For many of us, the goal of running is to improve our skills over time. Some pursue running in an effort to try and “turn back the hands of time” by getting into shape or staying active. Running is also a form of therapy and it’s an amazing tool that can de-stress even the most anxious people who use exercise as a mental outlet.
Your goal can be to demolish a marathon in less than 4 hours – or it can be wiping out a simple mile in under 9 to 10 minutes. You may have other missions in mind – to survive a long run on rough trails, become an ultra-marathon runner or triathlete and subsequently want to see how long you can run non-stop.
Unfortunately, jeopardizing your chances of accomplishing these goals can be easy because anyone can give up and make excuses for not pursuing something on their agenda. How exactly do runners – and those who are thinking about becoming hardcore runners – ruin their chances of being the best athlete they can be? Some ways we sabotage our fitness plans may seem obvious, even frivolous! Like wearing old uncomfy socks instead of new athletic fitness socks. Wearing an old t-shirt to workouts that we hate. Skipping that one day because it won’t matter. However, they’re all mental, physical and emotional habits that can be recognized, stopped, confronted and transformed so that we get back on track and hit our target!
So let’s go over the 7 most common running mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Running Mistake #1: Being Mentally Unmotivated
They say that a runners’ most difficult battle is that first step out the door. One of the reasons it’s so demotivating for many runners to keep going is because they have to talk to themselves and push themselves to actually leave the house.
If you suffer from mental “demotivation,” this can be the bane of keeping your running flow! Perhaps you’re going through a lot in your personal life, or you’ve had a rough day at work and the thought of expending more energy by being physically active is draining.
The best way to battle this demon is to push aside the roadblock with some motivating factors. Treating yourself to cheat meal after the run – maybe some cookies or comfort food that you haven’t had in a while – may psych you up to hit the pavement. Another way to boost your mental motivation is to make a list of things you love about running. Is it the feeling of “flying” and being free? Is it the sensation afterward of having accomplished a feat that you didn’t think was possible? If you can motivate yourself by seeing the list of ways that running makes you a better person – or stronger individual – you may be able to win the battle with your mind and stay on course!
Running Mistake #2: Not Prioritizing Your Time
We get it! There’s work…school…family…friends…meetings…The list goes on! What are you making time for and how much time do you truly have?
You can put a dent in your running life by not prioritizing what tasks are imperative to your daily operations and what tasks can be put aside – which will leave you plenty of time to allocate to running! Are you choosing to spend your free mornings sleeping or texting your friends/being on social media or tending to house chores instead of going on a run? Alternatively, have you decided to party on Friday night instead of coming home and dedicating those hours to your athletic growth?
As a runner, I can admit that finding time and making time is the best excuse for ruining a chance to become a better runner. When you have “extra hours” – meaning hours that you’re not obligated to go to work or go to school or attend an important function – take into account what you’re truly doing with your free time and estimate how you can sacrifice non-productive activities for even a short run.
How can you battle the “time crunch” that might be hindering your ability to commit to running and getting in shape? Make it a point – and a routine each day – of marking the most important time consuming activities on your calendar that you can’t avoid or cancel in order to spend time running or working out. If that baby shower/wedding or graduation will take up your entire day, it’s justifiable that you can’t make time to run on that day or weekend.
Less important activities may include nonexistent “events” that take up your time which can be better spent pounding the pavement or even strength training to get yourself ready for a long run. It may surprise you how much free time you really have when you look at what’s important to your personal growth and becoming an amazing runner.
Running Mistake #3: Your Diet Doesn’t Match Your Goals
Carb loading and snacking on sweets may be on your agenda if you think running off those pounds is as simple as burning the calories you’ve consumed the days prior to your next run (or right after you’ve run).
Don’t do it!
One of the ways you can ruin your ability to become a better runner is to think that you can eat anything and still be at your best when race day comes or when you’re heading out to crush your first long run in a long time.
Your diet has to match your fitness goals!
Runners love to carb load the day before a race – which is often recommended by athletic experts. You still have to acknowledge the difference between fueling your body with carb sources it needs to harbor energy and your desire to consume foods that have a high caloric, sugar and fat content.
Eating a huge breakfast before a run is not recommended and some runners think that they can eat whatever they want simply because they’re covering more than 10 miles on the trail and burning loads of calories. Not only can some foods weigh you down, you can also be sabotaging your efforts at becoming healthier by choosing foods that are greasy (who loves French fries!) and are loaded with high- fructose corn syrup, like sodas, artificial juices and store-bought baked goods.
Yes, you deserve to treat yourself to something delicious and “naughty” now and then, but recognizing how often you include fat/salt and sugar-laden delights into your diet can help you hold yourself accountable for why running isn’t working for you!
Another way your diet and food choices can mess with your running flow is not fueling properly and not re-fueling properly! As an advisory, you can unknowingly steer your body away from a quality run if you eat something too heavy – or something that will run right through your digestive system – before a big race. It’s not just a matter of the food you consume being unhealthy, but you can wind up having to move your bowels or feel indigestion while you’re in motion, which won’t help your performance. Create a list of light but sustainable foods that you can have before and after a run that will give you energy the right way and not make you run for the bathroom!
Running Mistake #4: Not Enough Sleep
Obviously, if you lack sleep, you’re not going to have the energy to run as fast or as far as you wanted and you won’t have the wind or endurance to push through those miles. Don’t trick yourself into thinking “Oh, five hours of sleep is fine!”.
Many studies have been done on how much sleep a runner needs to perform “at their best.” In broader terms, everyone needs a certain amount of snoozing hours to be able to function and focus! You could put the kibosh on completing that 10K in your targeted time if your body and mind aren’t well-rested enough. So listen to your body – even if you have to fight the urge to stay up late at night.
Want to make sure you get the z’s that help improve your athletic energy? Create a sleep regimen and routine that ensures you get at least 7 -8 hours of sleep each night – and, as noted before, prioritize your schedule so that you get those critical hours of rest. There’s nothing like feeling refreshed and rejuvenated for the miles that await you!
Running Mistake #5: Your Body Isn’t Trained Right
Single-handedly destroying your ability to be a great runner could stem from lack of strength training, stretching and other physiological factors that keep your joints fluid. You might not want to face the truth, but strength training and keeping your entire body in shape is an important part of being a great runner.
So your diet is on point and you get enough sleep. Great!
What’s not so great is lacking overall mobility, flexibility and having tight or strained muscles/hamstrings. This could backfire by causing you to pull a muscle or endure more pain after a run than you should experience. Training your body by making sure you stretch before and after a run also helps prevent injuries, as many runners already know.
Ignoring the fact that having upper body strength helps you run can also be destroying your overall techniques. I can attest to the fact that using upper body weights does assist in conquering the road ahead when your legs begin to tire. You don’t have to strength train or “go heavy” when you’re lifting. Some runners may feel their arm muscles aching after a long run because of the body movements and how their stride forces them to work their upper body in order to run faster.
All you need are a couple of barbells or free weights to train with a couple of times a week so that you’re not ignoring the rest of your body. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few butterfly curls will do before you head out on your run!
Running Mistake #6: Limiting Your Distance/Speed
How exactly will you know what you’re capable of until you’ve challenged yourself to push past your limits? One of the ways beginning runners stay complacent and don’t advance in their training is by doing just that – being afraid to run for a longer time or run a father distance.
By keeping the bar at a certain level – whether it’s only running 3 miles each time or only running for 15 minutes in the same environment – you’re leaving your abilities undiscovered and conditioning your body to only be able to tolerate a certain threshold of physical activity.
Yes, we all have a “comfort zone” that we know is attainable during a run, and sometimes we don’t want to push our limits due to personal fears, such as the fear of getting physically sick or being in pain after a run. You might think to yourself : “I stick to a solid 2 miles every run because it’s comfortable and takes a short amount of time.” While some people may not pine to increase their mileage, how will they know what they’re capable of if they don’t take their abilities up a notch?
If you’ve reached a “comfortable distance” in your running life, you may be jeopardizing your potential by not trekking farther/faster or challenging yourself on different terrains. Of course, if there are health reasons, such as osteoporosis or arthritis, that you are cautious about, it’s an understandable predicament that you should consult with your doctor about before increasing the time you spend running.
For capable runners who stay in their comfort zone but are eager to get out of their routine, pushing a little more after those few miles or challenging yourself to grounds that may have inclines, grassy hills or strategic declines can help a lot! Becoming better at anything means not limiting your abilities, both mentally and physically.
Running Mistake #7: Comparing Yourself To Others
Whoever it is that you’re fond of in the running community – whether it’s a stellar marathon runner or someone at your local gym who’s got legs that are more muscular than yours – comparing yourself and your progress to others is one of the things that may hold you back and discourage you.
It might seem like obvious advice that everyone succeeds and advances at their own pace. But if you’re on a weight-loss journey and want to start running, you may feel bombarded with social media exposure to others who are on a “faster track” to their fit life. You also may come across those who can run faster than you or who are in better shape than you are.
Unlike other sports, where you have to be good at the sport itself to be a stellar player, running is not a competition where you should compare how “good” you are to how much better others perform. The only person you should compare yourself to is you!
If another runner is your inspiration, then that’s great! Just make sure that you take time to work on your own goals instead of rushing to accomplish feats that someone else has taken years to defeat and be proud of.
Regardless of the setbacks that runners find themselves facing now and then, there’s nothing worse than completely losing your lack of motivation and focus on being stronger, faster and better. Avoid falling into these “pits” and you’ll feel confident and ready to take on the road in no time!