Common Running Mistakes to Avoid

Running is a brilliant way to exercise.

It’s as good for the mind as it is for the body.

But lots of people (including myself) get it wrong when it comes to getting into running and I want to help you avoid a lot of the most common mistakes that I see.

Mistake Number 1: Starting with running


You want to get fit, maybe lose a bit of weight so the obvious thing to do is lace up your trainers and head out the door for a 20 minute jog.

The problem is your body isn’t necessarily used to the load that comes from running and striking the ground over and over again. That first run is likely to leave you feeling really sore and worse it could lead to injury.

A good friend of mine and top PT Jonny Jacobs always says “you need to earn the right to run” and it’s a great way to look at it.

This is why programmes like couch to 5k are so good.

You start with walking and progress how long you run for until you can run continuously for 30 minutes. I did a similar run/walk rehab programme earlier this year when I was getting back to running after breaking my toe.

In each run – as you progress the amount of time you are running – you can feel your muscles, tendons and ligaments getting used to the additional strain. This is a sensible way of doing it, where they strain is enough for your body to adapt to and get stronger.

It was a big eye opener for me and a reminder of why even just a 20 minute jog can be a lot to handle when you’ve previously not been running.

So if you do want to get into running, or get back to running after a break, start with walking. Follow a programme like couch to 5k and allow your body to build up to the demands of pounding the pavements!

Mistake Number 2: Running too fast


The natural temptation is to want to run every run as fast as you can, always looking to beat your previous time.

By doing this though you are likely to be pushing your body too hard and expecting too much.

Not every run will be or should be a PB (personal best).

There’s definitely a place for fast runs in your plan but a another big learning curve for me was realising that more of your runs should be easy runs.

This is where you’ll build up your aerobic base.

I listened to a fascinating podcast with Phil Maffetone and he described that to build endurance for running, the majority of your runs should be at a lower heart rate. Then in certain workouts you would programme more intense efforts like hill sprints or speed intervals.

What most of us tend to do though is operate inbetween. Not slow enough to build our aerobic base, and not intensively enough to build our anaerobic fitness.

Running at a lower heart rate definitely feels strange at first, and like you’re running really slow. But it works wonders and over time you’re able to run more quickly whilst maintaining that lower heart rate. And the beauty of this approach is that it’s easier to recover from, you don’t feel as beaten up which means you can train more consistently.

If you want to read up on this check out Phil Maffetone

Mistake Number 3: Being impatient


You wouldn’t walk into a tennis club and immediately expect to pick up a racket and knock out a rally.

Running is no different, there’s lots to learn and master.

From your breathing to your pacing to what works for you in terms of when to eat and what to eat before your runs etc.

Take the pressure off and don’t expect to get it all right straight away.

There’ll be runs you nail it and others you don’t.

Just try to take the lessons from every run and see it as feedback.

It’s the best way to learn and improve.

Mistake Number 4: Flying out the blocks


It’s an unfortunate fact in running that your first mile or so always feels crappy.

You feel heavy, lethargic and find yourself battling not to just head home.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

But usually after the first mile or so this crappy feeling goes and you get into your flow.

Something that really helps you get into your flow more quickly is to run the first part of your run slowly. This can be either your first mile or even your first 15 minutes.

Think of this like a warm up in any other workout.

In the gym you wouldn’t start your workout immediately squatting the heaviest weight you can (or if you do, you shouldn’t!). You’d get moving first and then gradually build up.

That’s exactly what the early part of your run should be. It can even be helpful to start off with a walk, then building to a jog and then up to your running pace.

It allows you to control your breathing and feel more comfortable when you do get into the pace for the main part of your run.

Mistake Number 5: Racing other runners


It’s never nice when another runner comes racing past you but it’s probably something you need to get used to.

The old saying, ‘focus on your own journey’ couldn’t be more true of running.

You’ve got no idea how experienced that other runner is that’s just whizzed past you. How far they are running, at what stage of their run they are at. They might be doing a sprint finish and stopping round the corner.

Whenever I find myself tempted to speed after someone that’s passed me I remind myself that when I’m in the gym I don’t look to see who is lifting the most and try to beat them. That would be ridiculous and so is comparing yourself with other random runners.

Try to avoid getting drawn into comparing yourself or beating yourself up.

Focus on your own running and running at a speed that’s effective for you.

I’ll have to do another blog like this because as I’m writing these I’m already thinking of loads more.

Hopefully these are helpful for now though.

And I guess the final piece of advice would be to remember to smile and enjoy it!