Are you unintentionally sabotaging your next running personal record? When you feel like you are working hard but not seeing the results you desire, take a closer look to see if you are undermining your training with any of these common saboteurs.
Working hard is important, but so is working smart! Be sure you are not making any of these ten common training mistakes. New and experienced runners both can fall into these traps that can stall progress.
NOT BEING CONSISTENT
If you want to be a better, faster, and stronger runner, you have to put in the work. Regularly skipping workouts or taking extended unscheduled time off can hurt your progress and performance. If you’re not currently consistent, the number one action you can take to earn a new PR is to improve your consistency within your training plan.
RUNNING WITHOUT PURPOSE
Every run should have a purpose.
What are you trying to accomplish today?
What energy system are you utilizing?
What are you trying to improve?
Training runs to improve endurance or recovery look a lot different than training runs to improve stamina or speed.
Runners who hit the road each day without a plan or purpose are not making the most of their training and may be wasting time and energy.
If you don’t know why you’re running beyond getting in the miles, then there’s room for improvement to reach your next PR.
FOLLOWING A GENERIC RUNNING SCHEDULE
The internet is full of generic running plans (I’ve even posted a few). Generic running schedules are fine for a starting point, but they don’t take in your abilities, genetics, and experience into account. When you’re working without a coach, you have to adapt the plan to your abilities.
A personalized running plan is built around the runner’s capacity to adapt and recover. I design a training program with the individual runners' preferences and experience in mind.
If you follow a general plan, the running volume and intensity could be too high or too low for your abilities, the recovery periods may not be enough, or the types of workouts may not be suited for your genetic traits and potential.
A well thought-out plan is more than adding the number of miles each week to a calendar; the individual runner must be considered.
RUNNING TOO FAST TOO OFTEN
A big mistake I see runners make is that hit the road at a tempo pace (comfortably hard) every day. They huff and puff through their run, only to do it again the next day. Most of your runs should be at a conversational pace. You should be able to have a chat with your running partner without taking large gasps of breath between words or sentences. There is a time and place for tempo and speed training runs, but it’s not every run.
Are you running too fast on daily runs? Don’t consult your GPS watch for pace; try to sing the alphabet out loud (your neighbors won’t mind). If you can’t sing without gasping for breath between letters you are running too fast on your daily runs.
Slow down for most of your runs, except when the purpose of your run is to train to improve your speed or stamina which should be once or twice a week for most athletes.
Running fast more often rarely leads to a PR, it more often leads to overtraining or injury.
RUNNING FASTER THAN YOUR CURRENT FITNESS LEVEL
If you want to train to run faster, it’s essential to follow the specific paces that align with your fitness level, based on current race paces. You can’t just to decide to run faster ahead of your abilities. Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments have not been conditioned to handle the additional stress of those faster paces yet.
It is important not to follow arbitrary paces found in training plans on the internet. A nine-minute mile could be a tempo pace for one runner, a speed pace for another runner and a recovery pace for a third.
You can consult a running calculator to determine the paces that are appropriate based on your current race times. Even if you feel like you could go faster, it’s not better to run faster than the training dictates.
When you run outside the speed that you’re targeting, you won’t reap the full benefit and purpose of the workout, and you’ll risk an injury.
RUNNING THE SAME PACE ALL THE TIME
Running the same pace all the time won’t give you the stimulus you need to improve. Our bodies adapt to our workouts. That’s why it once felt hard to run a 5K, but now you can run a half marathon.
Your weekly runs should include a variety of paces: Some training runs are at a pace that feels slow, and some are faster workouts at specific speeds based on your fitness ability. A smart plan for a new PR has training runs of various paces designed to evoke specific physiological responses.
NOT ALLOWING ENOUGH RECOVERY
Think of it like this: The better you recover, the harder you can train. Your body adapts and improves (gets stronger and faster) during the rest period after the workout, not during the exercise itself. If you don’t allow the proper recovery between workouts, then you won’t see improvements from your training. Restoration includes full rest days and easy runs (slower than you think) between hard or long workouts.
Runners who continue to push month after month, year after year without proper recovery between workouts will eventually burn-out or get injured, a major PR killer!
NOT PRIORITIZING SLEEP
A lot of your recovery processes happen while you sleep. If you cut your sleep short, less than seven hours per night, your recovery will suffer, and therefore your performance.
If you want to become a better athlete, and hit new PRs, be sure to prioritize sleep to improve performance, an often overlooked hack to improve running and fitness.
NOT EATING FOR PERFORMANCE
What you eat directly affects your running performance. Eat crap, and you’ll likely feel and run like crap! If you don’t eat enough your training will suffer. A balanced diet of high quality, whole-food protein, carbohydrates, and fats will yield the best running performances.
There may be some controversy as to what diet or macronutrient split is best for performance and fat loss, but only you know how your body responds to the foods you eat. If you feel bloated and sluggish on higher carbs, then reduce carbs and increase healthy fats and see if your symptoms and performance improves.
If you feel low energy on low carbs (like me), then increase healthy carbs and reduce fats. It’s all about how you respond. Keep the quality of your food high by avoiding most processed foods most of the time, then listen to how your body reacts to what you feed it, and adjust as necessary.
No one diet works for the entire population. Figure out what works for you.
SKIPPING STRENGTH TRAINING
Runners that strength train are stronger, faster and less injury-prone than runners who skip it. Runner-specific strength training improves power, balance, strength, and stability, all essential for a strong runner. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym each day, find 20-30 minutes every other day for runner-specific strength training to improve your performance as you work towards your next PR.
(BONUS) NOT BELIEVING YOU CAN
I know this is #11, but it’s important. Often our biggest obstacle is between our ears. Set goals, believe you can, do the work, and you’ll be successful. Progress is rarely linear. Accept that through the training cycle there will be ups and downs, good days and bad days, progress and setbacks. Some days will feel comfortable and effortless, and others will leave you wondering if you’re cut out for it. This feeling is normal!
Remember why you started. Keep moving forward to the best of your ability with a positive mindset, and you’ll go far. Giving up will surely sabotage your next running PR.
Have questions? I’d love to help. Contact me for my current coaching availability. I offer personal training and run coaching in Fort Worth and online run coaching.
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