Friday, 11 May 2012

My running mistakes (but only some of them)

A fairly gentle lunge, not going too far

Every runner makes mistakes and I've had my fair share.   None of these are reasons on their own should put anyone off running but knowing I have some readers from the excellent C25K forum lurking, I thought I might share a few tips:

Don't stretch too far

I believe there's an art to stretching - i.e. a right and a wrong way.  I have discovered this the hard way.  In my view stretching should take place only when muscles are warm after having been used a bit.  The reason for this is that cold muscles aren't very flexible; they're taught and could be easily torn if stretched too far.

When you stretch, do it gradually and feel the point when it starts to hurt a little.  As soon as you get to that point, relax and just come back a little.  There's no point in stretching to improve flexabilty and create muscles with lots of tiny tears.  If you're doing some lunges, the above picture is probably okay for many people - enough to stretch but not too far.

I sometimes smile to myself when I see newbies in the gym.  In they come, stride up to the treadmill, a quick swig of water, one stretch lasting no more than 2 seconds and then blast off at maximum speed.  A few minutes later, all red faced and panting, they go off and find something else to do.  I want to stop and ask them if they know how many muscles there are in each leg and why you only stretch one of them, cold as well?   I can say all this because I've been there myself and another way in which I've learnt the hard way.  It does make me smile though, I can see myself there from a few years back!

Avoid increasing your mileage too quickly

There is a rule of thumb which suggests runner's should not increase their weekly mileage by more than 10%.  I think that's sensible advice but I know it is so hard, sometimes, to balance that enthusiasm and drive against the need to take it easy.  I have injured myself as a penalty here.

Falling or tripping over

I have had two significant falls in my running experience, each through tripping up over uneven ground.  It's more easily done by some people it seems (and I'm one of them!).  Remember modern running shoes have thick soles which we're not used to in everyday life, so avoid this as a reason to trip and fall.

I have also fallen over through being cold and not reacting quickly enough, running in poor light and through running over snow with ice underneath.  It's possible you can fall or trip for no obvious reason, i.e. just a background risk.

Getting lost

The great thing about running is being able to explore new areas - the urban and rural environment can be an exciting place to explore.... "where does this trail go?  What's it like on the other side of that hill, hedge etc".  It's easy to allow the miles to blur into each other, running on a kind of auto-pilot has really confused me before now.  Carry a map, recognise landmarks, look for clues, retrace steps are possible solutions if there's nobody to ask or no signposts to spot..

Running after a meal

This is probably my most common and regular mistake.  I know I run best first thing in the morning and before breakfast, with nothing inside me (apart from a cup of tea!).  Ideally I think food needs to be well digested, perhaps for two hours, before any serious running takes place.

The consequences to regret are: indigestion, feeling bloated, nauseous or sick.

That'll do for now....

....but I'll blog again as I have made plenty of other mistakes (balancing family life, wrong race strategy, not cooling down, wearing the wrong clothes and so on).

Does that help?  Any of these familiar?  Please let me know by leaving a comment below.


  1. I think that with regard to stretching, its easy to overdo it and end up feeling more sore as a result. I have found that gentle stretching benefits me more than 'Touching my toes and holding that position until the pain is unbearable' sort of thing. I used to do that,then wondered why I had trouble walking after!
    I am at work all this weekend, so later I am going on a 'Therapy run'. The emphasis is on Spiritual and emotional well-being, 11-12 minute pace,etc. That should set me up.
    Doug, I hope you got over your bit of 'Post-marathon blues'. It's all part of the game and perhaps to be expected.
    Best wishes to you and yours, 'H'.

    1. Cheers H. I'm fine now; post marathon blues only lasted for a day or so. Since then I've been too busy to be feeling "down in the dumps". Too busy even for a run but I'll fix that tomorrow morning.
      Sounds like you've got a nice gentle run lined up. How far?
      Best wishes to you too.