Starting running can be hard, with lots of conflicting advice out there and approaches to training. It is often the perception that more is better; more speed, more distance, more everything! It is easy to get carried away only for some of the following common errors to curtail your enthusiasm and your progression. Below I outline some of the most common mistakes in run training and how to avoid them:
AVOID SPIKES IN YOUR TRAINING
The best way to improve your running is to run consistently over a period of months, weeks and years. So, your main goal as a new runner should be to avoid illness and injury by progressing slowly and incrementally. Listen to the feedback your body is giving you- if you’re tired and stiff ease back and rest.
80% of injuries are caused by ‘doing too much too soon’. Avoid drastic increases in volume and intensity of your training. A good rule of thumb is to try not to increase your weekly ‘volume’ of running by more than 10%, and to ensure that faster intense running, like hill sprints or intervals, only make up around 20% of the overall total of running you do each week.
A large proportion of people run too fast, 80% of your running should be at a ‘steady pace’ - that is a speed where you can maintain a short conversation with a partner. If you can’t slow down, run with short walk breaks to enable you to do so.
DON'T IGNORE INJURY WARNING SIGNS
‘Niggles’ are part and parcel of our running. But you need to know when to stop and see a doctor or Physical Therapists. If the pain gets worse over the course of a run, has been there for 2 or more runs, or affects you when you are walking, then consult a physio. In the long term it’s a great investment as they can help you get back to running and save you lots of time.
DON'T PLACE TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON TIME OR DISTANCE GOALS
Goals are really important, research suggests you are much more likely to stick at something if you set a target. But setting challenging time or distance goals that are date or race dependent can add undue stress and pressure. The best goals are process driven i.e. focusing on how you will improve rather than arbitrary numbers- ie “I will try to run 3 times a week for the next 6 weeks and run at a local Park, or I will include a hill session once a month to improve my ability to tackle a hilly race or event’.
DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE NUMBERS
The rise in running technology has it’s benefits and we can quickly and objectively monitor and map our progress but there is a tendency amongst newer runners to get obsessed by number chasing- hitting mileage targets, goal paces or step totals.
Too great a reliance on data prevents us from focusing on what’s important - training your body to be better at the act of running. Listening to your body’s own feedback is easier said than done - but there are some practical steps.
First, try to structure your runs on time not distance. A pair of 5k runs on different days can be completely different in terms of the difficulty. Weather, terrain, and mood make a huge difference but 30mins steady is a 30min steady regardless of where and when you run. Second, try to ignore the watch and experiment with your effort and pace, exploring different physiological zones. Take a few risks, see what it feels like to push hard up a hill or sprint to the next lamp post. You don’t have to do it all the time but try to keep things interesting and exciting. It’s important to test your body in different ways and bring about varied fitness improvement.
DON'T IGNORE THE DATA
Having a ‘debrief’ by monitoring the stats post run is a really useful exercise as the ‘objective feedback’ provided by the data is incredibly helpful in reinforcing your subjective observations. If certain sections of the run were faster what was happening? How were you feeling? Can you replicate this?