Woman running.

Photo: Pexels

Five of the most common mistakes that beginner runners make

Have you decided to start running? We looked at five of the most common mistakes that beginner runners make when they take up running.

Woman running.

Photo: Pexels

Are you a beginner runner? I am. The most I have ever run is ten kilometres and that was about eight years ago. Recently I decided that I wanted to start running again.

As any “newbie” I made a lot of mistakes when I started running. Here are some of the mistakes I made and how to dust your shoes off and get back on the road.

I consider myself fit and I can run five kilometres pretty comfortably but I have never trained to run long distance. So, of course, I decided that the first race I am going to train for and attempt to finish is a 21-kilometre trail race.

It was late at night and I was feeling like a useless human with no fitness goals so I went for it and signed up. I think this was my first mistake of many to come.

I believe that because running seems so simple and a pretty natural thing for our bodies to be able to do, we take it for granted that it does, in fact, come with some “rules” and it can become easy to make mistakes along our path to the finish line.

As I researched things like a heel to toe drop, training plans and how to carbo-load for race day I realised it is not as easy as just going out and pounding the pavement in the hopes of getting fitter and faster. 

Here are five of the most common mistakes that beginner runners make.

Racking up the kilometres before you are ready

In order to stay injury-free and minimize the chance of burnout, the trick is to build your distances gradually. 

A slow and steady build-up allows your body to become accustomed to the new stressors placed on it. Your cardiovascular system adapts far quicker than your joints and ligaments, they will need time to catch up with your new-found fitness. 

The recommendation from Runners World is to increase your long run by one to two kilometres week. 

starting running
Photo: Unsplash

Too hot to trot

You are feeling really strong and bolt out the gates for your long run at a much faster pace than advised. 

And then you crash and burn and those last few kilometres have you questioning your decision to sign up for that race you are training for. 

Been there, done that. 

For every second that you over pace yourself in the first one to two kilometres, you could lose almost double the amount of time when you burn out in the second half of your run. 

Plan to run the first kilometre of your run slower than your last.

Not enough rest

Building on the advice above, it’s important for those who start running to remember that “rest days are training days too.”

In our excitement of starting a new sport and our desire to reach our goals, it can be easy for a newbie to focus on the idea that running more will get them fitter and faster quicker. 

“Running places a lot of stress on the body, triggering inflammation and micro tears that need time to heal. Without it, you may end up losing ground rather than gaining it.”


Running and only running

Cross-training can do wonders for you running.

It gives your joints and muscles a break whilst helping you build strength and fitness using different muscle groups.

Plus it helps keep boredom at bay.

Weight training can help build speed and power and promotes coordination and stride efficiency. 

Planks, deadlifts and lunges are just three accessory exercises you can add to your program that will help your running.

The wrong equipment

Running is one of the cheapest forms of exercise. All you really need is a good pair of shoes, so then why do we tend to get it so wrong when we first start off?

We either get very gung ho and wind up with camelbacks, GPRS watches and heart rate monitors. Then we purchase the fanciest minimalist running shoes and the latest moisture-wicking, thermal underwear.

Or we dig around in our cupboard and dust off the pair of running shoes we got 5 years ago. 

All you need to do is make sure you have a good pair of shoes which has been selected based on your running style and foot type. 

A salesperson at a reputable running speciality store will be able to guide you based on whether you are an overpronator, under pronator, or neutral runner.

Secondly, once you do start running longer distances make sure you get the right clothing. Not only for style points and comfort but to eliminate things like nipple chafe. 

Lace-up and go

Whether you have started running for fun, your health or to compete in a race try to avoid these common pitfalls so your running career can be a long, injury-free and fun one. 

Finally, our last piece of advice? Have fun and enjoy those runners highs.