Top 16 Running Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

running shoes

Running regularly is one of the best things you can do for your fitness and health. It burns mad calories, strengthens your joints, keeps the crazy away, promotes better sleep, and gets you into the best shape of your life.

It’s also one of the most convenient sports in the world—just lace your running shoes and off you go.

However, even though it looks so simple, many runners make a lot of mistakes. In fact, whether you’re a beginner or have been around the block for a while, chances are, you’ve probably committed one or more of the 16 mistakes listed below.

Don’t worry though. We all make mistakes. It’s the way we learn. Plus, most of these training errors are easy to correct.

Would like you to learn more about these mistakes so you can avoid them making? hen today you’re in the right place.

Here are the 16 running mistakes you should avoid for good, and what to do instead.

Running Mistake #1: Not having a Plan

Guess what’s the best way to waste your time while running? Train without a set plan.

When you’re sticking to a running routine without a structure, you’re severely limiting your growth. It’s the reason why it’s key to set your intentions beforehand.

With a plan—even a mediocre one—you won’t accidentally skip key workouts nor neglect recovery. It also helps you improve speed and shows how to get to the next level.

The Solution

There are hundreds of running plans that suit any running goals. You just have to figure out which one is for you.

Are you a beginner runner looking to run your first 5K? or have been running for years and want to break the 3-hour marathon mark? There’s a plan for you. Just do a little bit of research and choose a plan that matches your ability and running aspirations. The rest is just details, as the saying goes

If all fails, aim to perform a minimum of three 30 to 60-minute runs in a week—with a maximum of six hours of training.

What’s more?

Write down your running plan. For example, you can write, “Today I’ll complete 10 sprints at 90 percent of my maximum speed.” That might seem rudimental to you, but a mediocre plan is better than no plan.

Have no idea how to create your own plan? Here’s how to design a running program.

A beginner? Try the following schedules:

Beginner Running Plan

Couch to 5K treadmill plan. 

Running Mistake #2: Overdoing It

Many runners, especially beginners, make the terrible mistake of pushing their bodies beyond the limit. They get so excited about their training that they train seven days a week. What a mistake!

This is the recipe for overtraining, a dreadful condition that causes chronic soreness, injuries, weakened immunity, moodiness, loss of motivation, etc.

It’s good to challenge yourself, but doing it on a constant basis gets you nowhere worth going. You’ll simply be running your body into the ground.

The Solution

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 a passive activity. Options such as walking, swimming, biking, and yoga are the ideal form of active recovery. Try another option than cardio.
  • 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.

Running Mistake #3: Eating A Big Meal Before A run

Eating a big meal before a run does you more harm than good.

Sure, as a runner, you need a lot of calories to fuel up your miles, but a big plate of potatoes and eggs—even though it’s loaded with healthy nutrients—is going to feel awful sitting in your stomach.

Eating too much—or the wrong kinds of food—too close to your run can cause side stitches, stomach pain, cramps, GI distress, and nausea, or worse, you could puke on the side of the road. You want none of that.

woman running

The Solution

Make sure you have enough fuel for your runs without upsetting your stomach by doing the following:

  • Time your meals. Give your digestive tract enough time to process the food before you head out the door—that means at least 2 to 3 hours break between a meal and a run.
  • Keep it healthy and simple. Go for a meal with moderate carb content and lean protein.
  • Avoid bad food. Steer clear of fatty or fried foods and sugar-laden items. Soda is super nice, but a big no for running, unless you want to burp the house down or bloated all the way.

Running Mistake #4: Not Drinking Water/or Too Much of it

Another common blunder many runners make is either underhydrating or overhydrating. Whatever your reasoning are never okay when it comes to hydration status.

When you run or perform any form of physical exercise, expect to lose great amounts of water which can lead to dehydration. This dreadful condition negatively affects both training performance and enjoyment.

But gulping gallon water won’t nip dehydration in the bud. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, sweetheart. Instead of replacing your hydration, gulping gallon of water might affect your electrolyte. Result? hyponatremia, leading to nausea, cramps, vomiting, and in extreme cases, death.

The Solution

How much water is enough can be a tricky question because the right answer depends on many factors, such as training intensity, fitness level, temperature, clothes worn, size, weather, sweat rate, etc.

To meet your hydration needs, drink your body weight in ounces of water a day. Have more on hotter days or before long and/hard training sessions.

To check your hydration levels, check the color of your pee. If it’s a very light yellow, you’re likely properly hydrated. But if it’s dark yellow and especially smelly, then that’s a clear sign that you need to drink more fluids.

Running Mistake #5: Refueling Badly

Running burns some crazy calories, and the faster and/or longer you go, the more nutrients your body will need.

Again, I get it. When you’ve just finished a hard run, it’s not uncommon to not feel like eating. In fact, research by Brigham University reported that hard training may curb appetite in some athletes.

But research also shows that muscles absorb nutrients best just after a workout—that’s when your body utilizes carbohydrates and protein most efficiently.

Skip your recovery meal, and you’ll negate some of your hard-won gains. This sets you up for exhaustion, injury, and faster burnouts. And you don’t want that.

The Solution

Do the following:

  • Measure it. Consume enough calories to fuel your training. Use a calorie calculator 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.
  • Too tired or too lazy after a hard workout? Grab yourself a protein shake. Most of them have an ingredient to boost your recovery and prevent muscle wasting.

Running Mistake #6: Static Stretching Before a Run

A regular stretching routine helps you avoid injury and optimize performance, but doing it before a run can be counterproductive.

Instead of helping you become a better runner, static stretching may increase injury risk and limit performance.

Don’t take my word for it. Science agrees. Holding a stretch for a long time before running sedate your nervous system and make you sluggish, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

You’re also more likely to tear or pull something when your muscles are not yet ready.

The Solution

The right way to warm up before a run is by doing dynamic stretching (as outlined in this routine) to loosen up your joints and get your muscles ready for the miles.

Save the static stretches for the post-run ritual. They call it dynamic for a reason, to get your body ready before a workout.

Dynamic stretching helps you shift into running mode by increasing your joints’ range of motion and firing up your muscles in preparation for the work ahead.

Ideal dynamic stretching moves include:

  • Butt-kicks,
  • Leg lifts,
  • Walking lunges,
  • Arm circles,
  • Knee to chest
  • Straight leg kicks.

Running Mistake #7: Skipping Post-Run Stretching

Stretching for injury prevention is still a controversial topic in the running world, but I still believe in its importance. Doing so improves flexibility, increases your range of motion, and relieves stress.

woman stretching

The Solution

Do the following:

  • Find the right time. The best time to stretch is after a run—when your muscles are warm and ready. You can also stretch after a light warm-up.
  • 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.

Running Mistake #8: Bad Running Form

If you think technique only matters when you lifting weights, think again. In fact, your running technique can make or break your session. Not only can you injure yourself by ignoring form, but you waste your time. Is that something you want? I don’t think so.

Mastering proper technique is the fastest way to achieve your goals.

With proper form, you minimize muscle soreness and reduce your risk of injury. Quality is much more important than quantity. I cannot emphasize it enough.

Sure, our bodies are designed to run, but that doesn’t make proper form automatic. If you are somehow running every day, your body might get used to it. But, most of us practice sedentary habits. Of all the mistakes recreational runners can make, bad form is the most common. That’s when it comes handy.

The Solution

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. During the swing, you shouldn’t feel heavy on your shoulders or you’re doing it wrong.
  • 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.

Running Mistake #9: Hard Runs in New Shoes

You’re excited about your new shoes and want to take them for a spin as soon as possible. But that’s no excuse to wear them during a hard run.

Until they’ve been worn in, even the best-running shoe can cause pain and blisters, especially on the foot arches.

The Solution

As a rule, take your time to break in your new shoes. Wear them around your house, while working, or when running errands around town.

Next, gradually road test your running shoes until they feel sufficiently comfortable to complete long distances without major issues.

Do the same thing with other gear such as running socks, shorts, or even a new sports bra.

Running Mistake #10: Ignoring Recovery

Proper recovery is an often-overlooked part of a running routine but with great downsides. Ignoring proper recovery hinders your ability to train. You also might be setting the stage for injury and burnout.

On the other hand, downtime helps your muscle tissues rebuild and repair the micro-traumas caused by exercise stress.

The Solution

Plan recovery time into your running schedule the same way you plan your workouts.

Schedule rest days—especially between hard workouts.

Also, plan a recovery week every three to five weeks, by drastically cutting on your training volume. Or not even running at all.

And most importantly: Listen to your body and pay attention to any overtraining early warning signs.

Running Mistake #11: Not Getting Enough Sleep

I’ve skimped on sleep on many occasions to get my morning run in, but I also learned the hard way that sleep is paramount.

Mess with it, and you end up shooting yourself in your own foot. In fact, skimping on sleep is as bad (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.

The Solution

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. Some people might need less time and wake up fresh. This also counts.
  • Go to bed early. The saying is right, especially for runners: the early bird gets the worm!

Running Mistake #12: Unrealistic Expectations

If your goal is to lose 30 pounds in a month, gain 10 pounds of muscles, and run a sub-3-hour marathon in less than three months, then know you’re heading in the wrong direction.

Chasing unrealistic goals is the fastest way to compromise your running resolve. The strongest obstacle you can find is your excuse, not injury or pain. Beware!

The Solution

Fitness growth is a slow and long process. It does not happen overnight.

Set small and realistic goals and write them down. Monitor everything related to your goals, so when it comes time to gauge progress, you have clear measuring tools to gauge your progress or lack thereof. This is when a diary or logbook can be helpful.

What’s more?

Exercise within your fitness skill. Forget about others. Sure, the success stories you read online can motivate you, but your fitness journey is yours alone.

Running Mistake #13: Doubt Yourself

We all have doubts about our running program. We all wonder whether or not we’re making enough progress.

If you start your running session thinking that you’ll not perform your best, your self-doubt will shine through, and you’ll be less likely to perform your best. Having those negative thoughts will only fuel your self-doubt and create a negative cycle that’s hard to break.

Even if you got the right gear, the right warm-up, and pre-workout fueling, if your mind is not up to the task, you’ll not get very far.

The Solution

Mentally prepare yourself for what’s ahead of you. Instead of letting the seed of doubt take hold inside of your mind, think positive thoughts—even if you’re a complete beginner.

Visualize that you’re good enough, and as I always say, where the body goes the body will follow. The rest is up to you.

Running Mistake #14: Ignoring Cross-Training

Just because you call yourself a runner doesn’t mean that you should scoff at other workout routines

In fact, what you do during your non-running days can either get you close to your running goals or farther away. Consider it as your supplementation.

The truth is, doing plenty of low-impact, moderate-intensity cross-training workouts can help you improve endurance, build strength, and boost speed—all without putting additional stress on your body.

The Solution

Schedule at least two to three cross-training workouts per week. Good options for runners include cycling, swimming, elliptical trainer, water running, yoga, and most importantly, strength training, which is recommended.

The key areas to work on include your core, legs, and upper body. Great strength exercises for runners include planks, push-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, pull-ups, calf raises, glutes bridges, and Russian twists.

Running Mistake #15: Wrong Shoes

By far, this is the most common mistake runners, especially beginners, make. It’s actually the reason I’m writing this detailed article about running mistakes. Shoes are super important for runners.

Here’s the truth. Wearing worn-out running shoes or the wrong type of running shoes for your foot shape, running style, and running needs isn’t only painful but can also cause injury. And you don’t want that.

The Solution

The best way to find proper running shoes is to head out to a running specialty store, where experts can assess your foot type, running style, and running needs, then make the right shoe recommendations for you.

Next, once you have a few candidates, make sure to test them out and choose the one that feels the most comfortable to you—not the one that looks great.

Running shoes are a performance tool—not a fashion statement.

As a rule, leave enough wiggle room in the toe box that you can freely wiggle your toes. At least leave space one row of your finger.

What’s more?

Remember to replace your running shoes every 400 to 500 miles because the loss of support and cushioning can cause injury. If they feel flat or have worn-out soles, look for a new pair.

Running Mistake #16: Wrong Clothes

Sure, running is a convenient sport. All you need is proper shoes and off you go. But, to make the most out of your miles, you’ll also need proper running clothes.

In fact, if you wear the wrong type of clothing when running, you’ll wind up feeling uncomfortable and at risk for cold weather-related heat-related illnesses.

The Solution

The golden rule is to avoid cotton fabric because once it gets wet, you’ll stay wet, which can make you freeze in cold weather and cause chafing in warmer weather. What a nightmare!

Instead, choose high-performance fabrics such as DryFit, Thermax, CoolMax, Thinsulate, and polypropylene. This will draw moisture away for your skin, keeping your dry and comfortable.

In cold weather, make sure that you don’t overdress. The layering technique, while dressing up as if it’s 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it actually is, can help you find the right mix without putting too little or too much. Even though layering is acceptable, please keep it aerodynamic.

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