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Common Running Mistakes And How To Fix Them

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Common Running Mistakes

Not just heel strike and irregular breathing, wrong terrain and the time of running also lead to injuries. Starting and ending the session abruptly without warm-up and cool down are major errors besides consuming fibrous or spicy food or too little water before running. Add to that, shoes sans the right cushioning and cotton clothes that do not let moisture escape. Running with injuries is no less harmful.

The beauty of running as a sport or an exercise lies in its simplicity. Neither does it require fancy equipment nor does it call for a special practice location. It can be done by anyone, anytime. However, do not let that simplicity make you undermine the importance of “running right”. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced marathoner, you should understand that even simple mistakes you make while running can have lasting negative effects on your body. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

Common Running Mistakes

Start At Lightning Speed Without Warming Up

This is one of the main mistakes that overzealous newbie runners make. They set out at a breakneck speed without caring to get their bodies ready for the run. Starting off too fast can be a recipe for disaster as it puts you at a high risk of pulling a muscle or tweaking a tendon, bone, or joint. A good warm-up regimen gives your body the chance to loosen up and energizes it by slowly increasing the heart rate. It then becomes easier for your body to get into the rhythm of running.

Warm Up With Stretching And Agility Drills

According to a 2012 study published in the BMC Medical Journal, “a practical neuromuscular warm-up strategy that includes stretching, strengthening, balance exercises, sports-specific agility drills and landing techniques can reduce lower extremity injury in athletes.”1 So, the next time you decide to go for a run, start out with a few butt kicks, high knees, lunges, and leg swings.

No Cool Downs After Running

As important as warming up your body is the act of cooling it down after an intense run. After a strenuous physical activity like running, your heart rate is higher than normal and so is your body temperature. The blood vessels in your legs have expanded, causing increased blood flow to your legs and feet. Stopping abruptly at such a point could cause dizziness and, in extreme cases, even make you pass out. To help your body return to a resting state, flush out toxins from your system, and maintain healthy muscle function, it is important to cool down the right way.

Slow Down Into A Jog Or A Walk

Dial your speed down while running and come to a gradual stop. Walking or jogging for the next five minutes can also lower your heart rate gradually. The American Heart Association advises runners to walk for five minutes post their run until their heart rate gets below 120 beats per minute.2 Following this up with strong stretches will help cool down your body faster. Stretching after a run can also help reduce lactic acid build-up, which is what leads to muscle cramps and stiffness.

Wrong Foot Strike

Foot strike refers to how and which part of your foot touches the ground while running. There is a clear difference between the effect heel striking, midfoot striking, and forefoot striking have on your feet, legs, and body.

According to a Harvard University study, of 52 runners, 74 percent were found to have experienced a moderate or severe injury every year, but those who landed on their heel were found to have approximately twice the rate of repetitive stress injuries than those who landed on their forefoot.3

Avoid Heel Strike

From Chris McDougall’s Born To Run to numerous research papers, heel striking has been listed as a sign of bad running form. Most coaches and studies advice shifting to forefoot or midfoot strike to protect the feet and lower limbs from impact-related injuries.4

Not Breathing Properly

Irregular or bad breathing patterns while running can lead to an imbalance in the amount of oxygen in your body. This can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and sometimes even side-stitch, the stabbing pain you feel on the tip of your shoulder blade or the right side of the body during vigorous activity. Studies have found that improper breathing techniques can slow you down and impair your overall performance while running.5

Practice Belly Breathing And Coordinate Your Foot Strike To It

The debate on the best way to breathe while running is still ongoing, with studies comparing nasal and oral breathing not showing conclusive results. However, a large number of experts today seem to have reached a consensus on the importance of belly or diaphragmatic breathing, which allows the lungs to take in more oxygen and expel more carbon dioxide.

After having mastered the right breathing technique, the next important thing is to achieve a breathing pattern or rhythm. For best results, try and coordinate your foot strike with inhalation and exhalation in an odd-even pattern so that you will land alternately on your right and left foot at the beginning of every exhalation. In this way, the impact of running will be spread out equally across both sides of the body and thus reduce injuries.

Not Wearing The Right Clothes Or Fabric

Not wearing the right clothes while running not just affects your comfort but can also hamper your performance. You could end up with blisters or suffer from chafing if you wear the wrong outfit or wrong fabric while you run. The right running attire must be one that is light, keeps away sweat, helps the body regulate its temperature, and provides overall comfort.

Wear Nylon Or Technical Fabrics, Avoid Cotton

Avoid cotton clothes and socks as they hold on to moisture and don’t let your body regulate temperature well. A study conducted among 35 long-distance runners found that socks made of 100 percent natural cotton fiber were associated with a greater number of blisters compared with acrylic socks.6

Seasoned runners often recommend clothes made from synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, or Lycra as they are designed to move moisture away from the skin and let the air flow smoothly into it. Thanks to the many “technical” fabrics specially designed for runners with options to suit different temperatures, it is now easier to make a choice.

Not Wearing The Right Shoes

The three main reasons you should invest in a good pair of running shoes are protection, support, and cushioning. Not wearing the right shoes can lead to injuries, affect your running form, and weaken your feet. Studies have shown that plantar fasciitis or the inflammation of the plantar fascia, the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes, can be caused by wrong running shoes.7 Another 2012 Harvard study also suggests that shoes that don’t absorb the shock of heel strike can also increase injury rates in track and cross-country runners.8

Choose Shoes As Per The Terrain And Your Running Style

Keep in mind your running style and the terrain you will be running on when you shop for shoes. Make sure they are light and flexible and have enough cushioning to protect your feet during heavy, repeated strides on hard surfaces.

Running On The Wrong Terrain

Some runners who are used to running on the treadmill get too ambitious too soon and head on to try their luck on pavements. What they do not pay attention to is the fact that pavements can be hard, unforgiving surfaces. This suddenly switching of terrain can shock your muscles and joints and is an open invitation to injury.

Running on a slanted road increases the risk of injury because of gait asymmetry or the lack of balance in the style of running.9

Uneven surfaces are also not the best for runners. A study of 1,680 participants found that 33 percent of those injured in the previous year could attribute their injuries to running on surfaces that weren’t smooth.10

Start With Grass, Then Move To Asphalt

Choose a low-impact surface like grass or a synthetic surface when you begin running. Slowly graduate to a hard surface like asphalt and then to concrete. Keep changing the surface to work different muscles.

Choosing The Wrong Time To Run

Just because your friend or colleague likes to run in the morning and feels refreshed after their early run, it need not be the same for you. Every person’s body is governed by a unique circadian rhythm. So if you are not used to getting up early, you shouldn’t force yourself to run in the morning. Your body may be just recovering from your disturbed sleep patterns, and this would affect your body temperature and blood pressure, making you more vulnerable to injuries.

Run In The Late Afternoon Or Early Evening

Studies have found that late-afternoon runs are best in terms of endurance, reaction time, and strength. It is around this time that the ratio of testosterone and cortisol levels in the body is optimum for performance, with less cortisol than testosterone, which helps in destructive metabolism or fat burning.11

Even evenings are a good time to run as your body is warmed up and the temperature and energy levels are optimum for a good sprint. A study conducted on cyclists showed that increased core temperature in the evening ensures that the blood vessels are dilated, thereby ensuring a better supply of nutrients and oxygen to the muscles and helping release more energy.12

Not Eating The Right Food

Many studies have found that running without fueling your body with enough food can lead to exhaustion and faster burnout as the body eats into its protein reserves because of the absence of fats and carbs.13 So take care to eat the right food before you set out for a run.

Eat Proteins And Simple Carbs

Avoid high-fiber food as eating them before running can cause gas or diarrhea. Also avoid fried food, caffeinated drinks, and spicy food as these may cause digestion problems if consumed right before a run. Instead, stock up on simple carbs and protein-rich food like hummus and carrot sticks, cashews, cereal, or whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Despite being one of the most crucial things needed for a good run, being hydrated is not given enough importance. Water is key to keeping your blood flowing easily to your organs. It transports oxygen to every organ in your body and contains sodium, which is necessary for a number of body functions.

Not having enough water in your system while you run will make your blood thicker and make it harder for your heart to pump it out to different parts of the body. Being dehydrated can even lead to near-fatal conditions like heat stroke, which is the most important cause of collapse during aerobic exercises like running, or even renal failure.14

Professional runners most often track and monitor their hydration status through their runs. According to a study of nearly 300 half-marathon runners, 70 percent reported having experienced one or more incidents in which they believed dehydration resulted in a major performance decrement, and 45 percent perceived that dehydration resulted in adverse health effects.15

Drink 5–12 Oz Water Every 15 Mins During A Marathon

As you are sweating and losing sodium from your body continuously, it is important to keep replenishing it with drinking liquid regularly. If you are running long distance, especially a marathon, drink about 5–12 ounces of water every 15 or 20 minutes during the run. But don’t drink too much to avoid lowering the sodium levels in blood.

Running With Injury

On most days, you can believe in the saying “there is no gain without pain,” but not while running. Running with severe injuries like a twisted ankle, runner’s knee, and back injuries will only worsen the condition, wreak havoc with your system and lead to further injuries. The thumb rule here is, if it hurts, you are not doing it right.

Slow Down, Pause, And Stretch If It Hurts

As a runner, you will grow to identify the signs of pain your body gives you. When your legs feel heavy, you know that it could be due to lactic acid build-up. When your legs feel numb, you can point out that it’s a circulation problem. In such cases, it is best to stop and stretch, experiment running on different surfaces, check your shoes or shoelaces, or just slow down your pace and see if it makes a difference.

So starting from breathing to the food you eat, the time you run, and the clothes you wear, many factors determine if running is, indeed, doing your body more good than harm. Beware of the common mistakes and correct your style to achieve your best performance.

References   [ + ]

1. Herman, Katherine, Christian Barton, Peter Malliaras, and Dylan Morrissey. “The effectiveness of neuromuscular warm-up strategies, that require no additional equipment, for preventing lower limb injuries during sports participation: a systematic review.” BMC medicine 10, no. 1 (2012): 1.
2. Warm Up, Cool Down. American Heart Association.
3. Daoud, Adam I., Gary J. Geissler, Frank Wang, Jason Saretsky, Yahya A. Daoud, and Daniel E. Lieberman. “Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 44, no. 7 (2012): 1325-34.
4. Lieberman, Daniel E., Madhusudhan Venkadesan, William A. Werbel, Adam I. Daoud, Susan D’Andrea, Irene S. Davis, Robert Ojiambo Mang’Eni, and Yannis Pitsiladis. “Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners.” Nature 463, no. 7280 (2010): 531-535.
5. Willcockson, Michael A., and Cara M. Wall-Scheffler. “Reconsidering the effects of respiratory constraints on the optimal running speed.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 44, no. 7 (2012): 1344-50.
6. Herring, Kirk M., and Douglas H. Richie Jr. “Friction blisters and sock fiber composition. A double-blind study.” Journal of the American podiatric medical association 80, no. 2 (1990): 63-71.
7. Warren, Barbara L. “Plantar fasciitis in runners.” Sports Medicine 10, no. 5 (1990): 338-345.
8. Where runners go wrong. Harvard Gazette.
9. McGrath, Alicia C., and Caroline F. Finch. Running the race against injuries: A review of the literature. Monash University Accident Research Centre, 1996.
10. Walter, Stephen D., L. E. Hart, John M. McIntosh, and John R. Sutton. “The Ontario cohort study of running-related injuries.” Archives of internal medicine 149, no. 11 (1989): 2561-2564.
11. Hloogeveen, A. R., and M. L. Zonderland. “Relationships between testosterone, cortisol and performance in professional cyclists.” International journal of sports medicine 17, no. 06 (1996): 423-428.
12. Fernandes, Alan Lins, João Paulo Lopes-Silva, Rômulo Bertuzzi, Dulce Elena Casarini, Danielle Yuri Arita, David John Bishop, and Adriano Eduardo Lima-Silva. “Effect of time of day on performance, hormonal and metabolic response during a 1000-M cycling time trial.” PloS one 9, no. 10 (2014): e109954.
13. Blomstrand, Eva, and Bengt Saltin. “Effect of muscle glycogen on glucose, lactate and amino acid metabolism during exercise and recovery in human subjects.” The Journal of Physiology 514, no. 1 (1999): 293-302.
14. Noakes, Timothy David. “Dehydration During Exercise: What Are the Real Dangers?.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 5, no. 2 (1995): 123-128.
15. O’Neal, Eric K., Jonathan E. Wingo, Mark T. Richardson, James D. Leeper, Yasmine H. Neggers, and Phil A. Bishop. “Half-marathon and full-marathon runners’ hydration practices and perceptions.” Journal of athletic training 46, no. 6 (2011): 581-591.