by Matt Magill
You might not call yourself a “runner” yet. But if you’ve done a 5K, gone out for a few jogs, or even if you’re just starting to think about what it might be like to—someday, possibly, in the distant future, if circumstances permit—start running . . . well then this post is for you.
Rise above the masses, and don’t make these five common mistakes that new runners often make:
1) Running without a goal. Runners, who don’t have a reason to keep going, stop. It doesn’t matter what your running goal is. It could be: to run the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab this March, to get your mile time under 10 minutes by the end of the month, or even to clock 12 total miles of running/walking this week. The point is that you have a goal that you can articulate. Because when you’re tired, or busy, or it’s too hot outside, or too cold: a goal is what you will fall back on. It’s the thing that’s going to motivate you to run despite your best excuses not to. Unfortunately, not all goals are created equal. “To run more” is a bad goal. Why? Because it doesn’t mean anything; it’s completely ambiguous. Make sure your goal is: difficult but doable, specific but flexible, and time-limited. When you have your goal, write it on a piece of paper and carry it with you, make it the background on your computer at work, and tell it to people who will keep you accountable. This is your bread and butter!
2) Going too fast. Speed is important if you’re in a race, but on the average training run we could all benefit from slowing down a little. When new runners run fast they often make the mistake of over-striding (which is one of the leading causes of injury for new runners). More importantly, running slowly will give you the chance to work on your technique. If you can’t develop good habits when you’re running slowly, you’ll never have them when you’re running fast. That said, if you want to go faster there are three things you should know: 1) Fast running requires a slow build up; it will take days, weeks, even months to effectively train your body to zip along like a gazelle. 2) The safest way to increase speed is to increase cadence. Try taking steps more often, not steps further apart. 3) There is a time for speed work and a time for distance work (focus on one at a time and never increase speed and distance together on the same run). And always remember: you can still get a great calorie-burning workout even if you’re not hitting your theoretical max heart rate from start to finish! (Pro Tip: Attend the Salt Lake Running Co. Good Form Running Clinic on Jan. 14th!)
3) Wearing the wrong shoes. As a new runner you might be tempted to run in whatever shoes you’ve got: an old pair of sneakers, you’re brother’s Converse, basketball shoes, whatever. I get it: running shoes are an investment. On top of that, there are so many different styles, features and brands (not to mention marketing campaigns trying to pull you in this-or-that direction), that trying to decide which shoes to get can be overwhelming! But here’s the thing: if you run in improper footwear you’re going to get hurt. Running has so many health benefits, but you can neutralize all of them by putting excessive wear and tear on your joints because you’re running in the wrong shoes. It’s just not worth it! Save yourself the hurt. Now if your question is, “But how do I know what shoes are right for me?” You’re in luck. Running specialty stores across the country are built to answer this question. Come in to Salt Lake Running Company (or another running specialty store) where we can analyze your running and help you find the shoe that’s right for you.
4) Comparing yourself to other runners. No, you’re not Usain Bolt. You might lament, “I will never be able to do a marathon like my ‘super runner’ neighbor.” And maybe you don’t “look like a runner.” (Though, in truth, runners come in all shapes and sizes.) Guess what: it doesn’t matter. Running is about you. You’re the only one that can put one of your feet in front of the other and that’s what’s important. If you ran today, does it ultimately matter how fast or far you went or if your shoes matched your shirt? No. You ran today, give yourself a pat on the back and move on.
5) Giving up. Running is a lifestyle. That means: a) it’s hard to adopt, and b) once you’ve adopted it, it’s hard to give it up. Longtime runners have their own challenges (like sometimes not knowing when to take a break from running). But for new runners, the challenge is to keep doing this thing that you haven’t quite figured out how to integrate with your job, kids, hobbies, sleep schedule, significant other, etc. How do you overcome this challenge? By remembering that first sentence: running is a lifestyle. You have to treat it accordingly. I’ve heard so many potential runners say things like, “I’m going to run five miles every day from now on.” Does this have the mentality of a lifestyle change or a fad diet? Clearly, a fad diet. And when I check back in with these same people, a week later they’ve quit running for good. Don’t beat yourself up for not running in a day, week, month or year. Re-evaluate, set a new goal, and start again. I’ll say it once more: running is a lifestyle. That means you’re learning how to be in it for the long haul. This is about adding running into your natural rhythms a little at a time—learn to do that, and you’ll learn to love this sport for years to come.