As runners, there are plenty of things we can do to improve our performance, such as eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep. But what about those bad habits -- the things we do that sabotage our efforts? Here are some common pitfalls many runners fall into -- and how to avoid them.
1. Stop running in the wrong shoes.
Photo by John Foxx
Wearing the wrong type of running shoes for your feet and running style can lead to running injuries. If you've never had a running gait analysis done, go to a running specialty store
, where they can do one and recommend the right running shoes for you. You also need to make sure you're wearing the right size shoes -- you should get shoes that are at least half a size bigger than your street shoe size. Your feet swell when you run so it's good to have some extra room in the toe box to avoid black toenails
Also see: How to Find the Right Running ShoesWhat Not to Wear Running
2. Stop ignoring pain.
Some runners assume they're invincible and push through a run despite some pain that's not going away. Don't make the mistake of thinking that missing a few runs will ruin your training or prevent you from reaching a goal or finishing a race. Pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong and rest is usually the best treatment. Taking some time off from running when an injury is in its early stages will prevent more time off later. If you push through it, the injury will most likely get worse.
Also see: 7 Steps for Running Injury PreventionHow to Self-Treat Running Injuries
3. Stop giving yourself a license to eat whatever you want.
Photo by Carlos Davila
I'm not guilty of this all the time but, often after long runs or a big mileage week, I find myself going a bit overboard at meals. I justify some junk food binging by telling myself how many miles I've run. This is an easy way for runners to gain weight, despite all the exercise they're doing. Keep track of your exercise and calorie intake in a journal -- you'll get a better picture of how many calories you're actually burning and taking in. And tracking everything will make you think twice before eating lots of high-calorie, high-fat foods after runs.
Also see: Why Am I Not Losing Weight By Running?
4. Stop saying, "I'm not a real runner."
Photo by Chase Jarvis
This quote from Bart Yasso always makes me chuckle: "I often hear someone say I'm not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner." Like Yasso, I frequently hear people say they're not real runners, and some of them have been running and racing for years. You don't need to sub-7:00 miles or run marathons to be a real runner. If you run regularly -- no matter what pace or distance -- you can proudly call yourself a runner.
Also see: When Did You First Call Yourself a Runner?You Know You're a Runner When...
5. Stop skipping your warm-up.
I sometimes skip or rush my warm-up
, usually because I'm short on time or I'm just eager to get started with the meat of my workout. But neglecting my warm-up often results in developing a side stitch
or feeling tight during my first couple of speed intervals. No matter what type of run you're doing, it's important to warm-up beforehand to get the blood flowing and your muscles warmed up for exercise. A warm-up can be a 5-minute brisk walk or slow jog, or warm-up exercises such as marching in place, jumping jacks, knee lifts, or butt kicks.
Also see: Video: How to Warm Up Before Running
6. Stop running without hydrating.
Photo by Zia Soleil
I know runners who won't drink water while running because they think they'll get a side stitch
. And then there are those who avoid the water stops
during races because they don't want to waste time. If you're running longer than 30 minutes, you really need to hydrate during your run to avoid the effects of dehydration
. The current fluid recommendations for runners say that they should "obey your thirst" and drink when their mouth is dry and they feel the need to drink.
Also see: Running & Hydration
While some runners can get away with not eating at all before a run of any distance, you'll run stronger if you eat something before. Ideally, you want to try to eat something at least 90 minutes before running
, so you have time to digest your food, you're fueled for your run, and you're not starving during your run. But that obviously doesn't work for everyone, especially morning runners. If you run in the morning and your run is for under an hour, you can get away with not eating before. But you still need to make sure you're hydrated before you start running. Drink at least 6-8 ounces of water when you first wake up. You could drink a sports drink before your run so you know you're at least getting some calories.
If you're running longer than an hour or doing an intense speed workout, and you're running in the morning, it's best to force yourself to wake an hour and a half early or more for a small meal. Eating a 300-500 calorie breakfast of mostly carbs will ensure you're not running on fumes. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a banana and an energy bar; a bagel with peanut butter; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. If you're eating less than an hour before your run, aim for a light, 200-300 calorie snack such as toast with peanut butter or a cup of yogurt. If you're running long and you really don't have time or your stomach gets upset if you eat before running, try eating something small, such as an energy gel
, about 30 minutes into your run.
8. Stop comparing yourself to other runners.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
There's always going to be someone who can run faster or longer than you. Don't drive yourself crazy by comparing yourself to them or being discouraged because you can't do that. Instead, think about how much progress YOU have made so far. This quote from Amby Burfoot, 1968 winner of the Boston Marathon, sums it up best: "In running, it doesn't matter how fast or slow you are relative to anyone else. You set your own pace and you measure your own progress. You can't lose this race because you're not running against anyone else. You're only running against yourself, and as long as you are running, you are winning."
Photo by David Madison
Do you run the same flat, 3-mile loop every day at the same pace? Switching up the elevation, distance, and pace of your runs will not only help you prevent boredom, you can also improve your running by adding some hill running
, a tempo run
, and a long run
once a week.
Also see: Get Out of a Running Rut
10. Stop expecting a PR in every race.
Yellow Dog Productions
When you first start racing, it's not too difficult to keep improving and set a new personal record (PR) every time you race. But you'll eventually reach a plateau when it becomes increasingly harder to shave time off your best times. And putting pressure on yourself to keep getting faster and faster can suck all the fun out of running and racing. While it's fine to set goals for certain races and work hard to achieve, it's also important to be realistic and make sure your goals match your abilities and training efforts. And, to relieve some of that pressure, you may want to pick a couple of races every year that you just do for fun and run without any expectations. Theme races are great to do just for fun and with a group of friends.