning.
At first, run in whatever way is comfortable, even if you’re just slowly plodding along. You’ll be able to refine your technique in time, for now, you simply have to get your body used to the movements required and gradually build your stamina, strength and flexibility. If your expectations aren’t realistic, you’ll be demotivated and unlikely to stick to your routine.
Don’t run too far too quickly
It’s a common mistake in runners of all skill levels to increase their mileage too quickly. The reason this happens is that our muscles and cardiovascular systems are relatively fast to adapt to activity, resulting in rapid increases in running distances that often take people by surprise. Excited by their progress, they keep on running themselves to exhaustion each time, achieving progress that is, on the surface, incredible.
But what they don’t know is that their tendons, bones and joints – which have far less blood flow and a slower healing speed compared to muscles – aren’t adapting as quickly. Their muscles, lungs and heart may be able to do the distance, but their tendons are still weeks behind in progress. Inevitably, this leads to injury and a few weeks off running – a break in the routine that can be disastrous for novice runners.
To make sure you’re not outpacing your body’s ability to adapt, only increase your running distance by a maximum of 10% a week. This may seem slower than you would like, and definitely slower than some guides you’ll find online, but it makes it far more likely that you’ll still be running this time next year.
Don’t just rely on running if you want to train faster
Dedicated runners often want to improve their performance as much as possible as quickly as possible, especially in the lead up to a race or marathon, but struggle to balance the demands of their training with the significant wear that daily long distance running has on the body.
The solution is cross training with low impact exercises like swimming or cycling that can help build stamina and cardiovascular fitness and engage many of the same muscle groups and structures as running without overloading your tendons and joints, which is especially important for people middle aged and up or anyone who suffers from arthritis or osteoporosis.
Don’t wear your body out
I meet a lot of runners who are guilty of neglecting their strength and conditioning work, until they literally wear themselves out. There’s no doubt that running is good for you, but it’s also a high impact exercise that takes a toll on your bones, joints and tendons, especially if you run for long distances on a hard surface. Muscle sprains and tears can be agony, but they heal relatively easily in most cases. Overuse injuries to either tendon, bone or joints, however, can require months or even years of rehabilitation, and sometimes the full strength or range of motion from before the injury can’t be entirely restored.
If you really get into running, it’s essential that you combine it with exercises that strengthen your muscles, such as weight and resistance training, and exercises that strengthen your tendons, such as jumps and balance boards. Strong muscles and tendons will protect your joints, reducing risk of injury and slowing down the rate at which they wear down.
The way I explain it to my clients is that running turns your body into a bank account. Every time you run, you’re making a withdrawal, and if you don’t make deposits in the form of strength and conditioning training, you’ll eventually have nothing left and won’t be able to run anymore.
If you want any other advice on how to improve your running, whether you’re a novice or a professional, we provide detailed, one-on-one assessments of your physical fitness and running technique. You can book your appointment now by calling 020 7093 3499 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.