Whether you're a veteran runner or a newbie, you've probably made a few running faux pas. The bigger mistakes can be easier to spot, but over time, even small errors can lead to injury or a decrease in performance. Ask yourself if you've committed any of these sneaky mistakes and if so, it's time to nip them in the bud.
Running Easy Miles Too Fast
If you're running every mile in the "medium zone," you'll never allow your body to recover or adapt to a higher level of fitness. A solid training regime should include a mix of recovery miles and harder efforts (e.g. speed or hill workouts) that lead to training adaptations. To keep the recovery miles truly easy, aim for an effort rather than a specific pace. Do you feel in control? Can you have a conversation in (almost) complete sentences? The exact pace will vary depending on the weather, the terrain, etc., so try not to get too wrapped up in a specific number.
Only Running (and Nothing Else)
You can't beat a good head-clearing run, but to stay strong and injury-free, it's important to also incorporate strength training. Aim for a few 20- to 30-minute sessions per week. Not sure where to start? You can't go wrong with mobility work, core strengthening exercises and foam rolling. Strong, resilient muscles and tendons can stave off injury and keep you running pain-free.
Not Eating Anything During Longer Efforts
For most runs under 80 or 90 minutes, you probably don't need much more than water. But once you start logging longer efforts, it's crucial to consume easily digestible carbs on the run. After about 90 minutes of intense exercise, most of the body's stored glycogen will be used up, so you'll start to "hit the wall." To avoid dizziness and low energy, consume about 100 calories every 45 to 60 minutes of running. Experiment with gels, chews and/or high carbohydrate sports drinks to find what works best for you.
Waiting Too Long to Refuel
Fueling during the run is important, but it doesn't end when you hit stop on your watch. Experts recommend eating a combo of carbs and protein within an hour or so of finishing a workout (the sooner the better). After a run, the muscles are very receptive to taking in and rebuilding glycogen stores. Refueling as quickly as possible can help minimize post-workout soreness and allow you to recover more quickly. If you're not hungry after a run, try a smoothie or a glass of chocolate milk.
We all know the drill: You log a few solid 20- (or 30- or 40-) mile weeks, but then work gets busy or the weather takes a turn and you don't end up running much at all. Or maybe you end up taking months off after a goal race. Some downtime is important, but running consistently will keep your joints and tendons from getting overstressed. Set moderate mileage goals so that training fits into your lifestyle and you're able to maintain a routine.
Skimping on Sleep
If you wake up early (or hit the sheets late) to fit in your miles, it can feel like you're doing the right thing. But if you're skipping sleep, you'll be short changing yourself when it comes to recovery. Studies show that more and better-quality sleep is associated with improved athletic performance. So in short, yes, we are telling you that you can get faster and run longer if you sleep in! It can be a tricky balance to fit in training, sleep and everything else life has going on, but getting at least 7 hours per night is key for runners.