You’ve survived the January “resolution rush” at the gym. You’ve continued running through the February freeze. Maybe this running thing really is for you. Here are some pitfalls to be aware of as your running progresses from recreational to habitual.
10 Mistakes of Rookie Runners
1) Running the same pace on all runs
There is no quicker way to becoming a slow runner than running at your “go all day pace.” Do a short, fast run each week. Sprinkle in some intervals. Make your longer run a run/walk mix where the run is a little faster than normal. Anything. Just shake it up a bit.
2) Running the same pace during the entire run run
As it turns out, that whole sprint to the finish thing we did as kids isn’t a really good idea. Why? You need to warm up and cool down. The warm up allows your heart rate to increase gradually and your veins to dilate allowing more blood to get to working muscles. And, your joints become better lubricated. When you stop quickly, these processes don’t have a chance to properly reverse and certain metabolites (read: tiny things that make your sore later) don’t clear from your muscles.
3) Only running roads
Running is a very linear sport and the repetitive nature of it can lead to imbalances that can lead to injury. By running on uneven trail surfaces you work little stabilizing muscles. And when the trail is hilly you work an entirely different set of muscles, further minimizing the risk of developing imbalances.
4) Using the elliptical machine
Want to be a better runner without running? Walk steep hills. If it is too cold to run outside and you are trapped at the gym simply crank the dreadmill up to 6 or 8 or 10% and go for a brisk walk. It will work your glutes and VMO (the inside of your quads) more and better approximates the run stride than the elliptical.
5) Underestimating hydration needs
You don’t need fancy sport drinks. But even a 45 minute jog in the cold dry winter air could necessitate an extra pint or two of water throughout the rest of your day. If you’re going for your first marathon with epically long runs you should weigh yourself before and after to see exactly what your weight change is from sweat loss.
6) Overestimating nutrition needs
Repeat: You don’t need fancy sport drinks. In fact, unless you are diabetic/hypoglycemic or running more than 90 minutes you don’t need to fuel during the run.
7) Wearing your new shoes everywhere
Run shoes are for running. The foam in the sole is engineered for the high-impact short-duration foot strike of running, not the low-impact long-duration foot strike of walking.
8) Focusing on duration
Sure, your friends only ask “how far did you go” and never “how many intervals did you crush.” But if you want to get fast you have to run faster. Period.
9) Buying unnecessary gear
Buy nice shoes. They protect your knees. Everything else is for looks and ego.
10) Taking advice from That Guy
Once word gets out that you are running you will be approached every runner, every has-been runner, every never-was runner, and everyone who even remotely knows one of the previously mentioned runners. And they will have unsolicited advice for you. Remember that genetics and everyone’s personal situation (i.e. body type, lifestyle, goals, etc) play a huge role in what makes them successful. The best hockey player I knew in high school used to blow coke pre-game. If I followed the logic of Blowing Coke = Better Skating I’d probably be dead. Sure, it’s a crazy example. But when the 3:20 marathoner in the cubicle next to you at work suggests pickle juice as a godsend for marathon hydration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Article contributed by Coach Scott Beesley. He will neither confirm nor deny that he drank the pickle juice while training for his first race in 1999.