Whether you're new to running or have a few races under your belt, the way you run might be the reason you can't seem to shake off those lead legs. Take a look at this checklist to be sure you aren't holding yourself back with these running mistakes. Changing one of these bad habits may just be the key to your next easy, breezy run.
- You don't switch your route: Same time, same route can make for a boring workout — and stats that don't ever improve. Switching up your route will challenge different muscles, keep you motivated, and improve your running skills. Don't stick to your tried-and-true trail; find a new running route with these tips.
- You don't fuel right: You may be able to power through a short run without any food, but if you're going long, you need fuel and water. Time your run so it's two to three hours after a meal, or have a snack full of carbs and protein (like one of these pre-workout snacks) about 30 minutes to an hour before you go for a run. Don't forget to drink plenty of water well before you step out; drinking too much right before you go can cause cramps.
- You don't warm up: Starting your run at full force is not a good idea. You'll feel sluggish, tight, and discouraged if you don't warm up before that sprint. Do a light jog or five minutes of brisk walking before starting your actual run.
- You don't cool down: You came, you conquered, you're done with your run. Don't stop now, however; you still need to take a few minutes to stretch your warmed muscles to help you recover. These postrun stretches will help increase your flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.
- You don't check your form: Running may seem natural, but a few body adjustments can make a big difference, allowing you to run faster, longer, and more efficiently. Make a mental note to pay attention to your running form every once in a while; your shoulders should be relaxed and down, your arms should swing parallel to the ground (without crossing your midsection), and your head should be up and looking forward, not down. Get more tips on proper running form here.
Get five more common running mistakes here!
- You don't challenge yourself: If you want to be a better runner, you need to up your pace. Intervals and tempo runs help you increase your speed in the short term, so that in the long run, you become a faster, better runner.
- You run in the wrong gear: Sweat-soaked cotton shirts, shoes without enough support, and pants with chafing seams — all of these can cut a run short or at least make you not want to go out again. Invest in a few key pieces once you've upped your mileage; you'll be surprised by how much what you wear matters. Don't worry, we've got you — check out our list of what not to wear when running here.
- You push yourself too hard: Challenging yourself is great, but doing too much too soon is a common cause of runner burnout, not to mention injuries. Start off slow and gradually increase your pace as you get more comfortable. Remember not to ramp up your mileage too quickly; increase your total by only 10 percent every week.
- Your strides are too long: It may feel good to bound down that trail, but if you make a habit of taking too-long strides, you may tire more quickly. Shorter strides are also easier on your knees, so if you find yourself going long, shorten your steps and see if it feels better.
- You're not consistent: It's not going to get easier unless you stick with it. Try to run three times a week if you want to become a better runner; you'll be amazed at how much easier that three-miler seems after just a few weeks of running.