Many of us are now making healthier decisions when it comes to our diet, exercise and lifestyle. However, all too often, our beginner’s enthusiasm overrides our inexperience and we end up injured or uncomfortable. Subtle details such as wide fitting running shoes and assessing our gait can make the difference between health and injury. Larger factors like our nutrition and hydration can make the difference between a great performance and a disappointing outcome.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Read on for tips from Simply Feet for everything you need to know to avoid the top seven most common running mistakes, from selecting the best fitting running shoes to maximizing your nutrition.
1. Poor nutrition. All too often, people who make changes to their exercise neglect to make the necessary changes to their diet. You wouldn’t expect a car to function smoothly if it has been given the wrong fuel, and this same principle applies to your body. It can be difficult to overhaul your diet in one fell swoop, so many experts advocate small substitutions. Water is more hydrating than diuretics such as tea and coffee, for example. We may crave a sugary treat, but we should aim for natural sugars such as honey and fruit rather than highly processed treats such as sweets and chocolate. A balance of complex carbohydrates for energy coupled with protein for muscle recovery is a good start.
2. Not listening to your body. Our bodies try to tell us when something is not benefiting them. We often experience pain, inflammation and fatigue as the most obvious signs. We should never see listening to our bodies as a sign of weakness or failure. We are taking control of our health by exercising, so it is counterproductive for exercise to be what is harming our health.
We should be realistic and assess things methodically. Pain could be caused by a problem in our gait, such as heel striking or over-striding. This can result in shin splints, tendonitis, and other painful conditions. We can consult a coach, physiotherapist, or even just an experienced running friend to watch us and offer advice. A small change to your gait can make a big impact on your overall health and performance.
3. Inadequate footwear. Supporting your arches and ankles while running is one of the most essential steps you can take. Our feet are a complex mechanism with many fragile bones and tendons. They are strong when functioning correctly but can be easily damaged if not given adequate support. Ensure that you have purpose-designed running shoes that also suit the natural shape of your foot, whether it’s wide or narrow.
They should also suit the style of the terrain. Trail running and track are two entirely different focuses, for example, and will need entirely different footwear. Any reputable running shoe store will be happy to advise you.
4. Aiming too high. It can be tempting to aim too high when we begin running and our enthusiasm is strong. We might be surrounded by experienced runners who seem to perform well and achieve a lot, but it is important to recognize that everyone was a beginner at some stage. If you want to achieve your goals, it is important to start small and use the sense of accomplishment to motivate you to reach your next goal. Starting too high and inevitably failing can be demoralizing and even put us off continuing.
5. Isolation. Running may seem like a solitary hobby, but this does not have to be the case. There are now many groups and forums, both local and international, that can support us in our running goals. Being sociable in our running can be more enjoyable and can also motivate us. If we are accountable to others, we are more likely to try harder. We are also less likely to become discouraged if we have others who support us.
6. Losing motivation. A lack of motivation can stop runners from continuing to improve. If we are starting to lose interest in our running, we should think carefully about the cause. Do we feel we are not seeing results? Are we finding it difficult or painful? The nature of the reason affects the action we should take.
Painful running is an indication of a physical problem that needs to be addressed, for example. Not seeing results is an indication that we have set our sights too high, are not aware of our progress, or have not given ourselves enough time to progress.
7. The wrong terrain. The type of terrain we run on can affect our enjoyment enormously. Many beginners start with a difficult or variable type of terrain and are then disappointed when they cannot run it effectively. Others may choose track or treadmill running and then become bored and unmotivated. We can choose a variety of running styles or ask for advice on the one that would suit our interests and fitness levels best.
Thanks to the pros for these tips! These tips might be geared toward running, but they fit almost any workout. Always take it slowly when you’re starting and listen to your body! —Erin