10 Things Runners Should Try to Avoid

10 things runners should avoid to improve their training and racing

Most of us can relate to having a never-ending, overwhelming to-do list, either for work, around the house or just you list of daily errands and must-do tasks. But let’s look at running from a different perspective—what are some things that you should avoid doing as a runner?

Learn to focus on the parts of your training that really matter by avoiding the following things. Keep these 10 tips in mind as you plan out your training, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and successful season of racing!

1. Only running

Running is our beloved activity of choice, plain and simple. But running is also a repetitive activity that can be hard on a body that’s unprepared to pound the pavement.  If you’re not supplementing your running with strength and mobility work, you’re missing out.

Ideally, every run should be sandwiched between a dynamic warm-up and a post-run strength routine. This takes less time than you might expect. Five minutes pre-run and 15 minutes afterward can make you stronger and more resilient, and you’ll feel better and run more efficiently. Your core, hips and glutes are all ideal places to target since they are often weak in runners.

2. Running too hard on your easy days

Running fast and pushing yourself to the limit can feel amazing. Hard workouts will make you a better runner when they are part of a strategic training plan, but your training also needs to include easy runs so your body has a chance to recover. Running too fast, too often can put you at risk of injury.

If you are constantly running in the gray zone—floating somewhere between hard and easy—you won’t be able to able to recover and your improvement will stagnate. Let go of any attachment you have to pace on your easy days and just run slowly and comfortably. Your body will thank you for it!

3. Always staying in your comfort zone

The flip side of always running too hard is never pushing yourself. While there are times when this is appropriate, especially in the recovery period after a race, training should regularly challenge you.

Whether it’s a tempo run, track session or long run, growth comes from pushing outside your comfort zone. Again, a well-structured training plan will help you achieve this sort of growth, whereas a haphazard collection of workouts will leave you either frustrated or injured.

4. Repetition

 Running is repetitive by nature, so it’s essential to reduce this by adding variety to your routine. Three easy ways to make your running less repetitious (and reduce your injury risk) include the following:

  • – Rotate between at least two pairs of running shoes every week.
  • – Vary your pace with easy running and hard workouts.
  • – Run on a variety of terrain, including trails and hills.

There are many other options, of course. You can train for different types of races or implement drills into your training. Choose one or two that appeal to you and build from there!

5. Being too reliant on technology

GPS watches, heart rate monitors, power meters—it seems you can track, compare and analyze just about every aspect of your running these days. While some of that can be beneficial, there are plenty of times when it’s best to “run naked”—without a technological device tracking your every move.

Leaving your technology at home teaches you to run by feel. This is an essential skill to hone in practice so you learn how to pace yourself appropriately in races. Recovery runs are a perfect time for this, but learning how to run marathon-pace workouts and tempos by feel is also beneficial.

6. Fad training

It’s easy to get excited about every new workout, diet, training approach or gadget. And it’s tempting to think that maybe this is the workout that will get you to that shiny new PR! But proceed with caution—workouts need to be strategically placed in a training plan or else they may do more harm than good.

A well-planned season includes workouts that are geared toward your goals. Random workouts that look good on paper may not be appropriate for your current ability, goals or schedule. Make sure your workouts follow a consistent, progressive structure to help you reach your goal.

7. Taking training too seriously

As seriously as you may take your training, it’s important to remember that you probably started running because you enjoyed it!  While it’s admirable to be goal-focused and pour yourself into running, it’s also essential to keep it enjoyable.

Give yourself appropriate breaks from hard training, and allow yourself to run just for the fun of it on occasion. Run with a friend or explore a new trail without any pre-determined goals, and allow yourself to enjoy the experience.

8. Racing too frequently

Once we finally get through the winter doldrums and into warmer weather, there seems to be a race nearly every weekend. It’s tempting to race frequently, but racing too hard and too often can derail your training.

Just like workouts, races need to be strategically placed in your training schedule. While there’s no harm in jumping into a race occasionally for the fun of it, try to avoid pushing yourself to the limit too frequently.

9. Trying something new on race day

This is probably the oldest lesson out there, but it still bears repeating: Don’t do anything new on race day!

Trying out a new gel or sports drink on your marathon course could cause stomach distress and ruin your race. A new pair of shoes might give you a blister or a change in your gait. A new pacing strategy might not work very well for you.

Always use your training runs to break in new gear, and practice your nutrition plan on your long runs. And never assume a race will have the exact gels or drinks that you need—better to be over-prepared and pack your own!

10. Inflexibility in your racing plan

While you may have a plan for your “perfect” race-day strategy, it’s also important to think about what you’ll do if things go wrong. While no one wants to assume the worst, you need to know how you’ll respond to unexpected challenges on the race course. For example, what if it’s suddenly much windier or warmer than expected? Or what if you accidentally come through the 10K split 2 minutes too fast? Or what if you need to use the bathroom and there’s a line at the 5K Porta Potties? Practice visualizing how you’ll respond to anything from changing weather conditions to falling off pace, and you’ll get to the starting line prepared and confident.

Jason Fitzgerald

Jason Fitzgerald is a 2:39 marathoner and the USATF-certified coach behind Strength Running, an award-winning blog and podcast that helps runners set personal bests. His work has appeared in Runner’s World, The Washington Post, Health Magazine and many other major media publications. Follow his work on Twitter at @JasonFitz1 and at StrengthRunning.com.