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I’ve been running consistently for almost twelve years – and longer distances for about eight. I am certainly not an expert, but I have made – and learned from – my share of mistakes over the years. Looking back, there are so many things I wish I had known or been told when I first started. And so I wanted to share some of these things with you, in case they might help you avoid the same mistakes!
- You should never go “all-out” in a workout. For a long time, I felt that unless I was soaked in sweat, dry heaving on the side of the road or treadmill, it wasn’t a good workout. I felt like I was in race mode every single day. Save the racing and all-out exertion for the race. That’s when it matters. You’ll get burnt out or get injured in no time if you are constantly racing yourself in training.
- Running slow won’t make you slow. It sounds silly now, but I truly believed that if I took it easy during a run, I would become more comfortable running slow. Therefore when it was time to race, I would run slower. I didn’t understand that the easy, slower days were so important. It’s necessary to let your body recover from the hard workouts. Now I look forward to the easy days – it’s a time to enjoy the run, the company and the scenery all around me without worrying about pace.
- Embrace Patience. It’s not always easy to maintain but having patience will pay off in the long run. Take it day by day. Do not expect to see results overnight, especially when you are just starting out. Patience with getting faster, patience with increasing mileage, patience with racing, patience with coming back after an injury. Patience will prevent injury, and will keep you running as the days and years go by.
- There’s so much more to running than running. For years, I would run early in the mornings and that would be it. No other activities, no other things to prevent or decrease the chance of injury, nothing to get me stronger. These days the running aspect of training is about half of what goes on during the week. I include things like cross training, strength and core work, Epsom salt baths, stretching and ice baths. All of these things will only add to your performance and longevity as a runner.
- Don’t run through pain. It seems obvious, but I’m sure many of us have been there. We feel a dull ache or pain, and reason with ourselves that somehow running on it or through it will make it magically disappear. Been there, done that and the pain just gets worse. Now I am not afraid to make it a rest day, or to cross-train, if something seems to be off. I’d much rather take one or two preventative days off then be forced to take weeks off due to a major injury.
- The right shoe isn’t about which looks best. My first pair of running shoes was not selected because of fit. It was the one I liked the best on the sporting goods store shelf. I’d recommend that you head to an actual running store where the workers are actual runners. They are knowledgeable and will be able to fit you with the proper shoe.
- Finish time predictors are just an estimate. A few years ago, I had my sights set on a lofty marathon goal. I used one of the online pace calculators to determine what pace I should be running my tempos, intervals, long and easy runs. By the end of the training cycle, I was hitting all the paces and went after that time on race day. However, I didn’t take into account a few important things – most notably that my long run endurance just wasn’t there yet. It was my first training cycle since having my second baby. While I ran a handful of 18-22 milers, my body was still getting comfortable with those longer distances. As as result, I started way too fast on race day and ended with my first DNF (did not finish). Lesson learned.