Whether you’re a neighborhood jogger or have finished multiple marathons, running of any kind is always a ‘do.’ But there are number of practices female runners should have on their “never-to-do” list.
From being lazy with running attire to making decisions that put you in danger, make sure you’re not doing these nine things—and if you are, make some changes immediately.
Carry Your Phone in Your Sports Bra During a Run
Stuffing your phone or iPod in between your girls during a run is a huge no-no. For one, sports bras aren’t meant to carry things other than your breasts, which means there’s no guarantee that the phone is secure. It could easily slip out (from either the top or bottom), risking a broken or lost phone. Second, if you’re like most women, your sports bra is a prime area for sweat and, if you haven’t noticed, phones aren’t very moisture-friendly. Putting electronics in contact with sweat is just asking for a malfunction.
And don’t think that carrying your selfie-taking device in your hand will work either. While it may not seem like a big deal, holding items while running causes your arm and hand muscles to move asymmetrically, which can eventually lead to a breakdown in your running form. And if you want to run efficiently (read: easily), it’s important to pay attention to correct running form.
For the most effective methods of carrying things with you during a run, pick up a running belt or sports armband to stash your must-have items.
Choose Unsafe Running Conditions
Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s not always safe, especially for women. This means that, as female runners, we have to take special consideration as we choose where, when and how we run.
Always tell someone where you plan to run and how long you expect to be gone. If you’re in an unfamiliar location, make sure to study a map of the area ahead of time, and bring your phone and some extra cash, in case you need to call an Uber or cab.
While many of us have time constraints that force us to run pre- or post-sunlight, this doesn’t give you the right to put yourself in danger. Make sure to wear reflective clothing to be visible to approaching vehicles and carry a bright light to see the road ahead of you.
For those who like to run solo, it’s a good idea to bring along some kind of personal safety item, such as pepper spray for runners or the TigerLady. Finding a local running group or workout partner is much safer than running alone—and that goes for any time of day.
Wear Your Sweaty Running Gear Long After a Run
If you don’t plan to shower immediately after a run—no judging here—it’s important to at least change into clean, dry clothes (especially underwear) as soon as possible. Sweaty clothing is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, which you don’t want anywhere near your lady parts.
With the rise of athleisure, doctors commonly see yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis in those who are guilty of wearing sweaty pants or shorts long after their sweat sessions.
And the below-the-belt area isn’t the only thing women runners need to worry about. Sweaty sports bras can trap dirt, bacteria and other nasties against your skin, increasing your potential for body acne, cysts or even staph infections.
Wear Your Ponytail in the Same Spot Every Time
Getting your mane off your neck during a run is non-negotiable for most women, but where you secure your hair matters. If you always tie your ponytail in the same spot on your head, you are repeatedly putting the same stress on your strands, leading to thinning and breakage.
Always wear a high ponytail? Switch to a low pony (or try a French braid) every other day to vary the tension direction and stress put on your hair.
Run in Hand-Me-Down Gear
As tempting as it is to save a few bucks by getting second-hand gear from family or friends, these items won’t do you any favors in the long run.
While a used top or pair of pants is perfectly okay (as long as it’s been washed and is still in good condition), never wear someone else’s old sports bra. As time goes on, the fabric and structure of the bra can stretch out and become less supportive, putting your girls at risk for too much movement.
As far as what’s on your feet, it’s no secret that running shoe prices can be hard to swallow, but you definitely don’t want to run in a pair that has seen better days. Each footstrike breaks down the support and structure of the shoe, and after a certain number of miles, the shoe is no longer able to do its job. Most experts recommend replacing shoes after 300 miles, depending on your weight and typical running surface.
To save money on shoes, opt for last year’s model or find sale prices either online or in stores. If you’re buying online, make sure to try on multiple pairs in person to know which shoe is right for you.
Wear a Regular Bra on a Run
We’ve all been there—you’re changing into running clothes after work and you suddenly realize you forgot that all-important item: a sports bra. Now what? Do you skip your run or suffer through it wearing your daily underwire bra—or worse, no bra at all?
According to experts, skipping a sports bra could lead to permanent breast tissue damage, causing stretch marks, sagging and even painful breasts. Even tops with built-in bras are a no-go—sports bras are specially designed to support your chest from excessive up-and-down, side-to-side and in-and-out movement. A regular bra isn’t meant to provide the necessary protection your breasts need during a vigorous activities like running.
Skip Strength Training
Runners are notorious for avoiding the weight room, especially in the throes of training for a long distance race. Unfortunately, all running, all the time can actually be detrimental to your success. While beginners will gain muscle as their bodies adapt to the new sport, a running-only training plan will not allow intermediate and advanced runners to develop the necessary strength to deal with longer miles and more strenuous workouts.
Strength training can help runners avoid injury and encourage correct running form. And since women are vulnerable to weaker bones as we age (thanks, osteoporosis!), including weights in our fitness regime can help keep our entire bodies stronger for longer.
Despite what many women think, lifting weights (even heavy ones) will not make you bulky. Unless you are taking special supplements and lifting weights specifically to bulk up, it’s extremely difficult to develop bodybuilder-type muscles that your average woman tries to avoid.
While full-body exercises are the best option, runners should focus on core, hip, glute and leg exercises to get the most out of their time in the gym. Try these 12 exercises for the perfect runner’s workout.
Avoid Eating Fat
It’s time we change our thoughts about fat. Eating fat will not make you gain weight, if done correctly. And in fact, the right types of fat can even help keep you healthy. A University of Buffalo study followed 86 women runners for a year and found that those with the highest incidence of injury consumed the lowest amount of fat. These results suggested that a higher fat diet actually seemed to protect these runners from injury.
With that being said, you do not have our permission to pig out on french fries and pizza. The majority of fats in your diet should consist of healthy and lean fats, such as avocados, salmon, olive oil, eggs, almonds and (hallelujah!) dark chocolate.
Compare Yourself to Others
Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and we couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re comparing yourself to your running partner, mate or that person who just passed you on the road, stop it. Every runner is different, carrying a different body with different abilities and functions. Your running is your business and shouldn’t be dictated by anyone else.
And while it can be hard to feel confident when you’re the slowest one in a running group, the important thing is that you’re out there working at it. There are many people who never even try—and sometimes, just trying is an accomplishment in and of itself.
You’ll quickly find that if you focus on doing your own thing, you’ll not only be happier, you’ll have more time and energy to meet and celebrate your own personal running goals.