The Seven Deadly Sins of Running
Isn’t it interesting how some who embark on a running journey instantly get hooked for life, while others just can’t seem to make the habit stick? We’ve identified seven mistakes commonly made by both beginner and experienced runners – let’s call it the seven (not so) deadly sins of running. These training and lifestyle blunders have the potential to hinder or completely derail your running efforts if you let it, so look, learn and tread carefully!
1. Too much too soon
Few things come close to the unwavering enthusiasm of a beginner runner. Which, in itself, is a very admirable thing. But it’s when this enthusiasm is converted into impromptu 10K runs after decades of lounging on the couch that it becomes a problem.
The body needs time to adjust to the rigours of running. In fact, it needs lots of time, especially if you’ve been inactive for years. And this calls for a good dose of patience. Yes, it can be hard to run-walk for only 20 minutes when your enthusiasm levels feel ready to slay a marathon. But, trust us, it’s for the best. Easing into a running program will reward you with fewer niggles and injuries, and the sure but steady improvements will keep you coming back for more. Minus the burnout.
And while easing into a running program is a good thing, doing only one run every three weeks is not. If you want to experience continual improvement and reap all the benefits that running has to offer, you have to do your bit. Week after week. Yes, you’ll have bad runs. And yes, you’ll want to throw in the towel. But keep at it. You won’t be sorry.
3. Incorrect footwear
Running shoes are expensive. Hugely so. But running in a pair of hand-me-downs from a pronating friend may have disastrous consequences for your neutral feet. So save up and invest in a proper shoe fitting and a quality pair of running shoes that are right for your feet. They’ll give you hundreds of injury-free miles and become like a good old friend. Promise.
If a little running is good, a lot must be better, right? Wrong. Very wrong. So many committed runners view taking a rest day (or two) as being weak. Or lazy. Or they fear that properly resting will somehow nullify all the hard work that they’ve put in, and eliminate the results that they’ve gained from it. Which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Continually denying your body the opportunity to rest and recover after hard workouts will inevitably lead to niggles, burnout or injury. And trying to push through that without proper rest may derail your training for months. So be disciplined enough not only to train hard, but to properly rest and recover as well. It’s when your body rests and recovers after a hard workout that true gains are made, so give your body a chance to do its thing. You won’t regret it.
5. Outrunning the joy of running
Remember why you fell in love with running in the first place? How you loved the way running allowed you to get out there and spend time in nature, have quality me-time or get rid of those frustrations? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in chasing a new PB or completing x number of races each year that we forget why we actually run. Which can turn running into a joy-sapping chore. Something that needs to be ticked off a to-do list. Which, let’s face it, is no fun.
So if running has become a burden, stop and remember what you love(d) about it in the first place. And then pursue that for a while. Leave your watch at home and re-discover the joys of running. Because there’s so much more to running than chasing PBs.
6. Entering every race on the calendar
The racing bug can be a terrible thing. Yes, it’s good to set yourself goals, and yes, the allure of race day and its thrills is undeniable. But many experts agree that, if you really want to perform your best, it’s advisable to stick to only a handful of goal races each year.
Not giving your body the opportunity to safely and steadily build up to your race-day distance of choice, and denying it the opportunity to properly rest and recover before diving head first into a new training cycle, can lead to sub-par performances, burnout and injury. So why not give your body the chance to show you what it’s really got?
7. A bad diet
The connection between diet and good running performance is astounding. And no, it’s not simply a case of avoiding junk food and sugar-laden treats. And it’s definitely not a case of jumping on the latest diet bandwagon. But by simply focusing on nourishing and optimally fueling your body, you’re doing yourself a huge favor on so many levels. Eat a wide variety of wholesome, nutritious foods on a daily basis. Make it your mission to make every meal and snack as nutritious as possible. Ask yourself: What can I add to this dish to make it more nourishing? And then add it. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Secondly, being mindful of the (millions of!) bacteria in your gut and keeping them healthy, happy and plentiful, gives you the power to positively impact your immunity, mental well-being, and athletic performance. And who wouldn’t want that kind of power, right? So include plenty of pre- and probiotics in your diet, i.e. foods rich in insoluble fibre and fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi and kombucha. Also stay away from or actively manage things that wreak havoc on a healthy gut microbiome, such as too much stress, chlorinated water and some medications.
So many people are eager to become runners and reap the benefits on offer, but then make themselves guilty of one (or all!) of these running sins with disastrous consequences. They eagerly dive in, head first, just to be derailed by injury, a loss of interest or a lack of positive results a month or three later. Don’t make the same mistake. Invest in the correct foot gear for your foot type, gently ease into running, and honor your body. Listen to the signals it sends you, and take immediate action.
And, finally, remember that a life-long, rewarding relationship with running requires much more than just a weekly stint or three around the block. A true commitment to running infiltrates many other aspects of life, including your diet and how much you sleep. But it also rewards you in countless ways. It gives back so much more than just physical fitness and strength. And that’s way we keep on coming back for more.