It’s a well documented fact that running and I, well, let’s just say we have this love-hate relationship.
Evs had ramped up his fitness a few years ago and really gotten into running in an effort to not only lose weight but to regain his fitness. However, by the time I decided that he looked like he was having too much fun outside without me and I should have some of what he was having, he was unbelievably fast and on his way to a half marathon.
It actually took me a while to really love it and for the longest time I would resent every minute I was out there pounding the pavement because I felt so awkward, ungainly and slow.
I couldn’t even run a kilometer without stopping and the mega-torturous fucker of a hill that came way too soon after our house pretty much wiped me out before I even got started.
Then I got injured and my running hasn’t been the same.
Over the last few months I have been getting back into it. Nothing too strenuous – nothing more than 5-6km and always giving myself walking breaks in between if I even ever get a hint of twinge of pain.
It’s been glorious – I forget until I am out there each time – the trail in front of me, music in my ears – just myself and my thoughts, feeling my legs stretch out and move – how much I missed this.
However, like the total doofus I am, somehow I still manage to injure myself and having to stop and rest for another week or two. After sulking through a couple of incidents like this recently, I finally stopped and thought about what I was doing.
And more importantly, what I was doing wrong.
Running is awesome in the sense that anyone and everyone can take it up, pretty much anywhere in the world. But perhaps it’s because of this relative ease that people get into the sport that most runners at the start don’t think about what they are actually getting into.
While I have been running for years, I still consider myself a beginner. Ha – probably because I keep making these mistakes.
- Running off more than you can chew? Rookie Mistake #1 – Doing too much too soon really. I am horrendously guilty of this. Every time I think I am ok to run, and promise that I’ll take it easy – the lure of the familiar trails and runner’s high cause me to probably push myself too much. In other words, I get a little too excited and peak too early. (Ha – I’ve heard there’s a nasal spray and giant billboards advertising said nasal spray that can help with this). Sorry to put a damper on the excitement, but if you’re starting out to run – you’re going to have to reel in the oh-boy!-oh-boy! feeling for a moment. When you are starting into a new activity (or in my case restarting), it’s very important to ease into it. Gradually build up your distance or your running pace. But not at the same time. Trust me – doing it the slow and steady way will help in you not getting injured and subjected to a lifetime of wistfully looking at other runners as they effortlessly glide by without a care to your poor injured body.
- Yay I ran!! Now I’m off to shop/read/collapse. What you’re really doing is ignoring recovery (Rookie mistake #2). Like many beginner runners, I just laced on my shoes and headed out the door, did my run and then just went on with my day. Running is actually quite an intense activity that you really need to look after yourself to be able to get the most out of it. In particular, taking the time in recovery once you have finished your run. This would include at least a cool-down period of 5 mins or so just walking or jogging and then stretching. I am yet to get myself a foam roller, but including stretching in your recovery will help with the next-day soreness. Icing the muscles help as well but because it’s the middle of winter and I don’t favour being more cold than I have to, I’m not quite game enough to do that yet.
- These shoes are made for walking (the dogs). And gardening. And going to the gym. Rookie mistake #3– not wearing the right shoes. Technically speaking, running is one the cheapest sports to do because you need minimal equipment. However, that being said it is important to invest properly into what you are actually wearing on your feet to protect them. I go to Active Feet – a specialist running store that has on-site sports specific podiatrists and they measure and analyse your gait (how you walk/run) to then select a shoe for you. There are many places out there I believe offer the same service, and I’d recommend speaking to someone like that if you can and are serious about running. I went back to them a few weeks ago and told them of my injury – one of the biggest factors that could have been affecting it quite recently was the fact I hadn’t replaced my shoes in over 18 months. Plus I was using them for not just running, but pretty much everything which wore them down and didn’t protect my feet and body as they were supposed to. Not having the right shoes will force your feet and legs to take on a running form that is more than likely to cause an injury.
- Yay I’m running!! Now what?? Rookie Mistake #4 – not having a goal or plan in mind. I’m the first to admit that I run, haphazardly, without any real goal or training plan. It’s simply for the pure pleasure of it. I’ve run races a few times but have never really taken them seriously, pretty much just running the weekend before the race because I realised “Oh crap – I have no time!”. Saying that, I actually think it’s been a huge proponent in myself getting injured (see Rookie Mistake #1). The other part of this is that, because I have never really had a serious goal in mind – my motivation to run hasn’t been very high. This goal is completely up to you – whether it’s an upcoming race, a distance or pace milestone, frequency of running, weight loss – having a pre-determined goal helps you push through the rough times. And trust me, running is a mental game just as much as a physical one.
- Slow and steady wins the race. Rookie Mistake #5 – not pacing yourself properly. Ok, so I know you’re excited. You can’t wait to get out there or you have finally made the decision to start running. Invariably, you will take off too fast. I do it all. the. time. However, I continue running all the while thinking “Sweet, I’m flying” until I get a stitch in my side or I’m forced to slow down and walk. Pacing yourself properly as you run will help you avoid the slowing down and having to walk part. Learning to pace yourself and running at an even pace will make the run a lot more enjoyable . This does come with practice and patience as you get to know your body, but keep it in mind. Using a watch like a Garmin or even an app like Runkeeper can help you track your pace when you run.
- Vanilla ice ice baby. (No relevance – I just wanted to say that. And now you have that song in your head. You’re welcome.) Rookie Mistake #6 – No variety in your running. When you first start to run, you’re just getting used to being out thereand end up doing the same kind of run over and over again. When I started, I used to run the same 5k course around my neighbourhood in a slow, steady jog. Not that fun after the 100th time. One of the biggest things you should do as a runner is – mix it up! The easiest way is trying out different courses – this way you will get experience on different things such as hills, flats and even different surface conditions. Adding variety can help you prevent injury as well as you will be working different running muscles. Other ways is by doing different types of running workouts – faster speed workouts, hill climbs or slower, longer runs. Adding this kind of variety will help you improve your running stamina and endurance as well.
Running is awesome. Besides the obvious health benefits, it has an awesome effect on your mental health. Actually, taking aside the six I have mentioned above, the biggest mistake you can make is not giving it a go. Try it, avoid these mistakes when you start out and most importantly – have fun!