According to a 2020 Sports & Fitness Industry Association report, around 50 million Americans participated in running or jogging. Running has numerous benefits such as improving cardiovascular health, increasing bone density, and reducing stress. No wonder 15% of the population participates!
Regardless if you’re an experienced runner or an absolute beginner, avoid these 5 common running mistakes.
Not wearing proper shoes
Proper running shoes are imperative. They help reduce the pain and strain on your joints as you run. Running shoes are made with a thicker heel and a heel-to-toe drop. The shoes are meant to feel natural not only on your feet but your gait.
Wearing the wrong shoes can result in tendonitis, chafing, or even stress fractures. There are many variables in choosing the correct running shoes for you and your goals.
The first thing to consider is if there is any rubbing or bunching in the shoes. If so, this will quickly turn problematic. Next, where will you be running? Road running and trail runs require different soles. Determine where and choose appropriately. Finally, make sure your shoes are comfortable. If possible, take them for a test run before purchasing.
On average, a pair of running shoes should last around 300 to 500 miles. If they begin to cause pain or discomfort, replace them immediately.
Not warming up or cooling down
Warming up prepares your muscles for running, minimizes the risk of injury, and can make your workout even more effective. Warming up your body will allow unrestricted joint movements and get your blood flowing to the muscles that you’re utilizing.
There are 2 types of stretching: dynamic and static. Static stretching is moving into position and holding a pose for up to a minute each. Dynamic stretching is where you activate your muscles and work through the full range of motion through your joints.
For running, use dynamic stretching for your warm-up and static stretching for your cooldown. Some examples of dynamic stretching are walking lunges, toe walks, or high knees. A few static stretches are standing forward fold, standing quad stretch, or a low lunge hold.
Not warming up will make you more susceptible to cramps and muscle sprains. You’re also going to be more likely to injure yourself.
Not breathing properly
When we inhale, we are taking in oxygen, aka fuel for our body. When you exhale, you are removing carbon dioxide, aka waste. When you reach your carbon dioxide limit, you will see an increase in lactic acid. This will cause more fatigue and cramps in your muscles.
So how do you breathe properly on a run?
When running, you need to focus on getting more volume in and out of your lungs. The American Lung Association recommends first focusing on belly breathing. When you inhale, let your belly rise. This will allow your diaphragm to lower, creating more room for your lungs to expand.
Then move on to rhythmic breathing. This is matching your breath with your gait while using belly breathing. To begin, try a 5 step breath. Inhale for 3 steps and exhale for 2 steps. With experience and speed, you can move on to a 3 step breath. Use 2 steps to inhale and 1 step to exhale.
Not pacing yourself
To understand why pacing is important, you need to first understand what pacing is. In short, your pace is how fast you are running. This is typically expressed by how fast it will take for you to run 1 mile. This will help you plan and conserve energy during your runs.
So what is the best pace for you? Try the talk test. You should be able to hold a conversation or even sing along to your playlist. If you can’t get out more than a word or two, slow down until you can.
By not pacing, you’re more likely to hurt yourself, run out of energy before you complete your run, or lose motivation with running altogether.
Progress slowly and mindfully toward your goal. You’ll be more likely to stick with running in general and finish your desired mileage.
Rest days allow your body to not only recover but to repair. When you exercise, the stress from the movements create tiny tears in your muscle tissue. Resting gives your body time to heal which results in muscle growth.
Rest time is when your body replenishes its energy stores for your next workout. It also prevents muscle fatigue and soreness. Resting reduces the risk of energy and the best part… improves your performance.
By not giving yourself proper rest days, you will experience sore muscles, pain, and reduced performance. You’re also more likely to experience DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness. This is muscle pain a day or two after your workout.
Starting a new running routine can be daunting. But remember, you must go about it properly and safely. The first step is secure medical clearance. Have your doctor sign off on starting any new fitness program.
These five common mistakes to avoid are just the beginning.
A few other tips to keep in the back of your mind as you start to train are to not ignore injuries, stay hydrated, and properly fuel.
Lastly, enjoy the journey! Running is a great full-body exercise with a great and welcoming community. You'll be signing up for a race in no time!
50 million Americans have participated in running, 15% of the population.
Running improves cardiovascular health, increases bone density, and reduces stress.
Wear proper shoes, warm up and cool down, learn to breathe properly, pace yourself, and take rest days.
Feet First Clinic. How Important are Running Shoes?
Runner’s World. How to Pick the Right Running Shoes.
American Council on Exercise. 6 Benefits of a Dynamic Warm-up for Running.
American Lung Association. Breathing Basics for Runners.