Even the smartest runners could use a tip or two to improve their health, their stride or even their state of mind. Following are easy fixes for the most common mistakes runners make, so you can reap the most from your next sprint or jog.
Mistake: Skipping the warm-up
Fix: Pace yourself
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends five to 15 minutes of brisk walking or jogging before breaking into a run or other moderate or intense exercise. Some experts even suggest a mix of walking, jogging and activities such as jumping rope to loosen muscles and gradually increase the heart rate. Go too hard too fast and you’ll end up with lactic acid buildup, which may actually make you run slower.
Mistake: Relying solely on running for exercise
Fix: Mix up your workouts
Cross-training is key for runners because it helps prevent wear and tear of the muscles as well as repetitive stress injuries, says Erin Volz Hearn, a marathon runner and certified fitness trainer with the YMCA of Central Florida. It’s OK to make running the focus of your workouts, just mix in strength training or another activity a couple of days per week to round out your routine. This will balance your body by working different muscles and challenge them in new ways.
Mistake: Wearing the wrong shoes
Fix: Find a quality pair of running shoes — and insoles
The right pair of shoes will provide cushion and flexibility, reducing the impact on the feet and knees, for example. It will also help your posture and align your stride. The next time you’re at a running shop, ask to have your feet sized to ensure a proper fit (remember to allow a half-inch between your longest toe and the edge of the shoe). Having the right insoles is also key. Insoles maximize shock absorption and stabilize your foot, minimizing discomfort, whether you’re out for a quick jog or a long-distance run.
Mistake: Skipping rest days
Fix: Take a break
Like any high-impact sport, running requires conditioning, which includes rest days that allow muscles to recover. Taking these breaks will actually make your runs stronger and possibly longer, says Hearn. Research shows that taking at least one day off each week, preferably two, reduces the frequency of overuse injuries.
Mistake: Using the same pair of shoes for too long
Fix: Replace running shoes every 300 to 400 miles
When the tread underneath the shoes looks flat, it’s time for a new pair. The lifespan of a pair of running shoes depends on its materials and design, but 300-400 miles is generally considered a good rule of thumb. If you run about three to five miles per week, that’s two to four pairs of running shoes each year! Tip: Switching between pairs every couple of runs may help your shoes last longer.
Mistake: Forgetting to stretch
Fix: Carving time for a cool-down
You hit your running goal for the day and while you’re elated, you’re also exhausted. But before you head inside for a shower, make sure to take time to stretch. Unlike the more dynamic movements in a typical warm-up, the American Council on Exercise recommends stretching after a workout, when muscles are warm and therefore more pliable.
Mistake: Listening to loud music
Fix: Lower the volume, or forgo the playlist altogether
Once runners hit their stride, they enter their own world, which is when the feel-good hormones begin to kick in. “Research has long supported that running and even brisk walking can boost your mood, which is why I recommend it to a lot of my patients,” says Tania Paredes, a marriage and family therapist in Miami, Florida “I suggest taking one hour per day for a brisk walk or run without music. Just listen to the sounds of nature around you, and let your mind wander. It really can do wonders for your mental well-being.”
Whether you are hitting the road or the trail this season, running one mile or ten at a time, these simple fixes can help keep you going.