All too often, beginners get sidelined by disappointment after disappointment. Because there are SO many ways to go wrong when you start running. And there are too many “experts” writing confusing theoretical articles with no actionable advice.
Simply not doing the wrong thing can be the difference between success and failure.
Here are three of the most common mistakes I see beginners make with their running – whatever you do, avoid these at all costs!
1. “No Pain, No Gain.”
You’ll also hear trainers say, “if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not working hard enough.” But it’s complete rubbish.
You see, the real mantra here should be “Train, Don’t Strain.”
Because we don’t want to work hard for the sake of working hard. We want to work hard strategically in service of our goals.
But even with strategic hard work, the vast majority of your running should be easy. In fact, it should be VERY easy – especially as a beginner.
Matt Fitzgerald’s popular book 80/20 Running offers plentiful evidence that 80% of your running should be easy. But for new runners, that should be closer to 90-95% for the first few months as you build your strength and endurance.
So the next time you hear someone say “no pain, no gain” you know that not only isn’t that true for beginners, but it’s downright dangerous and misleading.
2. “Strength training is just for advanced runners”
More accurately, strength training is just for runners who want to excel and stay healthy!
The evidence that strength training supports healthy, pain-free running is conclusive. It strengthens muscles, bones, and connective tissues. It allows your legs to handle more impact forces and reduces your risk of injury.
And the best part? Strength training improves your body composition, helps you burn more fat, and leads to more efficient running (so you can run faster at the same effort!).
But too often, I see beginner training plans that recommend no strength training – or simply avoid it altogether because the coach can’t be bothered to include it in the plan.
This is misguided; the benefits are clear and as long as the strength workouts are appropriate for YOU, there’s nothing to worry about.
Actually, there are only positive things to look forward to!
3. “Fast workouts aren’t for beginner runners”
I’ve seen so many training plans for new runners that don’t have any fast workouts. They’re just straight mileage.
We talked before about the fundamentals of running and how speed is a skill. And beginners must practice this skill!
But of course, it must be done strategically (another fundamental principle). While more advanced runners can get on the track for a blistering series of 400-meter intervals, that’s not the right type of workout for new runners.
Instead, focusing on very short repetitions is much more beneficial. You get the benefits of reinforcing proper running form, increased efficiency, and better fitness with far fewer injury risks.
Plus, let’s not ignore the mental benefits of small doses of fast training: more confidence in your abilities and less anxiety about speed workouts. This helps runners be much more at ease with more challenging sessions that will come months later.
Any beginner plan that doesn’t include fast running is ignoring fundamentals – and not in the best interests of new runners.
There’s a better way to train that:
- Reduces your injury risk, while increasing your mileage
- Builds your endurance, strength, and speed
- Helps you be more consistent with running as a regular habit
- By focusing on the fundamentals, new runners will stay healthy, boost their endurance, and consistently get faster.
Not to mention… you’ll have more fun! That daily dose of endorphins is critical for a much-needed mental release. I’m sure you’re like me and start to get depressed when you don’t run…
Just by avoiding these classic beginner mistakes that we talked about today, you’ll build a stronger foundation for success. And you’ll be crossing the finish line sooner than you imagined