Running is easy, right? All you need is a pair of shoes, and off you go. You’re a runner. While that is partially true, making the transition from zero to distance runner is a surprisingly steep learning curve.

While making mistakes is part of the process of becoming an experienced runner, there are some lessons that are better not learned the hard way.

 

Mistake # 1

Not taking time to recover

 

Runners are generally a stubborn bunch of overachievers. They work hard and play hard, and are willing to put in the effort to bring about results. The problem with this Type A personality is that it often comes with the ‘more is better’ worldview. While pushing the boundaries can reap short-term results, it is almost guaranteed to end in injury, burnout, reduced performance, or a combination of all three.

Listen to your body. If you are new to running, find a beginner’s program written by an expert or find a coach who can tailor a specific plan to your needs.

It’s important to not skimp on sleep or rest days because that is where the real magic happens. It is during these times that your body has time to repair and get stronger. Without taking adequate recovery breaks, it simply can’t keep up with the punishment you’re dishing out.

 

Mistake # 2

Increasing weekly mileage too quickly

 

The gem is a close relative of mistake # 1. If you do too much too soon, your performance and health can suffer.

The commonly agreed upon maxim bandied about running circles is the ten percent rule. Only increase the number of kilometres you run each week by a maximum of ten percent. This principle also applies to single workouts. If your long run is usually 10k, don’t head out for a 20k run without expecting a world of hurt.

By increasing distance slowly you allow your body to gain strength and competence gradually, which builds a much more stable base from which to launch and reduces the chance of injury. Jumping ahead is just not worth the risk.

 

Mistake # 3

Worrying about what others think

 

‘I’m so slow, I couldn’t possibly join in with them’.

‘I run after dark so no-one can see how unco I am’.

‘I couldn’t wear shorts, my thighs are hideous’.

These are sentiments I hear far often from people starting out in running, and I find them greatly distressing.

Guess what, people? Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s the rare person who begins their running journey as a fast, efficient, graceful runner. Individuals do not wake up one morning as perfectly formed running machines.

Runners are made through hard work. They can have short legs, or jiggly arms. They are grandfathers, teenagers, and mothers. They are slow, and they are fast, and they sometimes trip over their own feet. Or so I’ve heard…

If you’re out there doing it, then you’re a runner. Let go of what you imagine other people are thinking.

More power to you.

 

Mistake # 4

Being too lazy to stretch

 

Okay, I must confess that this was me. For a long time I considered stretching to be a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong. I thought it was fine for Olivia Newton-John in the Let’s get Physical film clip, and the Pilates-yoga-bendy-type people. But not us hardcore running types. We’re too tough for stretching.

The not-surprising consequence for me after years of no stretching was, how did the physiotherapist put it? Yes, that’s right: ‘Your hamstrings are so tight I could play a tune on them’.

And that tune was like a howling cat.

My failure to spend five minutes post-run to coax my hard-worked muscles into a relaxed state had me staring down the barrel of injury. My stride had shortened, my hips were out of alignment, and my kids laughed at me because I couldn’t touch my toes.

A sorry state of affairs.

 

Mistake # 5

Going it alone

 

While running is arguably an individual sport, and many choose to run to gain some all-important head space, going at it alone all of the time is not necessarily the way to become a better runner.

Running with others can harvest a wealth of benefits.

If the stars happen to align and you find someone of a similar pace, whose company you enjoy, and has similar goals to you, then hang on tight. They are the rare breed of companion who can make your world a better place.

A running buddy can keep you running long after you would have given up on your own. They keep you honest when that alarm goes off, and their company can make the miles of a long run melt away.

Finding such people doesn’t just happen. You have to get out there. Join a running group. Hang around and chat with others before and after races. You might be surprised to find another person who seems like a good fit, who may well end up being an invaluable asset to your running.

By Trina Denner

Enjoyed this? Check out The Power of Example by Trina Denner