Wednesday, July 1, 2009

10 common running mistakes to avoid

Took a lot of heat the other day over my announcement that I'd be using an intermediate marathon training plan to get ready for this fall's New York City Marathon.

In fact, after reading the comments, a co-worker asked me whether I was reconsidering my position, to which I replied defensively (and truthfully): "I know people who've run great marathons without proper training, I know others who've followed appropriate plans to the letter and wound up with injuries." But then I calmed down and reminded myself that I don't necessarily know more or better than anyone else -- and that I do respect the warnings some of you passed along. So ... I'm open to easing up on the mileage and the intensity here and there (especially as life's unexpected twists and turns are almost certain to interrupt the plan once or twice along the way).

Still, bottom line is: I may indeed be making a common running mistake. And while this might drive some of you crazy -- especially if you're an experienced athlete and/or a student of the sport -- I hope some of you out there can find it in yourselves to appreciate the fact that I'm a real runner with real issues. I'm not trying to be pretentious, I'm not trying to be holier than thou. I'm just a dude who runs, who sometimes gets it right and sometimes gets it wrong. Anyway, thanks for sticking with me.

Thought it'd be appropriate (and ironic!) to leave you this afternoon with a list of some of the most common running mistakes, according to Christine Luff at

  1. Wrong shoes: Wearing old running shoes or wearing the wrong type of running shoes for your foot and running style can lead to running injuries.
  2. Too much, too soon: Many runners, especially people who are new to running, make the "terrible too's" mistake. They get so excited and enthused about their running that they do too much mileage, too fast, too soon. They mistakenly think that "more is better" when it comes to running. As a result, they often start to develop common overuse running injuries, such as shin splints, runner's knee, or ITB syndrome.
  3. Overstriding: One of the most common injury-causing running form mistakes is overstriding, or landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity. Some runners assume that a longer stride will improve their speed or running efficiency, but that's not the case. Overstriding wastes energy since it means you're braking with each foot strike.
  4. Losing control on hills: When running downhill, some people have a tendency to lean way too far forward, overstride, and run out of control.
  5. Bad upper body form: Some runners swing their arms side-to-side, which makes you more likely to slouch and not breathe as efficiently. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired. You'll actually get more tired by holding your arms that way and you'll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck.
  6. Not drinking enough: Many runners underestimate how much fluid they lose during runs and don't drink enough. As a result, they suffer from dehydration, which can be detrimental to your performance and health.
  7. Wrong clothes: Some runners wear the wrong type or too much or too little clothing for the weather conditions, leaving them uncomfortable and at risk for heat-related or cold weather-related illnesses.
  8. Overtraining: Some runners who are training for specific races or certain goals run too hard, run too many miles, and don't allow for proper recovery time. Overtraining is the leading cause of injury and burnout for runners.
  9. Going out too fast: When it comes to running long distance races, one of the biggest rookie mistakes is going out too fast in the beginning of the race. Most runners have at least one story about a race when they felt so great during the first few miles that they ran ahead of pace, only to crash and burn during the final miles.
  10. Not fueling properly: Many beginning runners underestimate the importance of nutrition, for both their running performance and their overall health. What and when you eat before, during, and after your runs has a huge effect on your performance and recovery.
For the complete article, including suggested corrective action, click here.

So, we all know what mistake I'm most guilty of. What about you? Which of these mistakes have you made/do you make? Come on, you can admit it: Which of these problems plagues you most? Or ... is there something else?


Vincenzo said...

Shoes are key, the difference between a $50.00 pair of running shoes, and well fitting, well engineered shoes for $150.00 is the second best $100.00 you could ever spend.

Moderation is second. That wall will find you soon enough, don't be in to much of a hurry to get there.

And don't run drunk, it just makes people look stupid, and they tend to get lost not to far from home.

David said...

My mistake is remembering how fast I could run 30 years ago or even 8 years ago. I get in trouble (injured) when I try to run the same workouts at the same pace.

Theoden - one more thing to consider for NYC: I had a training buddy years ago who was about your age when he ran his first marathon. He ran fantastic, around 3:42. I told him he was now spoiled, that it was too easy for him.

He hasn't run that fast since.

SCM40in40 said...

One common mistake, and one I have been guilty of is not stretching properly or enough and not taking care of your core. Not specific to running per se, but both help you recover adequately and help you with your form and avoid injuries.

Also - and this is one I see folks do a lot - do not walk in your running shoes. Walking in them such as at the gym (when not running) or at the mall, around the house, etc wears/uses them differently than running does. Use the previous pair of running shoes as your walk around/mow the lawn/the dog/the mall shoes and save your running shoes for running. It does make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Can you guys tell me the best foods to eat before and after running? (Beginner) If I run first thing in the morning, is it best to wait until after the run, or should I put something very light on my stomach beforehand?

runner8 said...

Don't run drunk? I ran my best race in college after a night of partying at a frat house in chapel hill.

Anonymous said...

never forget your peppa spray either. especially with charlotte being so ethnic

Anonymous said...

Sad that I have to follow some dumb, toothless hillbilly, who doesn't even know how to properly insult people (ethnic?)...

Here's my 7 day training program for the marathon when I lived in Charlotte.

chupacabra said...

Not so much this time of year, but in the winter I tend to overdress for the run. I'm all nice and warm when I get started and really hot half a mile into the run.

As far as races go, the big mistake that I made the first time out and a lot of people seem to make all the time is lining up too close to the front. You either try to run faster than you should to keep up with the big kids or you get run over.

Anonymous said...

Re. food, you have to learn by experience because stomachs are different, but try 1/2 bagel, maybe with peanut butter, or a banana, prior to running. I've heard 300-400 calories is good prior to a run. But if it takes awhile for your stomach to settle, you can run on empty - for a few miles. After, I like chocolate milk. Much recent science suggests you should get protein and carbs into your body within 20-30 minutes of finishing.

Anonymous said...

My biggest mistake was continuing to train for my first marathon while injured -- 16-18 -milers and all! I should've bailed on the race altogether, but instead walked the entire thing with a groin injury. That injury still flares up years later.