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. My love of running hasn’t always paired with an extensive knowledge of it, however. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and suffered the (sometimes painful!) consequences. Over time, I’ve learned the proper form and habits that make running easier and more natural. So when I hear people say they can’t run, I want to assure them it doesn’t have to be hard, and that anyone with working legs can be a runner! If you’re intimidated by running or it’s left you in pain in the past, make sure you’re not making one of these 7 mistakes before you give up on running altogether. They could mean the difference between aches and pains and finally achieving that coveted runner’s high after mile two.
New runners in particular tend to overstride, meaning they place their foot way ahead of them in an effort to go faster. It’s easy to get psyched up and want to sprint like a gazelle, but what overstraining actually does is send too much of a shock up your leg. This can cause leg pain and make you burn out quickly, wanting to stop after just a few minutes. Instead, don’t focus on using your legs to launch yourself forward at an otherworldly speed; take shorter strides and concentrate on the power coming from your glutes and hip extension to propel you forward.
2) Increasing Your Mileage Too Soon
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. 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. Even if you’re feeling revved up and ready to go, stick to this rule to avoid pain and injury. 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
3) 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.
4) Thinking You’re “Not A Runner”
I hear people say all the time that they don’t have a runner’s body. But here’s the thing: if you have legs that work, you have a runner’s body! We’re conditioned to believe that certain body types excel more at certain sports, but it’s simply not the case. If you’ve set out to run before but found it too difficult, don’t tell yourself it’s because running is something you inherently can’t do. Running isn’t supposed to be easy all the time. Many experienced runners have days when their run doesn’t feel “easy” or “second nature.” But they put one foot in front of the other and keep going. And that’s what you have to do, too. That’s what makes you a runner.
5) Drinking Too Much Water
Some people over-hydrate before or during a run, making them feel bloated and uncomfortable. Yes, you want to be hydrated (especially when it’s over 80 degrees or you’re going for a particularly long run) but don’t chug down three big glasses of water ahead of time. Sip some before you head out, and then focus on rehydrating afterwards so you don’t spend your run dealing with side aches and discomfort.
6) Running Too Far On an Empty Stomach
Some people prefer to have a light snack before exercise, while others like to go into their workouts on an empty stomach. It’s mainly a matter of preference, but if you’re going to be running longer than 30 minutes, your body needs a little fuel beforehand. Running burns a ton of calories, and it’s not smart (nor safe) to head out for a long distance run without having a little something, even if it’s first thing in the morning. At least have a piece of peanut butter toast, protein smoothie, something to ramp up your body’s glycogen stores so you’re not literally running on empty. There have been days when I’ve run longer than I had planned and you definitely feel it when your body runs out of fuel to burn. If your body runs for too long on too few calories, that run is going to feel way harder than it needs to!
7) Forgetting To Warm Up or Cool Down
Running is a high-impact exercise that builds bone mass and muscle, making it critically important to warm up your muscles before you head out. Start with some dynamic movements like hip and arm circles, squats, toe touches, and more, before going into a brisk walk that begins your run. And don’t forget to cool down and stretch afterwards, too, with static stretching! Static stretching requires you to hold your stretches, and it’s best to do this after you run because your muscles are already warm and full of oxygen.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your jog on with confidence.