You don’t have to run fit, you have to be fit to run. There are a number of mistakes that beginner runners often make, but which can also be observed in more advanced runners. These mistakes slow our progress or even worsen our performance due to chronic fatigue or injury.
Running is a sport that can give us many joys. Like other disciplines, running will help us to improve our health, keep our body active, be fitter and, in addition, we will also obtain psychological benefits.
However, like any other activity, there are also bad practices, mistakes that we can make because we want to do things too fast or simply out of ignorance. Sometimes these mistakes are very basic things that we overlook and that can have a crucial effect on our performance or, even worse, cause injuries and major ailments that will not allow us to continue enjoying the miles.
The following running mistakes are also part of these recommendations: they are behaviors that we should not imitate if we want to have a healthy sporting life.
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Humans have been designed primarily for two functions with respect to locomotion: walking or jogging at light paces for many hours or the opposite, sprinting in the face of danger or to take prey. In between these two is what most runners do when they go out for a run: medium intensity at medium duration.
This section is somewhat complex, but we only want to highlight the idea of how to approach training, without delving into the physiological level. When we walk, certain demands begin to be placed on our system to provide energy to our muscles so that they can perform the action of walking.
As we increase the intensity and go from walking to jogging, and then to running, then running faster to a sprint, the physiological demands change. We go through different zones and phases.
Polarized training is based on spending most of the time in the light jogging zone, leaving a small space for very demanding workouts such as HIIT. The zone in the middle is not as interesting for progress, so try to work in those two extremes without falling abusively in the middle.
Excessive volume leading to injury: progressive adaptation
Depending on our athletic level and whether we run for fun or to prepare for a particular event, we will have to perform one method of endurance training or another. It will be totally different to train to run short races of a few kilometers, to other types of events such as ultra trail in which are around 100 km.
In either case the main thing to keep in mind is the volume and intensity at which we have trained so far. A very common mistake is to start running and download a program from the internet to perform our workouts. And if that program is from a marathon champion we think it is the best.
What we do not take into consideration is that this champion or any person is at a different level, and depending on that level should run a maximum of 30 km per week or can do 120 km without any problem. Also influences our running pace since in beginners we can talk about a pace of six minutes every kilometer or more, while advanced runners do each kilometer in half the time.
A practical recommendation is to make a progressive adaptation with ups and downs of volume and intensity. In another section we will briefly describe how we can gradually increase the volume so that the workouts are more effective, do not generate so much fatigue and reduce the risk of injury.
Strength helps us in running
Strength training is a fundamental pillar for running. In fact, endurance is nothing more than applying force for a prolonged period of time. When we talk about strength training we are not referring to a typical training to increase muscle mass, but more focused on specific strength improvements.
Performing heavy workouts with basic exercises such as squats, hip thrusts or deadlifts will improve our running economy and make our body demand less energy for the same effort.
Core training is also essential since the core of our body is responsible for three fundamental functions in performance: absorbing impacts, transmitting forces and generating movement.
Getting enough energy from your diet: carbohydrates
In many cases we want to get in shape at the same time we want to lose weight, and that’s when we start running. A blunder then occurs, which is to make that widespread myth of “eat less and move more”.
If we move more we have to eat more, or rather, we have to choose healthy foods that give us energy and nutrients. To understand this paradox a little, there is the energy flow, which can be low or high.
A high energy flow means that we move a lot and ingest high calories due to that extra expenditure. A low energy flow means that we move little and therefore do not need as many calories in our day. The paradox is that we tend to cross them: we move little and eat a lot, and to lose that weight we then move a lot and eat little.
In running we need energy to be able to cope with the workouts, mainly in the form of carbohydrates. Not consuming enough calories will make our car run out of gas, so we won’t get very far, and we won’t go very fast.
Correct running technique
If strength is one of the most neglected aspects of running progress, running technique is even more so. The way we land, the length of our stride, moving our foot as close to the ground as possible instead of taking small vertical jumps, etc. will make us more or less efficient runners.
By focusing on running technique, we will be able to take advantage of the kinetic energy we bring from the previous stride to take the next stride. That way each step will cost us less, we will save energy and we will go faster. Therefore, introduce running technique exercises in each session, in parts such as the warm-up to progress faster.
Monitor your training for later comparison
It is advisable to measure everything that can be measured, without going crazy. Nowadays, cell phones go everywhere with us and we can take advantage of them to monitor our training sessions. All you need is a heart rate monitor that you can connect to your cell phone.
Another option is to buy one of the many devices such as watches with heart rate monitor and GPS, bike computers for bicycles, etc. In them we can record from the basics which is our heart rate to other more complex variables such as oxygen saturation, heart rate variability and many others.
The more controlled we have these variables the better we will be able to know what internal stimulus has generated an external load. Running 20 kilometers at a pace of 4 minutes per kilometer can be an excessive internal stimulus for one person, while for another it has been an easy session.
With the measurement of these internal loads we can adapt the external load according to the difficulty that we have had. If we do not do it, we will not know if the training has been intense or soft, nor if we need 24 hours or 72 hours to recover from it.
Periodizing the different competitions and training sessions
The last mistake is a mixture of all the previous ones. If we want to progress in our running performance, we need to write down on paper the kilometers we are going to run this week, depending on what we have been doing so far, the speed at which we are going to run, etc.
If we only go out for a run to clear our heads and move around a bit, it will be enough to put on our running shoes and let ourselves go. On the other hand, if we have a medium or long term performance objective, it is necessary that a coach or we, if we have knowledge about it, we will regulate different training cycles to progress in each one of them.