Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Training for a race, be it a 5K, half-marathon, or full marathon isn't an easy feat! Training mistakes are bound to occur, but we're here to help you prevent at least a few. Avoid the following snafus to prevent discomfort, injury, and a poor training experience.
Mistake #1: Taking on too much too soon
This could very well be the biggest mistake runners, whether newbie or veteran, make while training for a race. Increasing mileage too quickly can cause a variety of overuse injuries (i.e. stress fractures and tendonitis). Prevent this mistake by following a 1/10th rule or a decent training plan. You also want to make sure you have a good baseline prior to starting intense training. Meaning, if you can’t get through a three-mile run without stopping, you probably don’t want to jump right into marathon training. Trust us, it’s a bad idea.
Mistake #2: Wearing the wrong shoes
When you first start out, investing in a $150 pair of running shoes might seem ridiculous. And at that point, maybe it is. However, if you plan to train for anything more than a 5K, it’s in your best interest to purchase a quality pair of running shoes. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can lead to injuries, especially if your foot pronates. Our advice: head to the nearest running store and get fitted for a pair of shoes. If you’ll be training for a fairly long distance, consider training in multiple pairs of shoes.
Mistake #3: Striking heel first
We have a hung jury as to whether heel striking is a mistake, but it’s worth noting that heel striking is often correlated with over-striding and greater force of impact in runners. By striking with your forefoot, you can lessen the shock on your body with each step. Additionally, heel striking doesn’t propel you forward as well as striking with your mid-foot or forefoot. It acts as more of a brake.
Mistake #4 Training on the same surface day in and day out
It’s important to train on a similar surface to your race surface. Otherwise you risk a number of injuries? Trained only on trails but your race is on asphalt? Too much impact can lead to stress fractures or tendonitis. Trained on asphalt but your race is on a trail? You could be looking at a rolled ankle or worse. To truly prepare yourself for any race train on trails, treadmills, asphalt, etc. Each has its own benefits, and you’ll avoid boredom from monotony.
Mistake #5: Poor Form
Improper form can result in numerous injuries, many of which will keep you off your feet for some time. As you run, make sure you are keeping your abs tight, shoulders and hands relaxed, and landing in your center of gravity. Don’t over stride or slouch. You’ll end your run on a painful note if you do.
Mistake #6: Wearing the wrong gear
We all have our preferences for running gear, and it’s best to figure out what works for you. While some might love carrying their phones in a running belt, others would rather use an armband. Some runners like wearing shorts, others prefer tights year round. Preferences aside, there is at least one universal rule when it comes to gear. Always go for tech fabrics. They’re moisture-wicking, so they’ll keep you cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. This isn’t a mistake that will necessarily lead to injury, but it can lead to discomfort. Chafing is not a fun situation!
Mistake #7: Improper hydration
Did you know that athletic performance decrease by 10 percent for every 2 percent loss of water weight? Read more on that here. That’s a big difference! Other side effects of dehydration include cramping, fatigue, and heat stroke. Furthermore, you can’t rely on thirst as an indicator for needing fluid. Practice race day hydration throughout your training plan. Decide whether you will carry a water bottle, rely on drink stations, or get a Camelbak. You also need to focus on replenishing sodium and sugars. These are vital to proper muscle function. To do so, you can add Nuun tablets to water, drink Gatorade, or get some GU energy gels. Don’t want a gel? Try Honey Stinger waffles.
Mistake #8: Improper fueling
Just as bad as poor hydration techniques— poor fueling techniques. Your body is like a furnace, and the longer/harder/faster you run, the more fuel you’re using up. It is imperative when racing longer distances to provide your body with an energy source. Whether that is GU, Honey Stinger, gummy bears, pretzels, or jelly beans is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is finding a fuel that agrees with your tummy during a long run. Try different fuel sources during training to figure out what works for your body.
Mistake #9: Not strengthening and stretching
Do you think elite runners stick to running for their training? No. They incorporate strengthening (like lifting weights) and stretching (like yoga or Pilates) to complement their running programs. These practices lead to a stronger, overall healthier body. Try lifting weights two days a week and doing yoga on rest days. Dynamic stretching is great for warming up pre-run, while static stretching makes for a good cool down post-run. And don’t forget your feet! You can use a J Wedge to stretch out the plantar fascia before and after running to prevent plantar fasciitis.