I’ve been running pretty consistently for almost twenty-five years now. Some years more, some years less but I’ve probably logged at least 500 miles a year for the past two decades. You would think after thousands of miles and thousands of hours of running I’d have perfected a system. Actually, I have, it’s just that most days it’s not an ideal system. Despite being a veteran runner, I still make the same mistakes many beginning runners do.
Here are the five mistakes I make most often as a runner:
No warm up / No cool down
I’m pretty good at starting my runs at a slow, sedate pace to let my body acclimate before I ramp up any effort but in reality that’s not good enough. As runners, we should be doing some type of dynamic warm-up to really activate all the big and little muscles and tendons that we are going to need during a run. Too often, if I skip the dyanmic exercises (which only take about five to ten minutes), I’ll start the run feeling a little pain or niggle in the knees or ankles and I’ll adjust my stride, sometimes without even knowing it. This leads to poor form and imbalances with your stride which lead directly to injury.
On the opposite end, just staggering into the house after and run and sitting down to check email or upload to Strava is just as destructive as skipping a dynamic warm-up and sets us up to fail at the next workout. Even two minutes of rolling or light stretching or yoga poes after a run will work wonders on your body to keep is supple and injury-free so you can continue to run throughout the entire year.
No consistent strength training
I run hot and cold on strength training. I’ll be dedicated for two, three, four months and then fall off the wagon. I believe the key is to just find a routine that you can fit into your workout schedule easily and doesn’t feel like a chore. An ounce of prevention here goes a long way.
Strength work for runners doesn’t necessarily need to mean going to the gym or doing Olympic deadlifts. You can achieve iron-strong legs and indestructible hips and core muscles purely with a regular commitment to body weight exercises or light hand weights. These exercises are your insurance against deteriorating form and overuse injuries.
Always the same pace
This might be my personality or the pressure of posting workouts on social networks but if I’m not careful I often look down at my watch (might be another problem) and find myself firmly stuck in the gray zone, going too fast with too high a HR, making little fitness improvements. Ideally, each workout has a pace and purpose. Some will be lung-searingly fast but many others, the majority really, should be slower and easier and leave you feeling like you could have done a lot more.
Another advantage to easy workouts is that they will help you avoid over training or burnout. I love running. I always feel better on days that I run but some days I just don’t feel motivated or can’t find the energy to lace up the sneakers. That, for me, is a key indicator that the cumulative fatigue of training has caught up with me.
When I don’t find running fun or enjoyable and have to push myself to get out the door (really push) then I know I need a recovery day. As I get older, I’ve realized that recovery days are essentially to any training plan and remaining a lifelong runner. They don’t, however, get any easier mentally. I still sometimes beat myself up about taking a day off even if I know it’s the right thing. I said I was getting older, not always smarter.
I’m pretty good at making sure I’m well hydrated before a run. I have a habit of getting up and drinking a large glass of water before my first cup of coffee. I also like to have a glass between cups of coffee. And I’m relatively addicted to seltzer water. Where I do sometimes struggle is re-hydrating after a run. It seems like I constantly underestimate just how much I sweat. If you’re not using the bathroom soon after your workout is done, it’s likely you are dehydrated.
The same goes for refueling. While a lot of science has debunked the strict refueling window after a hard workout, there is definitely a need to get the body the fuel and nutrients it requires to repair and recover when the workout is done. This can be difficult, especially if you, like me, find your appetite is suppressed for a few hours after a workout. Lately I’ve been trying to get a small meal down, for example banana with peanut butter or some dates, with my water or recovery drink.
If you are a beginning runner or just getting back into running, now’s your chance to form good habits and a solid fitness practice that goes beyond just logging the miles and makes sure the body is ready and recovered for the next day.