Run for a few months, and you’re bound to pick up a few bad habits.
I’m talking from personal experience. For the longest time, I’d developed a few unhealthy running habits that I wasn’t even aware of. These bad training practices messed with my running success, helping me achieve nothing but stalled progress and overuse injury. That sucked!
Over time and with the help of countless other runners and coaches, I was able to get rid of most them. I’m not a perfect runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m way better than I used to be, and that’s a good thing if you ask me.
Without further ado, here are the five running habits you should ditch for good, and what to do instead.
Bad Habit I – Overdoing It
A lot of runners push themselves beyond their limits, exercising seven days a week and never letting their bodies recover. What a mistake!
Overdoing running is the recipe for overtraining, a dreadful condition that leads to chronic soreness, injuries, weakened immunity, moodiness, loss of motivation, etc. The list of symptoms is long and terrifying.
It’s good to challenge yourself and push your body every now and then, but doing it on a constant basis gets you nowhere worth going. You’ll simply be running your body into the ground, and you don’t want that.
Do the following to prevent overtraining:
- Take a day off following a hard run. Rest days are vital to your recovery and performance.
- Schedule recovery. Give yourself periodic rest weeks by reducing your mileage by 40 to 60 percent every fourth or fifth week.
- Cross-train. Rest is not always passive activity. Options such as walking, swimming, biking, and yoga are the ideal form of active recovery.
- The 10 percent rule. Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next.
- Listen to your body. Watch out for telling signs of overtraining. These include elevated heart rate, fatigue, and persistent soreness. Heed your body’s warning signals and don’t run through pain.
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Bad Habit II –Bad Form
I hate to break it to you, but If your running form isn’t dialed in, you’re hindering your own performance, big time.
Our bodies are designed to run, but that doesn’t mean that your running form is automatically perfect. In fact, of all the mistakes recreational runners can make, bad form is the most common.
When you run using proper form, you minimize muscle soreness and reduce your risk of injury. When it comes to running, quality is much more important than quantity. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.
Here are the universal guidelines for proper form:
- Mind your upper body. Run tall, with a slight forward lean.
- Create flow. Keep moving your elbows forward and backward in tune with your lower body.
- Stay relaxed. Keep your body relaxed, especially the face, shoulders, and hands.
- Seek help. Schedule a few sessions with a professional coach or take a class to work on fixing your bad form habit and learn proper techniques.
For more on proper form, check the following sources.
Bad Habit III – Refueling Badly
I used to underestimate the importance of nutrition for both my running performance and my overall health, but over the past few years, I learned that what and when you eat might be as important as the training itself.
Immediately following a run is when your body utilizes carbohydrates and protein most efficiently. Refueling the right way post running helps improve muscular endurance and strength and assists in recovery too.
Without the right nutrition, you’ll be setting the stage for exhaustion, injury, and faster burnouts. You want none of that.
Do the following:
- Measure it. Make sure you’re taking in enough calories to fuel the type and amount of running you’re doing. Use a calorie calculator (like this one) to guesstimate your energy expenditure based on your activity level.
- Refuel Immediately. Following a hard run, grab a high-carb, moderate-protein snack. Here are a few examples.
- Eat well. Go for meals that are rich in complex carbs, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after each run.
Bad Habit IV –Not Getting Enough Sleep
I’ve skimped on sleep on many occasions to get my morning run in, but I’ve learned the hard way that sleep is paramount. Mess with it, and you end up shooting yourself in your own foot.
Skimping on sleep is as bad (or even more dangerous) than overtraining. Sleep deprivation reduces your alertness, wrecks your mood, and messes with hormonal balances, while proper sleep allows your muscles to recover. Skip sleep, and you won’t be able to run at full capacity.
Follow these simple steps to improve your sleep quality:
- Keep track. Log your sleep time in your workout diary and look for patterns specific to you.
- Find your sleep range. Studies show that most people need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
- Go to bed early. The saying is right, especially for runners: the early bird gets the worm!
Bad Habit V – Skipping Stretching
If you’re guilty of wrapping up your runs and skipping doing a stretching routine during your cool down, you could be missing out.
Doing static stretches before a run is a mistake —it’s quite harmful — but when to comes to post-run, you should always stretch.
Post-run stretching improves flexibility, increase your range of motion, and relieves stress. They can improve your performance and reduce the risks of injury.
Do the following:
- Make it a habit. Build a stretching habit into your training plan.
- Hold it right. Stretch each muscle for at least 30 to 45 seconds to get the blood flowing through each area.
- Find a routine you like. When it comes to stretching routines, my blog offers plenty.
Here are a few of my favorite routines.
Here you have it. The above are some of the most common bad habits that afflict many runners.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you have any suggestions or questions.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong