10 Rookie Mistakes Beginner Runners Make and How to Avoid Them

running tipsRunning can be an enjoyable and liberating experience. Something about how humans are built makes them fit to run almost effortlessly. This was probably the case when we had to run to fetch our dinner, or get away from a hungry sabre tooth tiger.

This is hardly the case today when all you need to flex to get anything done is your brain muscle, and in most cases only your finger muscles as you type something. But every once in a while, we get inspired and get bit by the running bug. We want to just get at it and get this running thing down but whoa, slow down. Don’t make these rookie mistakes that could potentially cost you your entire running future.

Wrong shoes

This is the most common rookie mistake newbie runners make. You grab a pair of trainers and hit the asphalt. This isn’t a good idea. For starters, almost everyone has a different running gait. These different running gaits fall into a few broad categories that are distinctly different. If you score the wrong pair of shoes, you could end up taxing the wrong muscles and tendons, placing you at high risk of running injuries. Visit an athletics shoe store and get kitted with the right shoes for your running gait.

Setting very high targets

This is another rookie mistake that is all too common as well. You’ve just started running and you want to run ten miles all at once, and all at full gait. Aside from the fact that your body probably will not make it, it will severely dent your morale if you set your goals too high. Set your goals a bit lower and be ready for the aches and pains that come along with exerting previously underused muscles. The payoff is however great as you will feel like you are achieving your targets and this morale boost will keep you going.

Increasing mileage sharply

Right next to trying to bite more than you can chew is increasing your mileage too fast. Remember your body is in a sedentary state so your muscles and tendons need to first get used to the exertion, gradually. Start with a mile, and then increase the mileage by 10% ever week until you hit your target. It may seem ridiculous to add a few hundred meters to begin with but pretty soon they will add up and you’ll be running ten miles easy.

Wrong track surface

Hard surfaces are usually what are easily accessible for most urbanites but this isn’t the best surface to run on as it is hardest on your hips, knees and ankles. If you can, find some loose dirt or grassy area to begin your running. This will act as a cushion to the jarring your body will undergo as it gets used to running. As you get used to running and your muscles and tendons tone up, it will be easier to run on harder surfaces without impacting your body adversely. 

No variety in running style

Running one way repetitively every day can strain certain parts of your physique and result in disproportionate toning of your muscles. Getting your comfortable running method is great but many trainers will tell you your body responds better to variety. It’s sort of like the way you also need a balanced diet, the same goes for your body. So mix up your track route, go downhill today, start uphill tomorrow, sprint for 3 minutes then jog, then sprint again then walk briskly. Mixing these up will vary the muscles being taxed in your body and result in a more balanced running routine.

No warm up

You must warm up before starting a run, whether you are a seasoned runner or just beginning. Warming up involves performing stretches and light exercises that increase blood flow to your muscles and make oxygen available to your tissues. You may think the run itself is a warm up if you start slow but remember running is a very mechanical process, it hardly works out the kinks out of your joints and muscles; it just puts them to work. Always remember to warm up before a run; it will only take you a few minutes.

No breaks

So you feel you can nail running by increasing the number of times you run to three times a day. You reckon if you put in more hours, you’ll bridge that fitness chasm faster. This is another novice mistake that could put you in the hospital. Muscles need to rest in order to repair and grow (strengthen). If all you do is keep running, you will end up wearing out your muscles, something that will impact your future running negatively. The best way to run is once or twice a day with a cap on the number of miles you run each time. Keep in mind running is a mechanical process, if you run your car constantly without taking it for servicing you’ll soon need a tow truck to get it home. Give your body time to recuperate.

Running too long

Similar to taking no breaks, is the belief that the longer the mileage, the more effective or successful your run. This is hardly the case. Running can be as effective running a few miles of different terrain as it would be running 20 miles on a running track. At the end of the day, you need to run within the limits of your physical capabilities. Relentlessly pushing yourself can never end well. Establish practical goals and work towards them. For more information, speak with a physical trainer to help you understand your limits and how you can challenge them without injuring yourself in the process.

No cross training

Cross straining involves engaging in other strength and endurance exercises, besides running. Running alone can only do you so much good, especially in the strength department. Cross training will add resilience to your muscles and joints and make your running more enjoyable and less prone to mishaps. Interchange your running regime with sessions at the gym to get all your muscles up to speed with your primary running muscles.

Ignoring warning signs

Lastly, always listen to your body. Most running injuries are preventable and this is only possible if you carefully monitor your body. Aside from broken bones, most injuries occur after cumulative strain to a particular body part. If you feel something is out of place, don’t try to “shake it off”, as most pro athletes do, get it checked to see if it’s anything serious. Additionally, understanding your body better and its response to running will help you understand better how to respond to what your body is saying. Read up on running techniques, common injuries, etc. to get a good handle of what running is all about.