Photo: lzf (Shutterstock)
The basics of running aren’t hard to get down: Mostly, you need comfortable shoes, a sports bra if applicable, and consistency. But sometimes we make things harder on ourselves than they need to be. Here are some of the biggest mistakes new runners make.
Treating training runs as races
If you expect to cover today’s three-mile training run faster than last week’s three-mile training run, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, you’ll run the same distance faster over the long term, but that doesn’t mean constantly trying to beat your past time.
Running to beat a time is called racing. And we save racing for race days, whether that’s a local 5K you’ve paid money for, or a little race you do against yourself every month or two.
Think of a race like a test. Training, then, is studying. Spend a few weeks running at a slow pace (or, better yet, following a training program) and then run a race to put your speed to the test.
Thinking walking is the opposite of running
If you start with a run-walk program like couch to 5K, you may come to think of your workouts as intervals of running interspersed with “walk breaks,” which are not running.
But when it comes to the fitness they build, walking and running are the same thing, just at different speeds. Imagine yourself on a treadmill, cranking up the speed: 2 miles per hour is a slow walk; 3 mph is a normal walk. Somewhere around 4 mph, you’ll be walking so quickly that it feels more natural to pick up your feet and jog instead. Five mph is a slow run, 6 mph is a faster run, and so on.
A fast runner might run their races at 10 mph (a six-minute mile), and their training runs at 8 mph (an 8:30 mile). But a beginner who races at 5 mph might need to slow to a brisk walk, around 4 mph, for their easy pace training “runs.” It can still be a good idea to mix walking and running, so that you get some experience actually running, so let’s say you walk at 3.7 mph and kick it up to 4.3 for the runs. That’s still a completely appropriate way to train! The walking isn’t a break at all, it’s part of your training.
And a few bonus mistakes
Ultimately, the biggest mistakes you’re likely to make as a new runner boil down to beating yourself up. You’re annoyed that you’re slow, so you push yourself to go faster than you’re ready for. Or you figure that anything that feels easy, like walking, must not count.
But the way you get faster is by training at a pace that is appropriate to your current fitness. Most training runs should be run slow enough to feel comfortable. While you work on that, I’ll throw in a few bonus mistakes that beginner runners often make:
Running hard intervals with easy walk breaks, and for that to be all of your training. This won’t teach you how to run continuously. If you must mix running and walking on your easy days, make it a brisk walk and a slow run.Never strength training, or lumping strength training in with stretching, foam rolling, meditating, and other things you keep putting off. It’s important to do strength training, even if you need to start small. The other stuff can be helpful but is optional.Wearing shoes that aren’t comfortable because somebody told you you need a specific type of shoe. The best shoe is the one that feels good when you run.