When you are new to running, there is so much information available that knowing what to disregard, and what to apply, can sometimes be overwhelming. Hopefully, by sharing my experiences, I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls and minor setbacks that I encountered when first getting started on my running journey.
Let’s start with a disclaimer. I am by no means a professional, or even “very good” runner. In fact, I hate running. Which is exactly why I do it. In an attempt to work towards building on my mental toughness, I decided to tackle doing the things that I have absolute disdain for. Running happened to be at the top of that list. I played sports growing up and running was always a big part of our conditioning, but if it wasn’t for that or playing outside with friends, I would have never chosen to run a single yard for “fun” or personal enjoyment.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get down to it. What mistakes should you absolutely avoid when starting your journey towards becoming a runner?
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich: https://www.pexels.com/@n-voitkevich/
The number one worst mistake you could make is simply not getting started. Go out and go for a walk. Try to jog for a little. Even if you make it halfway around your block, guess what? You started! Just getting on the path (literally and figuratively) already puts you ahead of the majority of people merely talking about their goals.
The sooner you start, the sooner you can progress. There are a million excuses as to why you should put things off. “I don’t have a trainer”, “I don’t have the right shoes”, “It’s supposed to rain today”. JUST START! Trust me, you will thank me later.
Getting started is often the hardest part, and I have found that if you just go out and start, you will be finished before you know it and feel a great sense of accomplishment. Whereas, putting things off often leaves you with feelings of anxiety and guilt, as deep down you know that you are simply just making excuses and selling yourself short.
When you first begin to run, don’t compare yourself to everyone else that you see on YouTube, or out on the trails. Building your endurance, and the muscles specific to running, takes time. If you have no experience and try to go out and run a 10k on your first session, you’re likely going to be very disappointed (and not to mention, sore).
Take baby steps. Go out for a brisk walk. See how far you can walk before you begin to get out of breath. Take note of how your feet, ankles and shins feel the following day. Take a day to recover. On your next session mix in a light jog. Were you completely winded, or could you have continued your jog into a run?
Running is extremely INDIVIDUAL. Everyone’s endurance, conditioning, lung capacity, and fitness level will differ. There are dozens of variables that come into play. Start slow and gradually progress over time. It sounds like the most running cliche ever, but it is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t set yourself up for failure by going too hard too soon and giving up. You got this!
Just like going to the gym, when you stop running, you are likely to lose your gains, fast! In the same token that you don’t want to over-exert yourself, you also want to make sure you are training on a consistent basis. At a minimum, you want to at least be working on your conditioning 3 days a week, but preferably, 3-5 times per week. Just like weight-training, it is important to get proper rest and recovery, as well as, nutrition and hydration.
Split up your training sessions throughout the week and listen to your body. If you’re feeling good and your body responds well to previous sessions, add one. If you feel overly sore on a day you had planned to train, take a rest day or do a light recovery session. Nothing has to be set in stone. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
4. Poor Diet and Hydration
As you ramp up your training, it’s extremely important to make sure you are fueling your body with the proper protein, carbs and healthy fats to power your sessions. You also want to make sure to be well-hydrated. I personally drink electrolytes mixed in with my water once a day. This will help you avoid cramping up mid-run, and it also assists with your recovery so that you do not feel drained or overly tired the following day. Taking in the right kind, and amount of, carbohydrates is key to being able to have the glycogen needed for longer, or more intense training sessions.
Click here to check out our article on “What should I eat before running?“.
5. Not Properly Warming Up
Before any run or training session, it is imperative that you properly warm up. Starting a training session cold is a surefire way to guarantee an injury that is going to set you back on reaching your goals.
A 5-to-10 minute dynamic stretching routine can help to warm up and loosen your muscles, ligaments, and joints, and ensure that your body and mind are ready for the session ahead. Some light jogging or aerobic activity is also helpful to get your blood flowing to the necessary muscles and increase your heart rate.
6. Not Monitoring Your Heart Rate or Tracking Workouts
Monitoring your heart rate during training sessions is critical to ensure that you are not training at too high of an intensity, and that you are in the proper heart rate zone. Different training sessions will call for being in one of the 5 standard heart rate zones, and having an accurate heart rate monitor is very important.
Although wrist-worn monitors are more popular, if you are planning to train seriously, chest-strap monitors are recommended, as they have been proven to be much more accurate.
The Polar 10 is one of our favorites. You can click below to check it out. (We are an Amazon affiliate and may earn a small commission if you make a purchase using our links).
Hints and Tips
There are many things I had to learn on my own throughout my journey. Some of which, if I had known earlier, would have been extremely beneficial. I will share some of these with you here in the hopes that providing you with some of the knowledge that took me years to acquire might give you a bit of a head start.
The value of getting good, quality sleep cannot be overstated. This doesn’t just mean sleep. Emphasis is on the word quality! I am a snorer and through trial and error, I have found the best solution for me is using a mouthguard, as well as mouth tape. I know some of you might be thinking, “you tape your mouth shut while you sleep?? That’s crazy!”, but mouth tape is very gentle and the brand I use below contains a slit at the mouth, which makes it much less intimidating for those new to the concept.
We only produce nitric oxide when breathing through our nose, and nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels. This can help improve oxygen circulation in your body (https://www.healthline.com/health/nose-breathing), and therefore allow us to get much better quality sleep.
Yoga has been an invaluable tool for me, not only in running, but in all facets of my mental and physical well-being. I originally got into yoga for the physical benefits, but after my first session, I immediately realized that the mental benefits I got, and how mentally good I felt afterwards, that I would never go without yoga again. Not to mention that the physical benefits are incredible, as well.
I have dealt with lower back problems on and off for multiple years. It all stemmed from an injury I sustained when weight training, which never fully healed. After multiple doctor and chiropractor visits, and everything in between, I stumbled upon the world of myofascial release online. Like yoga, this was a huge game-changer for me.
Your fascia is the connective tissue that holds literally EVERYTHING in your body together, including your bones, muscles, blood vessels, and everything in between. Due to injury, or lack of use, your fascia can obtain adhesions or dry out similar to a sponge. By working the fascia, we can remove these adhesions and rehydrate it, which can be the solution to an unspeakable amount of issues and injuries.
One incredible tool for working on the fascia is the Pso-Rite. The psoas muscle is a muscle located in your lower lumbar and runs from all the way from your femur, through your pelvis and connects in your lower back. If you have an office job, or sit all the time for work, tightness in this muscle can cause a wide variety of issues, including back pain. The Pso-Rite is great for loosening up the psoas, which can be a difficult muscle to reach, and I would highly recommend it to anyone experiencing lower back issues and cannot pinpoint the cause of their pain. It can also be used to work on a variety of other muscles.
Here is a great video on myofascial release from strength coach and myofascial release expert, Chris Kidawski.