We run because we love it, but sometimes our passion can work against us. There are all sorts of common errors people make in the pursuit of their goals, and it’s not just those new to running that do it. Below are some of the most common things runners do that limits their performance.
- Don’t Recover Adequately
You only improve when you allow your body to adapt to the training you do. So at a minimum it’s important to not only have a weekly easy day or day of complete rest, but also to build into your training cycles the occasional lighter week. An easy way to manage things is to have Friday off and make Monday and easy one. Also, pop in a really easy week every four weeks.
Now to post race recovery. Whatever the distance, a race will knock you around. As a guide, for races of 5km or less have one day off. For 5km to 10km, have 2 days off. For 10km to half marathon, 3 days of complete rest. For a marathon a minimum of 4 days. After a Marathon or races up to 80km, take a full week off. Beyond that distance it’s about understanding your body and only starting to run when you feel fully recovered.
- Ignore Injuries
What starts as a sore spot of a bit of tightness can often develop into something far more sinister. It’s best to hit things on the head immediately as it will reduce recovery times or mitigate against something minimal becoming a major injury. Knowing when you’re injured is the hard part. The reality is you’re going to feel tired and sore on occasion from training and you can’t stop every time you feel a little stiff as you’ll never get any running done! The trick is to address ‘new’ sore or tight spots that pop up. Any discomfort you haven’t experienced previously should be treated as a possible injury and professional advice sought. Also, if you get a sudden sharp pain, then this too needs to be taken seriously. As soon as possible see a physio and get their opinion. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to some experienced runners about what you’re feeling as they may have experienced similar in the past and can provide some guidance.
- Race Too Much
FOMO is the demise of many a runner. Fear of missing out makes many of us race too often. The result ranges from poor performances to injuries and can even lead to long term major illnesses. The key to avoiding FOMO is to always have a major goal you are working towards, not just lots of small ones. Keep your eyes on the prize and then instead of racing at the other events that you’re interested in, try volunteering at them or crewing for someone. That way you can be part of the fun without digging yourself a hole.
- Poor Diet
In order to recover from all the training you do, you need the right fuel. The necessary nutrients, protein, fat, carbs, vitamins etc are required to rebuild tissue and maintain your health. While supplements can bridge some gaps, nothing beats getting it from natural sources. As a rule of thumb, immediately after every run it’s good to consume some water and electrolytes, plus get a light carb mix in via a drink or fruit such as a banana. In general it pays to eat a varied diet with plenty of protein and different sources of vitamins and nutrients. While there are all sorts of fads out there saying vegan is best or paleo is the way to go, common sense and good science says somewhere in the middle is where it’s at!
- Skip Strength Training
To become a better runner you need to rack up plenty of kilometres. The second most important thing is to rest adequately. Third in line is strength work. Most folks skip it and go to number four, which is cross training. Incorporating a weekly strength session is going to benefit you more than sitting on a bike for an hour or swimming. Get yourself a well constructed program that addresses your weaknesses and improves on your power. This will not only help you run faster, but has been proven to reduce injuries.