4 Common Running Mistakes To Avoid
Everyone has a preferred workout of choice. For some, it’s hot yoga; for others, it’s a HIIT class. For me, there’s nothing better than a long run. One of the reasons I love running so much is that it’s an independent workout. Don’t get me wrong: I love the communal feeling I get from doing yoga in a big group or even jogging alongside fellow racers, but there’s something particularly meditative about running solo. I pick the route. I set the pace. I choose the playlist. My love of running hasn’t always paired with an extensive knowledge of it, however. I’ve made plenty of running mistakes and suffered the (sometimes painful!) consequences. If you’re intimidated by the thought of running your first few laps, miles, or 5k, here are four common running mistakes to avoid—consider these the faux pas I’ve made so that you don’t have to.
1) Overdoing It Before You’re Ready
They call it “runner’s high” for a reason: once those endorphins finally kick in, sometimes it’s hard to stop! On one particularly nice fall day last year, I was having a great run and wanted to keep going past my usual point. The most I had ever run before was about 5 miles, but that day I made up my mind that I’d run 10 miles. That’s a pretty substantial leap, and although the endorphins kicked in and I was feeling great, the next day, I could barely walk! It turns out I fractured a small bone in my right foot and hadn’t noticed at the time. During my run, I chalked it up to sore feet, not a serious injury! I had to wear a boot for over a month and regretted my big leap, to say the least. Don’t fall victim to my costly (and painful) mistake: increase your mileage slowly. There’s an oft-cited rule that you should never increase your weekly running mileage by more than 10% at once. Safely increasing your mileage allows you to train properly while avoiding injuries that can creep up on you if not prepared.
Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Running
2) Wearing The Wrong Shoes
At the shoe store, it can be so tempting to choose the pair that looks the cutest–which is what I did. After my 10-mile mistake, however, a helpful pro at the running store told me that my improper footwear played a role in my injury. The cute shoes I had chosen were actually not ideal for longer-distance runs. Talk to a professional at a fitness store—they are a great resource for finding the best running shoes for you. Tell them how far you plan to run, on what terrain, and of any foot pain or issues you may have. Also, a common rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes anywhere from 350 to 550 miles. If you run three miles five times a week, for example, that puts you at about six months before you should get a new pair.
3) Not Refueling Afterwards
Running burns a lot of calories, but I used to think that eating right after a run would “undo” all the hard exercise I just endured and cause me to gain weight. It turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong. After an intense run (anything beyond 30-45 minutes) your body NEEDS to be refueled with healthy foods in order to maintain immune function and repair your muscles. The ideal time to eat after a long run is within 30-60 minutes, and you should strive to eat a meal that has a 4-1 ratio of carbs and protein. This will help make you stronger and more prepared for your next run.
4) Forgetting To Stretch
Running is a high-impact exercise that builds bone mass and muscle, making it critically important to stretch out those muscles afterwards in order to avoid feeling tight and inflexible. Stretching after your run is optimal, because your muscles are already warm and full of oxygen. To me, running and yoga go hand in hand: I try to run 3-4 days a week and take yoga classes on the days in between. Aside from that, I learned to ALWAYS stretch after a run, otherwise I feel stiff and sore the next day, making my next run less effective. The best stretches for runners involve stretching out your entire lower body, including your hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes and calves. Better yet, grab a foam roller and do some self-myofascial release—a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. Foam rolling is easy and effective, and the foam rollers themselves aren’t expensive to buy. The bottom line is, whatever stretches feel best for you, be sure to make stretching a post-run priority.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your jog on!