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Running Mistakes: 12 Common Running Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Running is a great way to stay healthy and lose weight. However, running can be hard on your body if you don’t have the correct form. Here are 12 common mistakes that beginners make while running and how to avoid them.

running mistakes
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Running is an amazing way to commit to getting fit, and comes with such a positive community to support you with achieving your goals. However, what I find disheartening is just how many runners, particularly beginner runners, who fall victim to common running mistakes that leave them injured, disappointed, and turn them away from the sport altogether.

If you’re a new runner that wants to know what common running mistakes to look out for as well as how to steer clear of injuries, you’ve come to the right place.

The Most Common Running Mistakes

1. Doing Too Much, Too Soon

Too much, too soon syndrome is a common mistake for runners just starting out. Training too fast is another common mistake for new runners.

Taking time for solid rest is important when you are a beginner runner. Doing too much, too soon can also lead to burnout. Simply put, overworking oneself can cause physical and emotional exhaustion.

Taking a break is essential to avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. Remember that it is important to set realistic goals and milestones, and then take steps in the right direction until those goals are reached.

When working on your running regimen, allow yourself time to relax and recharge in order to continue performing at your best level.

2. Doing the Same Run, Every Time

Doing the same run, every time can result in stagnation. Varied running allows for a better adaptation to training. Plus, it breaks up the monotony with your training!

It is also important for injury prevention. For example, implementing short, fast interval workouts is a good way to increase fitness and anaerobic capacity. However, you should not opt for HIIT for every workout. It will only hinder your overall progress. Remember that too much of a good thing is still too much. Make peace with moderation.

If you are going to start running, you should do so gradually. If you are only going to run once a week, for instance, then the first time you run should only be for 30 minutes at maximum.

3. Running Easy Runs Too Fast

Running too fast can result in injury, and it isn’t necessary for beginner runners. Workouts for runners should be easy a majority of the time.

Novice runners should have one hard workout a week. The other runs through out the week should be at an easy, conversational pace. Apply the 80/20 rule from Matt Fitzgerald. His book, 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower recommends that you do 80 percent of runs at a lower intensity and just 20 percent at a higher intensity. Matt claims that this is the best change runners of all abilities can make to improve their performance.

4. Choosing Kicks By Looks

Be warned that being too superficial about footwear selection can really cost you in running, especially now that minimalist and maximalist trends have led people to purchase shoes that, in terms of fit, skew more towards extreme ends of the spectrum.

Most beginner runners don’t do well on minimalist shoes, but that the maximalist craze merely shifted the injury trend away from bone-related injuries and more towards soft tissue, muscle-based ailments. If you want to find the right running shoes for you, you need to first identify the type of runner you are.

I recommend that you have your running stride analyzed by a running expert. This can be done in a number of ways, but the simplest is to look at your running form in motion and try to first identify what type of runner you are. If you want outside help, head to your local running store and have a running representative look at your stride. In most cases, the people that work at running stores are either professional runners themselves, or are passionate about the sport and have heavily done their research when it comes to all things running related.

5. Overstriding

Overstriding is a common running problem in which runners take large strides.

The tendency to overstride is a common running form mistake that wastes energy and can lead to injuries, including knee and ankle issues. To avoid overstriding, make sure to land with your foot directly underneath your body with every step and focus on a short, low arm swing.

Core strength training can help improve stride length and reduce the risk of overstriding. I know that every runner jokes about core workouts, but all jokes aside, a strong core helps you run with a more efficient stride, which means that your legs will have to do less work in order to maintain the same pace. This is important because a lot of distance running is about going the same pace for a long time.

The core consists of many different muscles, but you can focus on two areas when you are just starting out: your abdominals and your glutes. If you are able to implement core workouts either before or after your workouts, you’ll certainly notice a difference over time.

6. Having Bad Upper Body Form

Having bad upper body form is a common problem for runners, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower back pain. If you have bad upper body form, you can limit your range of motion and cause instability. So, how do you know if you have a bad upper body form if you’re a runner? There are a few ways to tell, including:

  • You have a forward head posture. This means your chin is too far in front of you and it’s causing strain on the muscles and joints that support your neck, shoulders, and back.
  • You over-pronate (or under-pronate) when you run or walk, which means your feet turn inward or outward too much. Pronating can cause pain in your hips, knees and ankles.

Improving your upper body form can help you achieve better movement and reduce pain in these areas.

7. Not Breathing Properly

Beginners should try to run at a pace which they can easily breathe. Deep belly breathing allows for more oxygen intake and prevents side stitches. Breathing from the stomach and chest is the best way to breathe. If you find yourself mouth breathing, this can be a sign that you are running too hard.

If you feel a side stitch coming on, slow down your pace or simply start walking. Remember that you should not be gasping for your next breath. This goes back to our first common running mistake, doing too much too soon.

8. Not Fueling Properly

Not fueling properly before, during, and after running can have a negative effect on both performance and recovery. Choose a food high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein to pre-workout.

Eat 100 calories every 40 to 45 minutes after a long run if you’re looking for relief from muscle stiffness or soreness. Consume primarily carbs but don’t ignore protein post-run for optimal nutrition.

Running without fueling properly can lead to injury. Proper fueling includes eating foods that provide energy and nutrients for running.

There are many different types of food that can be eaten to fuel a run, and the best way to find what works for you is through experimentation. Some great foods for runners are as follows:

  • Fruits: Bananas, oranges, and apples are all great for runners. They provide a quick burst of energy that will last about 30 minutes before you need to eat again.
  • Dairy: Yogurt is a great food for runners because it has a lot of protein and will help you recover faster.
  • Fats: Peanut butter or nuts are good sources of healthy fats that provide the energy you need to run.
  • Vegetables: Carrots, celery, and broccoli are all great for runners because they provide a quick burst of energy with few calories.
  • Proteins: Turkey, chicken, and fish are all great sources of protein. They will help you recover faster after a run and can be easily added to any meal.
  • Grains: Whole grains like pasta or rice are great sources of complex carbohydrates that will give your body the energy it needs to keep running.

9. Failing to Cross-Train

Cross-training is so beneficial for runners! Cross-training can include different types of exercises, including weight training, yoga, rowing, swimming and cycling.

I’ll admit that when I first started running, that was the only thing I was interested in pursuing. I neglected other forms of cross-training and solely focused on running. This worked for a little while, however I quickly found myself running, quite literally, into injury after injury.

Proper cross-training can help reduce the risk of injury in runners. I fortunately now understand its importance. I love cycling as a way to cross-train. Cycling is fun and is much more forgiving on the joints.

The best way to cross-train is three or four times a week, with running on the other days. This will allow your body to recover and repair itself after a tough run.

10. Running Only on Pavement

Running on concrete is not the best surface for running and can lead to injuries. Consistently running on pavement can cause injuries to the feet, ankles, and knees.

Trail running or using any other softer surface is better for your joints and muscles. The best practice would be to run on softer surfaces, such as grass or dirt. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to run on the pavement sometimes, however switching up your routine is optimal for. your overall running performance.

11. Ignoring Your Body

It is a common mistake among dedicated novices (and, to be fair, runners of all levels) that they will be too dogmatic about sticking to the script.

There will be days when you’re dinged-up and where running the hard workout dictated by your 10K plan will do more harm than good.

However, there’s no surefire way to know when you should back off and when you should go ahead with your scheduled workout–that comes with experience.

Body awareness is key to injury prevention. Listen to your body, you know your limits better than anyone else!

12. Setting Unrealistic Goals

Before starting a fitness goal, start by walking or running to see where you are. Make sure your mileage increase by no more than 10 percent each week.

Listen to your body and be kind to yourself when starting a fitness goal.

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment and undermine motivation.

It’s important to have realistic expectations for yourself when it comes to your running goals. It’s also important not to set goals that are too difficult or impossible to achieve, as this will only lead to frustration and setbacks.

Make sure you have a plan in place for how you’re going to reach your running goals, and be patient while you work towards them.

Remember that success doesn’t come overnight — it takes dedication, hard work, and perseverance over time!

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Danielle DiPre

Danielle DiPre

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