Follow these 10 rules to run smart and avoid common setbacks.
1. Ignore Pain1 of 11
Let's face it—part of endurance sports is learning how to deal with pain. But there is a fine line between dealing with pain caused by fatigue and neglecting pain that can lead to injury
Pain that comes and goes quickly never to return is probably not something you need to worry about (such as a side-stitch). But the same pain that pops up frequently on nearly every run is something different, which requires your attention. Whether you notice it or not, your form will change, and that can lead to a long-term injury that might have been avoided. Seeking advice from a healthcare professional is always a safe bet.
2. Skip Your Warm-up2 of 11
It's tempting to head out full-speed for a run without warming up, especially if you're short on time. Unfortunately, this can often lead to injuries such as a strained muscle, tweaked tendon and other joint-related pains.
A good warm-up that consists of walking, strides and dynamic stretching can help you to gently bring your heart rate up and give your muscles, joints and bones a chance to loosen up gradually. This will make the hard efforts in your workout easier to sustain and can prevent injury.
3. Run Before Eating Breakfast3 of 11
Eating a big breakfast before a morning run is difficult for a lot of runners. While you don't necessarily have to load up on pancakes and eggs before a workout, skipping a meal all together probably isn't a wise choice either—particularly for long or hard efforts.
To avoid premature fatigue or low blood sugar levels during a run, try to eat enough calories to sustain your effort. Consuming 300 calories an hour before your workout should do the trick.
4. Expect a PR at Every Race4 of 11
For beginners, monitoring improvement is a good way to stay motivated. While achieving a new personal record at each race you sign up for might not be too difficult to accomplish at first, the longer you run, the more challenging this will get.
Goal setting is always important, but expecting to set a new PR at every race is unrealistic and can cause unnecessary stress. To relieve some of the pressure that racing can cause, pick a few events each year that you run only for fun. Keep your expectations low, and don't worry about your time. Concentrate instead on enjoying the activity and celebrating the sport you love, which can also help to avoid burnout.
5. Follow a Training Plan That's Uncompromising5 of 11
Having a plan with realistic goals is important for any runner. But following a training plan that doesn't allow for compromise is a mistake.
Just because you're scheduled to complete a 10-mile run on Tuesday doesn't mean it has to be done at all costs. Sickness, life circumstances and the weather should all be taken into consideration. Having the flexibility to adapt a training plan so that you can do that 10-mile run on Thursday is vital to maintaining life balances and making smart training decisions.
If you're having trouble adapting, consider hiring a coach or other professional to help you make some of these tough decisions.
6. Start a Race Too Fast6 of 11
Steve Prefontaine called it "running with your guts." Unfortunately there was only one Pre, which means the rest of us should avoid getting sucked out when the gun goes off. If your pace is higher than you can sustain for the duration of the race, even if it's only for a half a mile, you'll pay for the effort two-fold toward the end.
Combat this by using a pace calculator and sticking to a pace you know you can run, especially for the first two-thirds of the race. You can always speed up if you need to once you're closer to the finish. The result will be faster times and a more enjoyable experience.
7. Not Rest Enough7 of 11
It's easy in theory but hard to execute: At least one day off per week, easy runs after long runs (or hard intervals), and eight hours of sleep per night. Skip on your sleep or increase your mileage too quickly, and an injury is more likely to happen.
8. Go Too Hard on Easy Days8 of 11
You know what the key to nailing your hard workouts is? It's going easy on your easy days. If you haven't recovered between hard days of training, you won't get as much out of your long runs or intervals. It'll also be easier to push yourself a little harder than you should, which can lead to injury.
Ideally, your pace should be around 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (Zone 1 and 2), or at a pace that would easily allow conversation. Finish your run feeling like you could have done more, and you've hit it just right.
9. Put off the Recovery Meal9 of 11
One way to ruin the gains of a hard workout is to skip the recovery meal. While you may not feel like eating just after a run, waiting longer than 45 minutes can negatively affect your body in the days that follow.
The National Council of Strength and Fitness recommends a meal that's a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein for your post-workout meal. Aim to eat one gram of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight, and about 20 to 25 grams of protein.
10. Obsess Over the Numbers10 of 11
All the training data you get from GPS watches are great, but it's easy to get caught up in the numbers. Whether it's being inflexible about your pace-per-mile on a training run or obsessing over your heart rate, gadgets can add stress and make it difficult to remember why running was fun in the first place.
A good way to combat this is to leave your watch at home on your easy days. Run a route with a distance you've already marked and run slow, without any distractions. Concentrate on relaxing and keeping the pace light and easy. It's a great way to rejuvenate after a hard workout the day before.