Even the most experienced runners will make mistakes when running – making bad food or clothing choices. Running long runs at a pace that’s way too fast. After some runs, the couch may look so tempting to nap on – resulting in super stiff muscles that will leave us hobbling for days.
Ideally, we learn from our mistakes.
Heading out to try the new curry joint the night before a race?
(Hopefully) you only make that mistake once.
Mistakes Runners Can’t Stop Making
But there are some mistakes runners just can’t stop making.
…At least these are mistakes I keep making. When will I learn?
Too Many Layers
At the (freezing!) start line of the Disney Marathon forever ago, I overheard a runner telling his buddy something that has stuck with me ever since: If you are comfortable at the start of a race, you are overdressed.
This is true both of races and training runs.
Sure the first mile of a run on a cold day can be super cold, but you’ll warm up quickly (I promise!) and it’s no fun carrying that extra layer for your entire long run when you only need it for the first 10 minutes.
On race day, keep warm with a space blanket you saved from your last race or wear an old sweatshirt you can throw away as you warm up (many races collect tossed clothing for charity).
Skipping The Sunscreen
Your legs and your lungs get the glory during your runs, but your skin gets the abuse.
Sunscreen or clothing infused with SPF is critical in keeping your skin safe and skin cancer free on the run.
On longer runs, carry sunscreen with you so you can reapply regularly.
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Shoes: Picking Form Over Function
A quality pair of running shoes is key to staying healthy as a runner. For the fashion conscious amongst us, it can be tempting to look at the wall of shoes at your local running store and gravitate towards the coolest looking pair or the ones with the best color scheme.
But your first concerns when buying running shoes should be fit and function. Do these shoes suit your body type and running style? Are they comfortable for you?
Related: Wearing your running shoes well past their prime.
Your running shoes don’t last forever. Track their usage and switch them out when needed.
Ignoring The Funny Twinge That Won’t Go Away
If you notice a funny twinge on a single run, you can (likely) ignore it.
But if the funny twinge you feel on the run doesn’t go away, or keeps coming back, that you need to pay attention to.
Get it checked out by a qualified profession (and no, Google or WebMD doesn’t count), and follow their advice.
Rest if you need to.
Ignoring (or denying) a potential injury will not make it go away.
Skipping The Strength And Mobility Work
While skipping the strength work and ignoring the foam roller won’t damage your performance, ignoring it leaves so much potential upside on the table.
Just a few strength moves added to your cool-down can have a huge impact on your running. Squats, lunges, and planks are all great options and they don’t require any additional equipment.
10 minutes a day with a foam roller can prevent problems that aren’t even problems yet.
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Doing Too Much Too Soon
Doing too much too soon can be a problem, especially when you’re either first starting out as a runner or when you first start training for a big event like a marathon or a half marathon.
The enthusiasm that comes with starting is undeniable – you want to do everything. Run all the miles and do all the cross-training. Add in a few extra miles ‘just in case.’
But too much too soon is a recipe for burnout and injury every time.
Not Practicing For Race Day
If you are training for a big event, the focus is mostly on getting physically ready for the event.
But race day is about more than just running. It’s about fueling and hydration. It’s about parking logistics and porta-potty lines. Wearing gear that won’t chafe as you run your race.
All those additional race day things won’t happen by themselves.
For the best race possible, you need to practice for race day.
Going Too Fast
The classic runner mistake of going too fast appears in many forms.
- Starting out too fast on race day
- Running too fast a pace for your long runs (your marathon training long runs should feel slow!)
- Not running ‘easy’ on easy run days
Running at different paces have different benefits for your body and your muscles.
There is a place for slower paced runs in your training.
Ignoring Mental Training
The cliché is that sports are 90% mental and 10% physical.
Why do so many runners spend 100% of their time focusing on the physical side of training and ignore the mental aspects of training?
Dealing with boredom, overcoming self-doubt, nipping negative self-talk in the bud are all key skills runners need to develop.
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Not Resting Or Sleeping Enough
Resting is not slacking off from training, it’s a key part of training.
Resting is when physical gains are actually made. Your body rebuilds the muscles you broke down when you worked out (and rebuilds them even stronger) when you rest and when you sleep.
Take your rest days and enjoy them. Make a good night’s sleep a priority.
Every runner has a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.
Just because your running buddy can run 6 days a week, do cross-fit every other day, and sleep 4 hours a night doesn’t mean you can or should do the same.
Just because you finished last in your age group at last weekend’s race, doesn’t mean you are a ‘bad’ runner.
Look to your running goals and to your training goals.
The only question you should ask yourself is if you are working towards those goals.
How you compare to others (who are working towards different goals using a different skill set) isn’t relevant.