#NOWAmbassador and ultra runner Meghan Kennihan is a USA Track & Field coach and a RRCA (Road Runners of America) certified distance coach. She is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a level 3 USA Cycling Coach.
Running seems like a simple activity that anyone can do, right? But like with any other exercise, a lot goes into making sure it’s done properly to ensure efficiency and to avoid injury.
To help you avoid common injuries and burnout, here are 10 mistakes you might be making, and easy solutions to fix them.
- You Skip Strength Training
Running is very demanding on the body, and a proper strength program not only strengthens the muscles supporting the joints, but also the connective tissues. Don’t worry, you won't "bulk" up, as distance running will ensure lean muscles. And it’s easy to get started in the comfort of your own home by using your own bodyweight or by getting yourself a set of dumbbells or kettlebells. Check out my 16-Minute Anytime, Anywhere Workout.
- You Wear the Wrong Shoes
You want to make sure your running shoes are comfortable. Chances are, if you’re hitting up your local outlet mall or large-scale retailer in search of whatever shoe is on sale, or in the color scheme you like best, you’re choosing the wrong footwear. Finding the right running shoe for you isn’t that simple, and is best achieved at a specialty running store where professional staff can watch you run and move in the shoes you select. It’s also important to remember that running shoes have a lifespan of about four months for those who run daily.
- You Wear the Wrong Attire
It's especially important to wear running-specific attire that’ll keep you cool and dry in the summer, and warm and airy in the winter. Poorly-fitting clothing can cause unnecessary chafing, and pants or shorts that are too tight may interfere with your natural running stride. Also, remember, we lose heat quickest from the top of our head, so a hat or cap that’s not breathable can cause you to overheat fairly quickly.
- You Don't Share Your Goals
If you’re afraid to tell your friends, family, or co-workers about your passion for running for fear that you might fail or disappoint them, you’re only hurting yourself. Having the support of loved ones when you’re getting into the hardest, longest weeks of training will be seriously worth it. Word of warning: Do not try to keep them updated on your day-to-day progress. Unless he or she is a runner, they simply won’t understand your mile-by-mile breakdown of your long run. A better option is to confide in a few people who you know care about you, and to seek out their support as fuel for motivation.
- You Don't Set a Goal
There are lots of things that will come up during training that can cause you to lose motivation. And it’s very likely that you’ll miss a run or two (or three!) due to work, family, injury, illness, and the many other obstacles that come with life. No matter what the reason, never lose sight of your goal, or you’ll find yourself missing more and more runs and start losing belief in yourself. Post your goal somewhere you’ll see every day, as a constant reminder, so that, no matter what happens, you’ll see the positive aspects of the situation and keep going. Remind yourself of how amazing it felt when you completed a new distance and achieved your smaller goals leading up to the big one.
- You Don’t Drink Enough Water
Many runners suffer from dehydration because they underestimate how much water their body needs during training. But it’s not only important to hydrate before and after your runs, you should also be drinking during them. Your urine should be light yellow to clear; dark yellow means you’re not adequately hydrated and need to drink more water. A great way to help replenish electrolytes you are losing is to hydrate with Slender Sticks, which are sugar-free, natural drink packets. Aim for eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day and 10 glasses on high-training days. Most of all, listen to your body to figure out what it needs.
- You Have Poor Nutrition Before/After Runs
Most runners don’t understand the direct correlation between performance and nutrition. Make sure you learn which meals, snacks, and fluids work best during base training, and stick to it. Your meals should be focused on incorporating real, wholesome foods, protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits. Some of my favorite whole food snacks are NOW’s Crunchy Clusters and Raw, Roasted Almonds. And, I always opt for a protein shake/smoothie post-workout. Build a better smoothie at our Smoothie Recipe Builder.
- You Run On the Treadmill ONLY
If you’re training for a race, you might want to opt for running outside. Treadmill running is very different than running on the ground, and many people learn this the hard way when race day approaches and they find out their pace isn’t what they were able to do on the treadmill. The treadmill is doing a lot of the work for you because it is pulling your leg along. Running on the pavement, however, means your body is doing all the work for that forward momentum. You’ll also encounter uneven surfaces, which give your feet and ankles the opportunity to become strong and flexible. If you’re only on the treadmill’s smooth surface, you won’t experience this added benefit.
- You Aren't Using Your Arms
Having a proper arm swing affects every part of your run. It can improve your stride length, and it can make your running rhythm feel fluid. The faster you swing your arms, the faster your legs will go, which helps when your legs just don't want to move anymore. Too little arm movement, criss-crossing in front of your body, or letting the arms and hands hang low below your waist all create inefficiency. Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle or slightly higher and swing straight forward and back to propel yourself.
- You’re Running Too Much, Too Fast
Running can quickly become addicting. Once a person is bit by the running bug, it’s sometimes all they want to do. It’s best to stick to a training plan, or work with a running coach (www.trainwithmeghan.com) who knows how much you can handle and at what pace to gradually increase your mileage. Otherwise, you’re just asking for injury.