11 Mistakes to Avoid When Running

You’ve been running regularly for a few weeks now and you love it. The sheer, heart-pumping adrenaline of a run is addictive, not to mention the euphoria or runner’s high that often follows your jog is great too. Yet could you be making common running mistakes that are holding you back? What are the biggest detriments that can affect your run?

When running, make sure to avoid these mistakes:

  • Not hydrating yourself
  • Wearing the wrong shoes
  • Going too far too soon 
  • Never taking a break
  • Skipping the running socks
  • Eating a heavy meal before a run
  • Not choosing the right clothing for running
  • Doing the same thing over and over
  • Failing to properly breathe
  • Spending all your stamina at the beginning of the race/run
  • Using the wrong form

Ahead, we’ll discuss each gaffe in detail as well as how to rectify bad behaviors so you eat better, train better, feel better, and run better. You’re not going to want to miss it!

11 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Running

Not Hydrating Yourself

You know the rule by now. Every day, women should aim to consume 11.5 cups of water and men 15.5 cups for a healthy life. Anytime you exercise though, and especially vigorously–such as when running–you need to significantly boost your water intake.

Here’s a quick science lesson. When you sweat, that’s water being depleted from your system, as well as electrolytes, or minerals contained in bodily fluids such as the urine and blood. Without electrolytes, your body has a hard time balancing your internal water levels, so you need to restore electrolytes after a hard run too.

How much water should you add back to your system? For each hour you run, expect to sweat between 24 and 32 ounces. 

If you want to be more specific, you can get on a scale ahead of your run. After jogging for an hour, get back on the scale. How many pounds did you lose? Each pound represents 16 ounces of sweat. You’d then need to replenish at least that much water. By the way, 16 ounces of water is 8 fluid ounces, half a quart, 1 pint, or 2 cups.

Water, as amazing as it is, does not contain electrolytes, at least if you’re getting your water from the tap. You can either drink electrolyte-infused water like Propel, add some salt to your tap water (kind of nasty, but salt is a good source of electrolytes), or sip sparingly on a sports drink. Coconut water, which is much lower in calories, can renew electrolytes as well. 

Wearing the Wrong Shoes

We just wrote a great in-depth post about running shoes, so we recommend you check that article out if you missed it. 

If you’re shopping at a shoe store and looking at athletic shoes, they might not seem all that different from sneakers, but that’s anything but true. Running shoes are designed for the rigors of running. These shoes boast features such as midsole cushioning to ward off painful joints, stress fractures, tendonitis, and other foot/ankle conditions that can put your running hobby on hold, sometimes permanently. Running shoes also feature arch support, even for those who have flat feet, so they can run with less pain.  

As we talked about in our post, some running shoes are designed for running on pavement and others on dirt trails. The differences between these shoes may be subtle but crucial. For instance, you need better traction if the trail beneath your feet is dusty, and you can get that in a good pair of running shoes.

Some running experts even believe that the right shoes can enhance your performance through better aerodynamics. In other words, your shoes are designed to be lightweight enough that they don’t contribute to the drag that can slow you down when you run. 

If you really think there’s no difference between running shoes and the pair of sneakers in your closet, then wear those sneakers on a mile-long run. You’ll probably have foot pain, ankle swelling, and painful blisters because your shoes simply aren’t made for running. 

Besides the great support and traction you get through running shoes, this footwear can also wick moisture, ward off unwanted foot odors, and yes, prevent blisters. Please don’t skip the running shoes. Even a beginner’s pair should get you through at least one running season, and those shoes won’t break the bank by far. 

Going Too Far Too Soon

You’re dreaming of crossing the finish line at a marathon, and, to boot, being one of the first runners in the race to do so. In running, setting goals is important, so it’s good to have even lofty goals. However, you cannot put the cart before the horse.

If you’re brand new to running, then it’s going to take a while before you’ll compete in your first marathon. There’s no way around that. You need to spend time hitting the trails regularly to build up your stamina and endurance. 

Let’s say you decide that you want to run 10 miles today when you’ve only dabbled in running to this point. Do you know what will happen? You’ll get tired after around the first mile, maybe the second, and sore too. This will make you want to quit running altogether because you’ll think you’re simply not cut out to run.

The good news is that’s not the case. Anyone can run half-marathons and full marathons, but not overnight. You need to take it slow and set goals appropriate to your running experience. Newbies should start by running a single mile, then a second, then a third. 

Keep adding miles to your runs and, before you know it, running 10 miles consecutively won’t be a big deal. As you keep running in 10-mile increments, you’ll even find it’s relatively easy. Then you’ll be ready to run 11 miles, then 12 miles, and so on and so forth. 

If you’re willing to be dedicated and–above all–patient, then running will reward you by showing you what your body can truly do! 

Never Taking a Break

You’ve gotten really into running lately, and you do it every day. Perhaps you’re chasing the runner’s high or you just enjoy the time you have to yourself when you run. You could even want to see your new running buddies as often as you can.

Whatever it is that inspires you to run, you should definitely hold onto that. Running motivation what will make it easier to get out of bed when your alarm is blaring at 4 a.m. and the sun isn’t even out yet. You also need to know when to take a break.

Pushing yourself constantly may seem like it’s to the benefit of your health, but you’re actually hurting your health rather than helping it. Those who are new to running should aim to get out there and do it three times every week, maybe four times if you’re feeling especially energetic. Once you get used to running, you can engage in it nearly every day, five days a week, but with two days of rest.

Your body definitely does need to rest. When you exercise daily, which is also known as overtraining, you’re more irritable, exhausted, stressed, and sore. You’re also not giving your muscles a chance to heal.

Only when you stop exercising can your damaged muscle fibers begin to repair themselves. In doing so, your muscles get bigger. Yet when you’re constantly putting more strain on those muscle fibers, not only do they not get to grow, but you’re more likely to end up injuring your muscles. 

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a laundry list of downsides associated with overtraining:

  • You use up all your extra energy, so you’re always tired no matter how much sleep you get
  • You’re a lot hungrier because you exercise so much, which makes you more likely to overeat
  • A bit of exercise can induce euphoria, but too much can contribute to depression and anxiety
  • You might not sleep as soundly as you were expecting
  • Women’s menstrual cycles may stop coming or happen irregularly 
  • If you’re exercising often to lose weight, you can hit a wall with your weight loss by overdoing it
  • You’ll become burned out

We think running up to five days a week should be more than sufficient for most people. You don’t have to run all five days consecutively; do what’s best for you. Just please make sure you’re not running every single day. 

Skipping the Running Socks

Earlier, we mentioned how running without the proper footwear is a huge no-no. Besides just the shoes you select, what you wear under your shoes is equally as important. We’re talking about your socks.

We’ve also discussed running socks on the blog, including all the different types, such as those with anatomical feet (or socks designed specifically for your left foot versus your right foot). No matter which type of running sock best suits you, almost every type of sock should have compression. This keeps your socks from bunching, twisting, or otherwise moving on your run so you can go longer without having to make adjustments.

Multi-layered socks with at least two layers of fabric keep the friction between your sock layers so your feet are blister-free. Many running socks are seamless so nothing can rub against the tops of your feet and cause pain and friction here. You can even buy running socks with arch support via compression bands.

Other great features of running socks are their ventilation and cushioning. With mesh panels or other forms of ventilation, your socks can wick away moisture from sweat and control odors better. Cushioning makes the socks comfy to wear, especially with your fitted running shoes.

Your cotton socks will not suffice for running, trust us. They’ll bunch, shift, and rub, leaving you with painful blisters that will make you have to skip a few days of running. Always buy running shoes and running socks to take care of your feet. 

Eating a Heavy Meal (or Snack) Before a Run

If you’re going to spend the next couple of hours running, then to you, it makes sense to eat a big meal so you don’t feel hunger pangs in the middle of your run. Yet bogging yourself down with heavy food can impact your running performance, so you want to choose what you eat carefully. That applies not just before a run, but ahead of running and afterwards as well.

Roughly two hours before you’re going to run, you want to eat, but keep it light. Opt for high-protein foods that don’t have a lot of fiber and fat but are higher in carbs. If you can’t afford to wait two hours before you run, then you can eat an hour and a half ahead of time.

A bowl of cereal is fine to eat if it’s early in the morning, but only pour in a cup of milk. Other good suggestions are energy bars, a banana, and a bagel with peanut butter instead of cream cheese. 

When you need a break in the middle of your run, you again want to reach for something with carbs to restore what you’re losing as you jog. Sports jellybeans are easy to eat and designed to have more of the ingredients that runners need and less of the sugar. Energy bars and gels are great for fast eating too. Keep your consumption at this time to around 100 calories. Then, if you continue running for 45 minutes after your first snack, ingest another 100 calories, and so on.

When you’re done running, you still need to eat, about 30 minutes post-run. Sticking to this timeframe may be able to ward off muscle pain and stiffness the next morning. Make sure you’re ingesting plenty of protein and carbs during this meal. Many runners follow this ratio: carbs (3 grams) to protein (1 gram). 

Not Choosing the Right Clothing

We’ve talked in depth about the footwear and sock choices you should make when running, but you also can’t afford to overlook your clothes. Wearing the wrong type of clothing for a run can cause many adverse effects. You might be too warm or too cold, you can create drag that may reduce your performance, and you can end up with a dreaded case of runner’s nipple. As the name suggests, this is when uncomfortable fabric rubs against your chest and chafes this delicate area.

All this is avoidable by wearing clothes made for running. Let’s talk first about layers. Even if it’s a blustery winter’s day out there, you’ll start sweating and getting warm when you run, so you don’t need to pile on layer after layer. We’re not saying you should run in a tank top and shorts in January, but three or four layers is too much. Stick to one or two max.

Besides how much clothing you’re wearing, the type of clothing is also crucial to your comfort as you run. Fabrics such as silk, polypropylene, CoolMax, Thermax, Thinsulate, and DryFit are best. These lighter-weight fabrics have moisture-wicking technology so you don’t feel like you’re swimming in sweat by the time you’re done with your run. 

Sticking to the Same Old, Same Old

Some people are intensely creatures of routine. They like the predictability of their days, so they tend to stick to the same things. Even if you’re more spontaneous, you might find yourself falling into a rut with your run since you go on the same trail every time you train. 

You know what to expect when you hit this trail, who will be around, and how long it will take you to complete you run. This is great information to have, don’t get us wrong, but if you keep doing the same thing all the time, you’re going to get tired of it. This isn’t running burnout per se, but just a need for a change of scenery.

Tomorrow, when you lace up your running shoes, diverge from your usual trail. Take that unexplored path to the left that you always see and wonder about. Run in a different part of your neighborhood.

Doing so will remind you of everything you love about running: seeing new faces, drinking in fresh sights, and viewing your town or city with a different set of eyes. 

Not Learning the Right Way to Breathe When Running

Breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system, which dictates other such bodily functions as your urination, pupillary response, digestion, and heart rate. In other words, all functions you don’t really have to think about.

Sure, you can control your breathing to an extent, but this is running, not yoga. Is how you breathe really that important? It is indeed. When you run, you want to ensure you’re getting as much oxygen as you can. Breathing through your nose won’t cut it, so make sure you use both your nose and your mouth as you run.

This may be a bit strange to you at times, and you’ll unconsciously slip back into breathing just from your nose, so keep at it. The more you breathe from your nose and mouth at the same time, the more natural it will feel.

As you release air, dispel it from your mouth rather than your nose. Fuller exhales are ideal here, as you’ll find it easier to take a deeper breath to inhale air. You also pass more carbon dioxide out with deeper exhales.

When you’re taking in breaths, do so from your stomach instead of your chest. Chest breathing will produce shallow breaths that will make it hard to breathe and could even cause dizziness. Again, it might take some bodily training to learn to breathe from the diaphragm, but you’ll adjust as time goes on. 

Stitches, or pain in your side from running, don’t come on from the act of running itself, but instead, from improper breathing. It might be a good idea to start walking or even take a break when you’re in this kind of pain. When the stitch passes, you can run again. 

Wasting Your Stamina

All the weeks and months you’ve practiced running have led up to this: your first race. You’re going to feel all sorts of emotions on this day, including excitement, nervousness, and anticipation. As soon as the race begins, you could be inclined to give it everything you have so you can outpace the other runners.

Yet what you find is that midway through the race, maybe even sooner, you’re out of gas. Now you’re struggling along the path and you still have several miles to go. In the meantime, those other racers you left behind at the beginning of the run are now passing you left and right.

You only have so much stamina you can use when running, so you must spend it wisely. Jetting off quickly at the beginning of the race until you have nothing left is not the right way to use your stamina. Instead, you want to spread it out throughout the race.

If anything, it’s better to save your stamina for the second half of the race, especially as you’re getting near the end. Having that extra push so to speak will get you to the finish line faster and may even help you achieve victory. 

Running Without the Proper Form

The last mistake you can make when running is abandoning the right form. If you’ve ever seen that episode of Friends where Phoebe runs in public swinging her arms wildly, the show writers were on to something. You want your arms at your waist as you run. Keeping them up higher, such as at your chest, can cause pain in the neck and shoulders. When you swing your arms too much, you’re needlessly wasting energy.

At your waist, your arms should make slight contact with your hips. Keep your arms at an angle of precisely 90 degrees, and, as your arms naturally move, limit that movement from the shoulder, not the elbow.

Also, stop overstriding if that’s how you run. Big strides might cover more ground faster, but you’re increasing your chances of developing shin splints. You’re also not using your energy as efficiently as you could be since your heels hit the ground before your center of gravity does. Shorter strides are recommended, as you get more fluidity with your movements.  

Final Thoughts

Nobody’s perfect, and if these 11 running mistakes are ones you make often, that’s okay. Now that you know what you’re doing wrong, you can rectify your behaviors so your runs are more efficient. Best of luck! 

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Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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