When I started running, I knew nothing except how to tie my shoes and put one foot in front of the other. And to be honest, I could barely do that. Finishing one lap around the track was truly a struggle for me. I was a total newbie in every single way, but I decided that I would just get started and figure it out along way.
And that approach is fine. I’m still here. I’ve finished 2 full marathons and I’m currently training for my 8th half marathon. But if I could do it all over again, there are maybe just a few things I wish I had known about before I got started. A few simple tips like the ones I’m about to share probably could’ve helped me avoid some mistakes, like developing super painful shin splints and sometimes feeling frustrated with my training.
If you’re a new runner or you’re thinking about getting started, these tips can help you jumpstart the process and avoid some of the unnecessary obstacles that pop up because of mistakes that are simple, but not oh-so-obvious to new runners.
5 Mistakes New Runners Should Avoid
Mistake 1: Overthinking Sneakers
Yes, a good pair of running shoes is definitely important if you want to step up your running game. And yes, there are a lot of choices and opinions out there when it comes to running shoes. But if you’re a recreational runner and you’re simply here to have some fun, get more active, and run a few races here and there, it’s probably not necessary to spend a ton of time figuring out what sneaker to buy, or a ton of money on the latest and greatest pair.
In my own experience, if it feels comfortable for you to run in, then it’s probably a good shoe for you. For example, if you’re running in an old pair of gym shoes or sneakers that you just feel aren’t comfortable, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a new pair. But if you have a relatively new set of sneakers that you’re perfectly content running in, then you’ll probably be just fine sticking with them.
I have a detailed guide that can walk you through picking out a running shoe that’s right for you, but if you want the abbreviated version, it’s almost as simple as heading to any store that sells sneakers, trying on and running in (testing them out by running in them is the most important part!) a few different pairs, and choosing the ones that feel most comfortable to you.
I’ve run in many different sneakers of all different brands over the years and while there have been one or two pairs that were really just not right for me, I’ve found that most have worked just fine. So don’t overthink it too much, just pick a pair that’s comfy and get out there!
Mistake 2: Skipping the Warm Up
I’ll be honest, I’m still guilty of this mistake, even 7 years into my running career. I get it as good as anyone else, when you’re trying to fit your running workout into your busy schedule, 5-10 more minutes for warming up sounds like an unnecessary inconvenience. But trust me, if you really want to enjoy your run to the fullest, it’s worth it.
If I don’t warm up, sometimes it takes me a full 1 or 2 miles to feel comfortable and like I’m not slogging through quicksand. When I feel like that at the beginning of a run I spend those miles complaining to myself and dreading the rest of the workout instead of just enjoying the fact that I get to run — which is the ultimate goal, right? But if I spend even just 5 minutes warming up before a run, I can usually avoid those “quicksand miles” and start from the beginning feeling as best I can.
New runners, jumpstart your #running goals + avoid unnecessary obstacles with these 5 simple tips
I’m not saying that warming up is going to make every run an incredible run. We will all have workouts that are physically and mentally tough from start to finish, that’s an inevitable part of the sport. But most times it definitely does help, and it can also help with injury prevention.
Oh, and warming up should include dynamic stretches that will get some blood flowing to your muscles and loosen up your joints — not static stretches. Stretching is better for after your workout.
Mistake 3: Training Without Progression
Once you’ve been running for a little while, you’ll become more confident in your abilities, and if you really end up loving it, you’re going to want to start running faster and tackling longer distances. That’s great! But don’t do it before you’re ready.
Any good running coach with tell you that doing too much, too soon is one of the most common mistakes made by runners of every level. Heck, I’ll admit that I’ve made this mistake myself at least a few times in the past. What’s important to remember is that if you want to succeed at running, the smartest thing you can do is start at a training level that’s appropriate and comfortable for your current level of fitness and from there, steadily work your way up. Taking breaks and reevaluating where needed.
As a general rule of thumb, new runners should keep their program the same for 3 to 4 weeks at a time. If you have a little more experience with running, most coaches say you can safely increase your mileage by about 10% each week. But overall, the amount you should advance your routine depends on how much you’re already running.
Mistake 4: Not Enough Recovery
Enthusiasm for running is great! If you do this right, you’ll end up feeling like you want to run every day and you’ll begin to understand why so many runners say they’re sanity depends on being able to run. But in general, running every single day isn’t such a great idea. Our muscles need time to recover after a workout, especially when running is new to our bodies.
To get super technical, exercising (e.g., running) causes microscopic tears in our muscles while they work. Rest allows the damaged muscle tissue to repair itself. But if you don’t allow for enough “repair” time between workouts your muscles won’t be able to get stronger, and worse, you could get injured. I’ve written a lot about the importance of rest and recovery in the past because this is another lesson that I’ve personally had to learn the hard way a number of times.
The bottom line: make sure you’re taking enough time between your workouts and, even more importantly, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to skip a planned workout rather than doing it just for the sake of getting it done only to find out that that tiny ache you felt yesterday now feels 10 times worse. One or two rest days to allow your body some extra time to recover is way better than having to sit out for weeks at a time because you overdid it.
P.S. Remember that racing is more stressful on your body than training, so plan for some time off after you exert that extra effort and cross the finish line.
Mistake 5: Expecting Immediate Change
This you probably already know, but it’s worth repeating because once you start running, it’s likely that you’ll get super excited. You’ll want to run all the races and collect all the medals, but if you have your sights set on that next milestone race distance or something even bigger like the Boston Marathon, don’t forget that you can’t get there without putting in the work.
For all the endorphins it gives us, running can also be pretty frustrating because progress certainly takes time. So remember to be patient and consistent with your training. Take each workout one step at a time and eventually you’ll reach the finish line (literal and figurative) with a smile on your face.
If you’re a new runner, what has been your biggest challenge with getting started? If you’ve been running a while, what other advice would you give to those who are just starting out? Leave your thoughts in the comments!