Eight Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Run
Running is a high injury sport, but does not have to be. Learn to listen to your body, practice good running technique and follow the quieter voice of common sense to make every run safe and enjoyable.
Here are some common mistakes I see people make:
1. Not warming up and starting off too fast
“The beginning is the seed of all that is to follow.” – Chinese proverb
This simple phrase says it all when it comes to starting your runs. Your body needs time to get warmed up and relaxed so that blood can flow and provide fuel and oxygen to your muscles. Start with Body Looseners for five minutes. (Stretch after a run not before. It’s been shown stretching before can pull a muscle.) Then start running at a very slow pace. Gradually increase your pace for 1-3 miles. I’m the slowest warmer upper of anyone I know! A slow warm up protects you from overworking or overstretching cold muscles and allows and teaches the body to run relaxed. A muscle pull can spoil your run and sideline you for days or weeks and is easily avoided.
Remember, you always run at the same cadence, whether you’re warming up, running speed intervals, or cruising on a long run. The metronome will keep you honest!
2. Thinking you have to go faster than you should
We all get into trouble when our minds get ahead of our bodies; when the voice from your head says, “I’ll bet I could pass that person up ahead,” or “I’m tired of being a slow runner, so I’m really going to push it here.” We can fall prey to the urgings of our mind’s idea of how fast we should go. The reality is speed before you’re ready is a great recipe for injury and pain. The best antidote is to listen to what your body has to say and never try to sustain speeds when you are pushing, pulling or straining.
3. Running too many days in a row
No matter how well-conditioned you are, there are times when your body needs down time to rebuild, refuel and rejuvenate fatigued muscles. If you’re feeling fatigue that doesn’t seem to go away, it’s probably your body telling you it needs a break. Listen to it and allow yourself to do something else. Go for a walk, ride a bike or just sit on a park bench and take in the day. Give your body the rest it needs and you’ll have a lot more fun on the days you do run.
4. Running too far on new terrain
This rather innocuous mistake can reek havoc with the most seasoned runners, and can be downright dangerous to unsuspecting ones. It’s always fun to take a long run on a beach, cruise a mountain trail or even run in snow for the first time. But, be careful. Running on unfamiliar or uneven terrain can engage more of your stability muscles and make you run with more tension than you’re used to. When you run on a new type of terrain, cut your mileage or time by 25%.
5. Running through non-productive pain or injury
Non-productive pain is the type that can lead to injury if not heeded. Productive pain, on the other hand, is the byproduct of adding the right amount of stress to your body, at just the right threshold, to increase muscle strength, improve balance or develop quicker response times. A basic rule, when running with pain, is to check in with your body. Just ask yourself, “Is the pain increasing or decreasing?” If it’s increasing, your body is telling you that something is wrong with what you’re doing, and you need to either make a form adjustment, or stop running. If the pain is decreasing, it’s your body telling you that you’re on the right track and to proceed with caution.
6. Incorrect fueling and/or dehydration
This is a mistake that can make any run go south, in very short notice. We sometimes overlook our body’s need for the basics like fuel and water. Since your body has about 90 minutes of stored glycogen, there’s really no need to fuel for a run that is 10K or shorter. For longer runs, plan on consuming roughly 120 cal./hr. depending on how efficiently and how fast you’re running. Any fuel should be easily and quickly digestible, and it’s crucial that you test it on yourself before using it in a race. Too many great runs have been derailed by an unhappy stomach.
Because it’s dangerous to either over-hydrate or under-hydrate, here’s an easy system. If your workout is longer than an hour, bring water with electrolytes and sip every 10 minutes. Be sure to take extra water and electrolytes on hot days.
7. Wrong shoes
Here’s a ground rule for shoes: wear the least amount of shoe you can get by with, given how you currently run and the distance you’re running. Shoes should feel comfortable when you first put them on, and should never restrict the natural motion of your foot. If you need to break in a pair of shoes, it’s a good bet they’re more shoe than you need. The general rule is the maximum mileage on a pair of shoes is 500 miles. Running in old shoes can lead to pain and injury.
8. Being too serious
Nothing creates a buzz-kill around your running more than taking your self too seriously. Enjoy yourself, and laugh at, and learn from your foibles. Becoming a good runner is a process that takes practice. Getting caught up in results and split times can pull the plug on the joy you could have from simply running. Focus on your technique and the results will always come. Take your running technique seriously and your self lightly!