Too Much Too Soon
Many runners especially those who are new to running get over excited and end up doing too much mileage too soon. They mistakenly think that more is better and end up with some common running injuries like shin splints, runner's knee, or IT band syndrome. They end up going out too hard, too fast and if they get injured, they will most likely begin to lose interest and stop running completely.
When starting out, you really need to be a little more conservative, so if you haven't been running for a while or at all, it is recommended that you start with some walking. Then progress by mixing up some walking with a little bit of running in the same session. An example of this kind of workout (for an absolute beginner) can be found below:
and so on until typically you can go 10 minutes prior to a 1 minute walk (programs like Couch to 5k will work you up to running 30 minutes non-stop); however, your body will be the best indicator as to how you should be progressing. If you need to repeat a workout or week, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
To go along with the excitement is the thought that runners run every day. Challenges such as the Run Every Day (RED) Challenge is popular with newer runners as it helps to develop and build healthier habits.
While REDs are a great motivator and some runners out there do this, the distances are usually very short (no more than a couple miles or kilometers), you really need to build up your endurance so that your body can handle the workouts (especially if you are not used to working out regularly, or at all).
It is best to give your body a break and time to recover from your running. If you are new to running and/or haven't clocked up a lot of mileage, it is best to start slow and with at least one or two days off between runs. This will not only give your body a rest, but it will also help in injury prevention.
Not Warming Up/Cooling Down
Many runners are runners are keen to get out and pound the pavement, but without adequate warming up and cooling down, you're going give your body a little shock. For examples of pre-run warm ups, the Internet is a huge library of references, but some quick yet descriptive videos can be found here, and here.
One of the easiest ways to warm up is to go for a really light jog for the first five to ten minutes, and build yourself up gently. This will help your muscles stop burning out, and prevent the risk of injury. The number of conversations I have had with runners who say it takes a couple kilometres before their body is warmed up and running feels great. Now why wait until you're a couple kilometres into your race/run? Warm up your body first so you can enjoy the whole thing.
This is also the same for cooling down. We want to bring down our heart rate and reduce that risk of stiffness in the coming days especially after we've had a long run or a race.
Your body will recover quicker with a cool down vs. just stopping and doing nothing after your run. Typically, you'll find runners will walk around, stretch out the legs and have an active recovery instead of finding the nearest park bench to sit on.
Now spend that extra five-ten minutes before and after your run to save you weeks of recovery from injury.
Doing activities other than running prevents boredom, works different muscles, and can give your running muscles a well-deserved break. There are a lot of sports that can complement running such as swimming, yoga, and cycling as they all use different muscle groups.
You may have heard other runners refer to these activities as "cross-training," and the main reason for this is to prevent imbalances in our muscles. These imbalances can occur if we stick to just running or working on one particular muscle group. Strength exercises should be added into our routine and help us to build a strong core resulting in improved running form and efficiency.
While we may just want to run, adopting another sport or strength training routine on our "off-days," will help us to improve as runners overall. Just remember to give yourself a break and have actual days off to prevent your body from burning out.
For myself, I try to go swimming once a week, but also do strength training and yoga in the form of home workouts. An average week could look like this:
* Long runs can vary from 7km up to 20km. Currently, I'm training for my first half marathon and find myself around the 10 - 12km range for my long runs right now.
While there is an activity every day, with only 20 - 30 minutes in some instances, there is still ample opportunity for the body to recover. When my long runs go beyond 15km, I will most likely incorporate more rest days where I will not do any activity, but again this will depend on how my body is feeling.
For the eager beavers out there, this isn't license to sign up for everything in the hopes to prevent imbalances, etc., as our bodies still need time to recover and heal itself. As much as I would love to, it isn't wise to swim, do home workouts, run three times a week, yoga, and play football and/or basketball each and every week.
Before I got into running, this would be a typical week for me in terms of activities in an effort to stay fit.
Needless to say, I picked up a couple injuries each year from rolled ankles, pulled muscles, etc., which would have me out for weeks at a time. I then switched to play basketball in the fall/winter, and then switch to football/soccer in the spring and summer time to give myself those extra days to rest/recover.
Don't overdo it! Mix it up, but give yourself time to rest!
Stop Trying to RACE EVERY Run
When it comes to rookie running mistakes, one of the biggest ones you'll make is running too fast to start off. We're all little speed demons at heart, but whether it’s your average run, or even race day, time and time again, I would get sucked into the atmosphere of races and set off way too quickly to sustain myself for the entire route and burn out.
My most recent memory of this happened in Ottawa for the Tamarack 10k this past May, and instead of sticking to my original game plan (15 minutes run, 1 minute break at around 6.30 - 6:45/km pace), I had kept on a pace that would have taken a few minutes off my personal best (6:00 - 6:15/km). By the time I got to 6km, I had my first (instead of second) stop at a water station, but then couldn't get back into the rhythm and stride.
I came in two minutes behind my personal best. I had burnt out and was a little disappointed with myself (even though I took off almost nine minutes off my time the previous year).
Now the solution to this is to deliberately run your first kilometer slower than your last. To get my speed fixes, I go through different types of running workouts that get me playing around with speed, tempo, and distances, and mixing it up so I don't fall into a rut with running.
Main point, start slow! Then build it up.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Let's get to the point here. This is easier said than done. I know from my own experiences, but please stop comparing yourself to other runners. Yes, it's nice to have a benchmarks to work towards, but make sure they are your own and not ones set by others.
I used to compare myself to others in previous running clinics, and found myself getting frustrated when at the back of the running pack. This for a period of time made running not so fun and more of a chore than anything.
By all means, you can compare your own times, you're own niggles, etc., and slowly work on them over time. Just don't let other runners' success be a benchmark for your own. Unless you are becoming a pro-athlete, stats, times, distances really should be secondary to enjoying the activity of running.
I used to really pick apart my times and believe I wasn't improving if I wasn't within seconds of my personal best. Because of this, I used to not pay attention the fact that I could run longer without stopping, became a faster and stronger runner, which actually shows improvements in my running.
Now I focus on how I felt running, whether I had any niggles, and if I get a personal best, then that's a bonus.
The main thing about running is that it is meant to be enjoyable and a way to improve your mental and physical health so avoiding the above mistakes will prevent injuries and frustrations that can make people stop running.
Now go out there, warm up, start slowly, and enjoy the route.
About the Author
Our guest author this week is David Hampson. Here's a little more about David...