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8 Common Running Mistakes To Avoid

Running is a simple and inexpensive way to stay fit and get active. Whether you’re trying out running for the first time or you’re getting back into it after a long hiatus, running mistakes can happen. And sometimes, they can lead to injuries or other issues that keep you from getting the most out of your runs. To help you avoid these consequences, here are some of the most common mistakes both new and seasoned runners make and how you can fix them.

1. Wearing the wrong shoes

Woman tying her shoes at the park.

Wearing the wrong shoes or worn-out shoes can be the difference between a successful run and one that makes you feel like a train wreck afterward. Sadly, running shoes don’t last forever. Eventually, the tread on the bottom wears out, and the cushioning inside the shoe gets worn down and doesn’t provide enough support anymore. 

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, you should replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles.1 So, if you’ve been running in the same pair for years, it’s probably time to switch things up.

Solution: Head to your local running store for a personalized fitting. A sales associate can help you find the right shoes for your feet and running habits. Alternatively, if you’d like to save some money, you can take an online shoe finder quiz to determine what type of running shoes are best for you.

2. Overtraining

Man running on an iced lake.

Overtraining and not getting enough rest is a recipe for disaster. Although running is a great way to stay healthy, it’s still a vigorous physical activity that takes a toll on your body. According to Yale Medicine, at least 50% of regular runners get hurt each year, sometimes from falling, but more often from overtraining.2 Running injuries like shin splints and stress fractures usually occur when runners push themselves too hard.

Additionally, running too much and not resting or cross-training with other workouts like swimming or yoga can do more harm than good.2 By getting adequate rest, not pushing yourself too hard, and exercising your body and muscles in other ways, you can avoid injuries and burnout.

Solution: Allow yourself some time for recovery and aim to get at least eight hours of sleep each night to help your body and muscles recover. The best way to rest will depend on your running habits, physical health, and experience level. Take occasional days off from running or cut back on the number of miles you run and their intensity. Find what works for you and listen to your body.

3. Ignoring pain

Man holding neck in pain.

If you’re trying your hand at running regularly for the first time, it can be difficult to distinguish between normal aches and pains due to fatigue versus pain caused by an injury. Eventually, you’ll learn to understand your body’s signals and know the difference, but when you’re first starting, it’s never a good idea to ignore the pain and continue running through it.

If you’re experiencing any consistent pain that won’t go away, you may have a running injury. If the pain worsens when you run, stop what you’re doing and make an appointment with a physical therapist. The sooner you address the issue, the better. Waiting to take action can lead to more significant problems that may require long-term or more expensive treatment.

Solution: In many states, people have direct access to physical therapy treatment, meaning they don’t have to see their general doctor for a referral first. Although physical therapy can be expensive, not getting the treatment you need could cost you more down the line. So make an appointment with a physical therapist to get that pain under control.

4. Not fueling your body properly

Woman eating out of salad bowl using chopsticks.

Proper nutrition gives your body the nutrients it needs to sustain you through your run and recovery days. What you eat before, during, and after you run matters, and it will significantly impact your overall performance. Plus, unbalanced meals or junk food will make you feel pretty yucky while running.

According to Penn Medicine, “An appropriately balanced diet of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is essential for all runners.”3 However, that doesn’t mean you should start obsessively tracking all your meals. Instead, focus on consuming all food groups in moderation and with balance

For example, a balanced diet should include vegetables, fruit, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Although experts and medical professionals offer tips and best practices for runners, your nutrition plan should be highly individualized. Find what works best for you and stick to it! If you don’t know where to start, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A certified health coach or nutritionist can help you create a meal plan that supports your overall health and running habits.

Solution: Be mindful about what you eat. Protein can help your muscles build and repair themselves, so try to consume lean protein sources like chicken, eggs, and fish. Healthy fats are a great energy source for runners, so try to make sure foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish are a solid part of your diet. Complex carbs also provide a steady source of energy for those long runs. Get your healthy carbs from unrefined pasta, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Oh, and believe it or not, chocolate milk is one of the best post-workout nutritional supplements.3 So enjoy that delicious treat!

5. Not tracking your workouts

Smart with with "Start Your Run" on the screen.

If progress is your goal, you should be tracking stats like your time, distance, heart rate, calories, and speed. If you’re not keeping a training log or tracking any data on your runs, it will be challenging to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. It will also be nearly impossible to identify trends like what leads to an injury or what types of runs are most effective for your body.

Solution: Keep a detailed training log. You can write everything down in a notebook, but that requires a lot of time and manual inputting. Instead, use a fitness tracker watch and pair it with a fitness app. Or, you can use Vingo! Simply connect your Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors so your treadmill can communicate with Vingo. You can easily keep track of your indoor runs and stats this way.

6. Not hydrating well

Woman drinking out of orange water bottle while on a park bench.

This is one of the most critical common mistakes to note. You might think you’re drinking enough water, but you might actually be underestimating how much fluid your body loses when you run. Proper hydration is essential for runners! According to a recent article published by Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, a sports nutritionist at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), dehydration can cause symptoms like rapid heartbeat, fatigue, and headache. It can also slow you down during your run.4

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if you’re dehydrated on a run because you might not always feel thirsty. And since dehydration is influenced by several factors, like temperature, humidity, body weight, how much you sweat, and the length and intensity of your run, it’s helpful to know the signs.

You can tell you’re dehydrated if:

  • Your urine is a dark yellow color
  • You feel the urge to pee less often than usual
  • You experience any of the symptoms listed above (headache, extreme fatigue, etc.)

Solution: To stay hydrated throughout the day, drink a glass of water when you wake up before you go to bed, and with each snack or meal you eat. Keep a water bottle with you during the day and take small sips frequently. And, of course, make sure you rehydrate with water or a sports drink after your run. This will help ensure that your body is well hydrated all the time, including when you run.

7. Wearing the wrong clothes

Man running in a park.

Wearing the wrong clothes while you run can have some severe side effects! We’re not saying you need to wear a particular brand or anything, but wearing too much, too little, or wearing the wrong type of fabric can considerably impact your running performance, especially if you’re outside. For example, if you live in a hot climate and go for a run in July, wearing dark-colored clothes made of cotton is not a good idea because you’re more likely to overheat, be uncomfortable, and get dehydrated very quickly.

Solution: When you run, wear clothes made of fabrics designed to wick sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable, such as CoolMax, DryFit, or Thinsulate. Avoid cotton, as it holds on to moisture and is more likely to make your skin chafe. In the winter, layer up, but don’t overdress! Make sure your base layer closest to your body is light, soft, and moisture-wicking. Your outer layer should be windproof, waterproof, and breathable.

If it’s too hot or cold and you want to avoid the weather entirely, consider running indoors with Vingo instead. It’s an easy and convenient way to forego frigid or hot weather conditions and stay comfortable throughout your temperature-controlled run.

8. Breathing incorrectly

Man running in NYC.

Yes, believe it or not, there’s a proper way to breathe while running. Naturally, when you run, you’ll likely feel like you’re out of breath at some point. Unfortunately, if your breathing is too shallow, you’ll get side stitches, which are incredibly uncomfortable and affect your running performance and endurance. 

Solution: First of all, if you’re constantly out of breath while running, you might just be running too fast. Focus on pacing and slow down a bit. Try to run at a pace where you can speak in complete sentences without gasping for air. Once you’ve slowed down your speed, try practicing pursed-lip breathing to get your breaths back under control.

According to the National Library of Medicine, pursed-lip breathing uses less energy and allows your body to relax, which may help prevent side stitches while running.5 To practice this method, follow these steps:

  • Relax your body and slowly inhale through your mouth and nose for two counts. Make sure you’re breathing deeply from your diaphragm instead of your chest. 
  • Then, pucker your lips like you’re about to blow out a candle or whistle and exhale slowly for four counts. 
  • Repeat until your breathing slows down and is more controlled.

Key takeaways from these common mistakes:

Seemingly minor running mistakes can significantly impact your physical performance and overall health. By making a few changes, you’re likely to notice some big improvements and may also reduce running-related injuries.

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References:

  1. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, & Furman, A. (n.d.). How Do I Know When It Is Time To Replace My Athletic Shoes? American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. http://www.aapsm.org/replace_shoes.html 
  2. Running Injuries. (2019, November 19). Yale Medicine. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/running-injury 
  3. Tingan, A. (n.d.). Nutrition Plan: Fueling Long Distance Runs – Penn Medicine. Penn Medicine. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/musculoskeletal-and-rheumatology/2017/february/nutrition-plan-fueling-long-distance-runs 
  4. Skolnik, H. (n.d.). How to Know If You’re Staying Hydrated While Running. Hospital for Special Surgery. https://www.hss.edu/article_staying-hydrated-while-running.asp 
  5. Dugdale, D., Sieve, D., & National Library of Medicine. (2020, December 1). How to breathe when you are short of breath. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000053.htm 

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