So you might be wondering how I know so much about what Runner’s do WRONG. I’ll tell you. Because I’ve done almost every one of these myself. Some of these took me years to stop doing. I don’t expect people to believe me or to change their ways, but if I can save a few people from frustration, than I’ve done my job. I think many of us are so stubborn and don’t want to change. There is also personal opinion and some runners may disagree with me. I’m telling you what works well for me, personally.
As with anything, you should always check with a doctor before you start any new fitness routine, but if you are a new runner, or even an experienced one, I hope you will find some of these tips useful.
1- Run your Long and Recovery runs too fast – If you are training for an endurance event, you need to run at a pace that teaches your body to clear lactic acid. If you run too fast, your body is burning glycogen. You need to run in the slower fat burning heart rate zones to avoid crashing at the end of a marathon. With that said, it is a good idea to pick up your pace toward the end of a long run. For more information and training plans that actually work, I refer to Runner’s Connect. They are a small company of coaches with science to back up their plans. I have tried and tested them and their plans work.
2- Not breathing right – I have one thing to say… Breath through your mouth! And, if you can breath through both your mouth and nose at the same time, do that! Deep diaphragmatic breathing is the best way to deliver oxygen to the body. Here are some helpful articles on breathing:
Runner’s Connect Runner’s Connect
Run To the Finish Run to the Finish
3- Skipping a light stretch after a run – I know from experience on this one that it is really important to do some light stretching post run to prevent injury, especially as you age. Once you are over 40, keeping those muscles limber becomes even more important to your overall health. Here are some helpful articles on post-run stretching:
Run To the Finish – Best Post Run Stretches
Pumps and Iron Stretching Routine For Long Runs
Love Life Surf Yoga Poses for Runners
Happy Fit Mama Stretching Basics for Runners
4- Thinking you can eat whatever you want – Doughnuts, Cookies, Double Cheeseburgers! Who doesn’t love these foods? We all need to indulge once and while, but sometimes runners think that because they run, they can eat whatever you want. I guess you can eat whatever you want, but you may not be improving and diet could be a reason why. There is nothing wrong with an occasional cheeseburger and fries, we all need balance, but eating that every day isn’t going to make you a better runner. Eat a diet rich in whole foods and stay away from processed and packaged meals. Keep things balanced and you’re good.
5- Not hydrating properly – People either drink too much or not enough. The best way to determine how much fluids you need to to do a sweat test.
6- Thinking you need fuel on a short run – For me, personally, I do not fuel for many runs other than on race day. I use what is called Glycogen Depletion with very good results. Depending on how I feel, I may eat a small bowl of oatmeal two to three hours before a long run. The bottom line, is you don’t need energy gels unless you are doing a long run over one hour.
Here’s a great article about Glycogen Depletion by Mommy Run Fast: What Is a Glycogen Depletion Run?
7- Not doing strength work – As a runner I don’t appreciate many other types of workouts, in fact “Running is my Boyfriend.” However, doing a quick strength routine a few times a week can dramatically improve your running and prevent common injuries. Here are some articles to get you started:
Happy Fit Mama 6 Hip Strengthening Exercises for Runners
Marcia’s Healthy Slice 5 Basic Strength Training Moves for Runners
8- Not figuring out a pre- and race-day hydration and nutrition plan for 13.1 and 26.2 – We’ve all been there. Either we don’t ingest enough fluids and calories or we do the exact opposite and ingest too much. The best way to discover what your needs are for fluids is to do a sweat test prior to your race. This way you know exactly how many ounces of fluids you need per hour. As for calories, everyone is different. You need to practice fueling on your long runs. For years I thought I needed to pack in as many gels as I could, but that can backfire on you. Taking too much can slow you down at the end of a race.
As for eating during the weeks up to race, I swear by Matt Fitzgerald’s method, laid out in his book The New Rules Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition.
Another one of my favorite articles on this subject is by The Fit Fork Fats then Carbs- Latest in Pre-Race Nutrition
For fueling during a race, read How to Eat and Drink During a Marathon
9- Thinking that a quick stop during a run will effect your workout – If you have a decent level of fitness, then a stop light or quick bathroom break mid-run will not effect the overall effectiveness of a run. If stopping messes you up psychologically, then try to plan your routes with as few interruptions as possible.
10- Running every run at your goal race pace – I know it’s fun to post a fast workout on Social Media, but if you run every workout at your goal race pace, you’re asking for trouble. When race day rolls around, your body will not be properly recovered and you will not perform to your full physical capacity.
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11- Skipping speed work – If you are always running at the same pace, then you are not going to gain much fitness. You need to raise your heart rate during certain workouts to increase your VO2 Max. If training for a race, you should be doing one Tempo run a week.
12- Not following a plan – I’ve done this one a few times. Trust me when I say that running willy-nilly and just doing what everyone else in your running group is doing on that particular day or planning too many races before your marathon is not the most ideal way of going about things. I’m sure there are some really naturally talented people who can pull this off, but I say to them that they could be doing even better, running faster if they followed a plan. I swear by Runner’s Connect, but there are many options out there.
13- Not getting enough sleep – I realize that many of you have young children, or demanding jobs, and it’s not always possible to get max sleep. But, if you want to get the most out of your training, go to bed at a decent hour. This one took me years and a full mental break down to understand that if I’m not in bed by 9:00 pm I’m not a happy or energetic person.
14- Thinking that your house will be spotless during a marathon training cycle – “I will have a spotless house,” she said. “I will have a hot, healthy meal on the table every night,” She said. “My family will never know I’m training for a marathon,” she said. That is just funny. Your house will be dirty sometimes, laundry will pile up, and dishes will be in the sink. It’s best to just accept that from the get go.
15- Thinking that you will be able to enjoy an active day with your family after completing your long run – I still struggle with this one. I think to myself, “I’ll get up at 4 am, run an 18 miler, come home, shower, and spend the rest of the day with my family.” I’m sure there are a few super humans that pull this off, but when I get home I want to do two things: sleep and eat. The end.
16- Thinking you need to carb load prior to a race for too many days – See number 8. Downing plates of pasta and pizza weeks before your marathon is not necessary and could actually slow you down. You only need to eat carbs two days before a marathon and one day before a half marathon.
17- Having too high of an expectation on race day – We all want to be in the fast kids club. The fact is that if you don’t set realistic goals for an endurance race, you are setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. The best way to find out what your Half Marathon pace should be is to run a 10K. The best way to figure out your marathon pace is to run a 10K or Half. Take that pace and and plug it into the McMillan Pace Calculator.
18- Not using glide or lube on your long runs and race day – Have you ever stepped into a shower when you have chaffing on your body? It feels like someone is attacking you with a flame thrower. You forget your Aquaphor one time, and as soon as you step into that shower, I guarantee you will never forget again.
19- Relying too heavily on your GPS – When I first started running, all I used was a crummy Timex watch. I would go out for 20 minutes and back for 20. That was about how my workouts went. When GPS devices came out, all of us type A’s were “dancing like no one is watching.” My personal opinion is that if we rely too heavily on a the numbers on the watch, we will never learn to “feel” what that pace is. When I race, depending on the distance, I tell myself that I will go out at a difficult but not out of control pace. I have learned over the years what that pace is at each distance (okay, I’m still working on the 10K), but you understand what I mean. I still wear my GPS, but I don’t live and die by it.
20- Running with someone who is either too fast or too slow – If you enjoy training alone this one won’t be too much of an issue for you, but when you’re training with a group, it’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. In some small cases, you might gain some fitness by training with someone faster, but, if you are doing endurance events (the Half Marathon and greater), it may not be in your best interest to train with someone unless their goal is similar to yours. You can still stick with your plan and run with your friends, but you may fall behind or be ahead. Stick with your plan.
21- Skipping or altering too many workouts – Sure, we all get sick from time to time, or your kids have an urgent appointment, but skipping or altering too many workouts will end up sabotaging your goal. Let’s not get crazy over this one, one missed or altered workout will not effect you, but if you are week after week changing your plan, then you have essentially created a new plan for yourself. Do yourself a favor, stick to the plan.
22- Overdressing – I live in SoCal so it’s always hot, but I ran in Northern Virginia for many years and got in the habit of layering. But I still, even in SoCal, wear too many clothes. You should look at the length of your workout, and what the weather will be, and add 20 degrees to that temperature.
23- Getting too attached to feeling good and feeling bad – When you are doing a difficult run, it’s easy for the dark demons in your mind to rear their head. It goes something like this, “I can’t stand this,” “Why am I doing this?” “This is awful!” Try not to get to wrapped up in those thoughts because things ALWAYS change. Don’t feel good? It could change in a mile or two. Feel Awesome? Don’t get too attached to that either– you have a long way to go. Best to try and get through each feeling, one step at a time.
24- Racing too much – “But I love the Cool Medal,” She says. “It’s in a gorgeous location,” He said.”I’ve caught the bug,” She says. We are all guilty of scheduling too many fun races, but doing them too close together can cause you to become injured and fatigued. If you have a goal in mind, it’s best to very carefully craft your race schedule around that key race.
25- Taking things too seriously – Okay, so here I have laid out all of these things and now I’m telling you to not take things so seriously. What I mean by that is to have balance. The hardest part about this sport that we love so much is finding a sweet spot. We all like to race. We all like to have goals. But, if it’s effecting your life and relationships because you are so focused on it, then maybe it’s time to just go back to why you started in the first place. Have some fun, go for easy runs with friends, and enjoy this crazy running life.
If you are just starting out and would like some suggestions on a few books that have loads of information, check out this 10 Books Every New Runner Needs.
How about you? Do you have any to add to this list?