10 Mistakes Beginner Runners Need To Avoid

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So, you want to start running? Great choice! However, with all great choices comes the possibility of making mistakes. In this article, we drill down common mistakes you just must avoid when you start running.

What are the benefits of running?

Running is a fantastic form of cardio exercise with tonnes of benefits. It makes you fitter, encourages weight loss, improves your mood, provides a sense of adventure, can strengthen your relationships, and benefit your career to name a few. It’s no wonder millions of people run every single day, all around the world!

Consider running as an investment in yourself. Not only is it incredibly fun at the moment, it effects last long after the running is completed.

Why do people start running?

People start running for a variety of reasons, here are some of the most common:

Charity– Raising money for charity is a great reason to start running. Hundreds of thousands of running-related events take place each year in different locations, with varied race types. Signing up for a charity run means you’ll need to train for the event.

You select a charity you want to represent, sign up and raise awareness of your fundraising efforts to collect money for the charity. You can raise money in the form of sponsors where people directly give you money to collect on the charities behalf, or you can get creative and do something different like throwing a cake morning or holding a sponsored silence.

Common charity run events are marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, and fun runs (mud or obstacle inspired).

New year’s resolution– About a third of all new year’s resolutions sound to the tune of “I will exercise more in the new year, I promise.” You’ve probably made a similar resolution yourself. Whether or not you kept it though, is an entirely different matter. Don’t worry, we’ve all broken a new year’s resolution in our lives!

New years resolutions are a common reason for people to start running.
New years resolutions are a common reason for people to start running.

Why is the resolution so popular? Clearly, people aren’t getting enough exercise. It’s not the 1800s anymore where jobs tended to be handed on and physically active (blacksmiths, construction workers, deckhands, and farmers). Our jobs are becoming less active as time goes on (think desk and office jobs). More people are becoming overweight and unhealthy due to a lack of exercise.

The resolution is popular because we all know exercise is good for us. In fact, the NHS recommends adults aged ‘19-64 try to be active daily‘ with at least ‘150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity’ every week. We know exercise is good for us, even the doctors are telling us.

People make the new year’s resolution to get their minimum 150 minutes. The new year’s resolution helps promote a decent level of physical fitness.

To lose weight– We’ve all seen The Biggest Loser U.S.A, where the obese contestants are advised to run as a means of losing weight effectively. There’s a reason running was recommended as a fat loss treatment.

It’s one of the most efficient forms of cardio for weight loss. When workouts are consistent, feature high-intensity interval training, and a calorie deficit in diet, weight loss is imperative.

Of course, those choosing a running regime for weight loss should always consult their doctor or another health professional first.

For a sense of challenge– Setting a challenge, and then overcoming the challenge, is one of the greatest experiences we can have in life. No question about it. Some start running to see what they’re physically and mentally capable of.

It might with the question, “what if?” You might be watching the London or Boston marathon on TV and get inspired to join in on the fun. Maybe your life has become too routine and you want to mix it up. Perhaps you’re already a renowned sportsperson, and you fancy your hand at another sport just for the sheer test! People start running as a means of challenge.

Overcoming the challenge, you first set for yourself as a runner can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever.

As a hobby– Some run as a hobby, something to do in free time as a means of leisure. Running can be a fun and joyful activity for hobbyists, and it can also encourage the development of new skills like persevering and proper running form.

Ever spoken to someone who has a hobby like photography, building model aeroplanes, or playing the guitar? Chances are, they were very interesting to speak to.

Running as a hobby can make you a more interesting person. It can give you something to talk about when meeting someone new or with an existing relation, to keep yourself fresh and exciting.

Exploration– Exploration is defined as ‘the action of exploring an unfamiliar area.’ Going on an adventure and discovering somewhere new is incredibly exciting. Some start running because it takes them to new places.

Some people run as a means of exploration. Running can take you to new and exciting places.
Some people run as a means of exploration. Running can take you to new and exciting places.

There’s always somewhere in your local area you’ve never seen. Great, go for a run and find out what it looks like and experience running through the area. Booking an event, like a marathon or a half-marathon, in a new place (maybe another town, county, or even country if you’re feeling particularly adventurous) is the perfect excuse to get exploring.

Stress relief– Running for stress relief is a very common reason people put the running shoes on.
The 21st-century living is hard. Who can deny it? Work, bills, family responsibilities, commitments, social media, being accessible 24 hours a day via a handheld device (if you have a needy work team, you’ll know how annoying this is!).

With all the stress, pressure soon builds up. If you don’t release the pressure, you know what usually happens? You’ll probably explode in a stressful frenzy!

Without a way to relieve stress, life's problems soon build up and it's tempting to flip out like Ned Flander's famously did in The Simpsons. Running is a great form of stress relief, so you don't have to flip out like Ned.
Without a way to relieve stress, life’s problems soon build up and it’s tempting to flip out like Ned Flander’s famously did in The Simpsons. Running is a great form of stress relief, so you don’t have to flip out like Ned.

Want to see what it looks like? Watch this YouTube clip of The Simpsons, where Ned Flanders finally let’s all the annoyances and stresses out in one dramatic explosion of truth and anger.

Running is a great means to relieve all that stress. Exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. For this reason, it feels good during and after a running session.

With all the great benefits and fantastic reasons to start running, what could possibly go wrong?

A lot could possibly go wrong. Like anything worthwhile in life, a lot could go wrong.
In fact, Murphy’s law states “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” It’s annoying, but fact.

Realise that it’s okay to make mistakes

Nobody ever achieved anything worthwhile without making mistakes. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, and what you’re trying to accomplish, mistakes are part of the journey. As Ryan Holiday put it, “The Obstacle Is the Way.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” John Wooden

Started running means you will probably make mistakes. You might get injured, have poor form, procrastinate and ‘forget’ to run.

It’s fine to make mistakes, ONLY IF you learn from them

The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.” Dale Carnegie

When Gordon Ramsay moved to Paris aged 23 to master cooking from Michelin-starred chefs, he learnt from his many mistakes. That’s why he is renowned as one of the best celebrity chefs in the world.

Thomas Edison reportedly failed 100s of times when trying to invent the light bulb, famously stating each failure taught him something new which ultimately brought him closer to success. Mistakes are okay if you learn from them.

Without further ado, here are common running mistakes beginners need to avoid

1. Wrong running shoes

Shoes are the most important piece of clothing for a runner. Hands down. Proper running shoes can not only be the difference between a fast and a slow pace, they can also prevent injury and promote proper form. As a new runner, the last thing you want is to get injured wearing incorrect shoes.

The mistake

Beginners often don’t know very much about running shoes, or even that they matter. As a result, they might chuck on a pair of ancient running shoes from the bottom of the shoe cupboard or go for a run-in football trainer.
Beginner runners think “it’ll be alright, what harm could it possibly do? I’m just going for a run.”

Wearing old, or the wrong type, of running shoes, is like a golfer using a cricket bat. It won’t end well.
Old running shoes are an issue because the cushioning will be worn down, leaving your ankles exposed to the impact of hitting the pavement or trail during a run.

Whilst other sports shoes, like football trainers, are designed with some physical activity in mind they are not engineered for running long distances on a regular basis. Running shoes are specially made to withstand the impact of hitting the ground time and time again, so they are the best choice for a runner. Hands down.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Decent running shoes are vital for beginner runners.
Decent running shoes are vital for beginner runners.

Get some decent running shoes! They may cost a bit, but a good pair is one of the best investments a beginner runner can make in themselves.

Go to a running store and have an assistant evaluate your style and determine your foot type and unique shape.
With this information they can decide your running style, whether you’re an overpronator, an under-pronator or a neutral runner, then recommend appropriate shoes for you.

Don’t feel pressured into making a purchase there and then.

Take your time and find some running shoes you are happy with.
You can select and purchase your shoes in store or online if you’re comfortable the shoes are right for you.
If you want to learn more about running shoe brands click here. For the best men’s running shoes for 2018 click here.

2. Drinking too much the night before a run

The Mistake

Newbie runners often underestimate how much of an effect alcohol can have on their ability to run.

Alcohol is a diuretic, and it encourages the body to go to the toilet more. Because alcohol is a drug which poisons your body through slowing your reaction times and reducing the ability to make rational decisions, the body tries to flush it out quickly. That’s why you go to the toilet after some drinks.

Drinking too much alcohol means you will be severely dehydrated in the morning. Dehydration and exercise are not a good match. If you run dehydrated, you risk injury. lightheadedness, lack of energy, dizziness, and even fainting. It’s not pretty.

If this is you the night before a run, you're not in for a good time in the morning...
If this is you the night before a run, you’re not in for a good time in the morning…

Solve and learn from the mistake

If you plan to run in the morning, think carefully about having a drink. Yes, it’s good at the moment and you will probably enjoy having a few drinks. However, the future you will regret that decision when the alarm bell starts ringing, adding to your already painful headache.

You have two choices. Don’t drink at all or have one drink at the most (you might be different, and half a drink might be enough).

It sounds regimental and over the top, but it’s not a fun experience swaying all over the place during a 5K, trying not to throw up.

3. Slamming feet down on hills

The mistake

When starting out, it’s difficult to measure how to handle steep hill descents. Though a hill may initially look manageable, it’s easy to gain momentum and lose control once gravity takes over.

Going too fast no a hill descent means you’ll likely be slamming your feet down in an attempt to slow down. Slamming your feet down aggressively like this is a quick way to encounter an array of running related issues like shin splints and runner’s knee, to name a few.

Even worse (and more embarrassing), you could trip over and seriously injure yourself with a broken bone or cut. Ouch.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Take your time on hill descents. Even if you’re going painfully slow, that’s totally fine. Get some experience with hill descents and learn what you’re capable of. After a few times, you’ll be in a position to increase speed gently without going overboard.

It can be tempting to throw yourself down a hill to make up quick ground for a better run time. Tempting as this may seem, don’t do it. It risks injury. Take your time with hill descents.

4. Not tracking progress

Whatever we do in life, we like to know we’re getting better and aren’t just staying at the same level time and time again. When we don’t track our progress, we don’t know if we’re improving or if there’s any point carrying on. We might think ‘I’m so bad at running, why did I even start? I should just quit.’

If you’re practising an instrument, you could track progress by recording yourself a few weeks after starting then compare it to the 3-month mark. Undoubtedly the second recording will sound 10 times better because you’ve practised and honed musical skills. Hearing the difference will make you feel you’re getting better and motivate you to continue improving. However, if a musician has no way of knowing if they’re getting better they might become frustrated and quit.

Running is similar; tracking your progress will motivate you to keep running and keep getting better.

The mistake

Though this might not seem an obvious mistake to be making, not tracking progress can be an easy way for beginner runners to become discouraged and think running isn’t for them.

Solve and learn from the mistake: Track your progress with a measurable figure each time you run. Having a tangible metric to track, like time or pace per mile, means you’re not guessing how much progress you’re making. You’ll a real statistic to be tracking and analysing.

If you’re running the same route frequently then time and write down how long it takes you. After a couple of weeks, you’ll notice an improvement.

The power of a good running watch: Running watches are one of the best ways to track progress. Treat yourself to a running watch, connect it to a free stat recording app like Strava, slip it comfortably on your wrist, hit record, and away you go.

These watches record a variety of stats when you’re running, like time taken, pace per mile, elevation climb, heart rate, and location to name a few.

The data recorded is accurate and extremely detailed, so you compare this weeks’ time to last weeks’ time, and so on.

5. Not being hydrated

Water is essential for bodily processes and physical activity. Make sure you drink enough before, during, and after your run!
Water is essential for bodily processes and physical activity. Make sure you drink enough before, during, and after your run!

There’s a reason doctors bang on about the importance of drinking water. Humans are approximately 60% water and need it to function properly.

Water is used in the bodies organs, cells, and tissues to carry out bodily functions and regulate temperature. Water is essential for lubricating the joints and, most importantly, transporting vital nutrients around the body for energy and health.

The mistake: Beginner runners sometimes forget to hydrate properly which can lead to dizziness, fainting, and even throwing up.

Not being hydrated means the body can’t properly transport glucose and other energy molecules to the muscles, and you will be running on empty.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Make a habit of drinking a tall glass of water before every run. It will set your body up for physical performance, and you’ll be able to move comfortably.

Drink the glass even if you don’t particularly feel like it before setting off. When you’re halfway through a 7-mile-long run and you’re gagging for a drink, you’ll be kicking yourself for not drinking earlier.

Also, you can water up during the run with a running belt. These are waist belts you wear whilst running for storing water and anything else valuable (like keys). They’re relatively cheap and are a real life saver.

6. Forgetting your keys

Discovering you forgot the key after a strenuous run, is not a fun place to be...
Discovering you forgot the key after a strenuous run, is not a fun place to be…


The mistake: You’re feeling proud after a gruelling run. It’s a hot, sticky day, and you’ve made the effort. Well done you. You roll up to your front door visualising that heavenly, refreshing shower. You get to the front door and it clicks. Somehow, you managed to forget the key.

If you live with other people this can be solved with a quick knock on the door, and you’re in. If there’s no one in though, you’ll be sitting on the doorstep waiting for people to come back, wondering where it all went wrong.
Forgetting your keys is a frequent mishap new runner often find themselves acquainted with, and it can be avoided.

Solve and learn from the mistake

There are quite a few ways to solve forgetting your key: 

1. Place the key in your phone case. When you get to the front door simply undo the phone case, and your key will be readily available.

2. Get a running belt and put the key in one of its pockets. A belt also means you can easily carry water, energy bars and gels, a phone, and anything else of value on your runs.

3. Put your key in a safe place before you set off. This could be under a flowerpot, under the doormat, in a letterbox, or under a rock. When you return from the run, simply access the key.
Try and make sure no one sees you doing this though!

4. Give a neighbour a spare key. Some people are close to their neighbours and trust them to water their plants or turn their lights on when on holiday. If you have a trusting relationship with a neighbour, you could give them a spare key. Should you forget the key, knock on your neighbour’s door, make an embarrassing apology, get the key, and there you go. You’re in.

7. Running far too much

Starting a running regime can be exciting. You’re looking forward to achieving some of running’s many benefits like a better mood, losing weight, and increasing physical fitness. To gain these benefits quicker, you may be tempted to go overboard with your running. Maybe you want to run every day, or sometimes even twice in one day.

The mistake

Running too much when just starting out can cause issues. Physical injury is a definite risk with shin splints, tearing muscles like the hamstrings, patellofemoral pain syndrome (runners’ knees, for short) where you feel sharp knee pains every step you take.

Being injured is a huge problem. Not only are you physically unable to run, for the time being, time out for an injury can make you think running isn’t for you. You might be tempted to reconsider the running regime, with the injury-proof it’s not a sport you can get along with.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Be more chilled when you start a running regime and underestimate what you can take on, to begin with. You’re not The Flash or Mo Farah, it’s okay to take it slow at the start!

On your first few training sessions combine running with walking. If you feel it’s getting too much for you, start power walking whilst you regain stamina.

Your body needs to adapt to the demands running places on it like quicker muscle recovery. By taking it slow, you give the body all the time it needs to comfortably adapt to the new exercise regime.

8. Procrastination

The mistake

Putting running off constantly with an excuse like “I’m too tired” or “I haven’t got enough time” or “I’m watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix”, is procrastination.

Postponing or avoiding a task that needs completing, like running, means you won’t be making progress. It’s an easier route, and you might enjoy watching the TV or resting. However, you also won’t gain the numerous benefits running brings.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Have a clear reason “why” you want to run in the first place. Having a reason for running is the most powerful motivator to overcome procrastination. Whatever we do in life, having a clear reason motivating us to do it makes us much more likely to do it.

Maybe you’re running to lose weight, raise money for charity, to awaken your inner adventurer, or to have a new hobby to make life more interesting.

Your reason is unique to you. Make sure you have a reason, understand it, and use it to motivate you. Suddenly, it’s much easier to stop procrastinating and you’ll be out the door much quicker than you think.

9. An inconsistent routine

Having a routine is incredibly important. Routines make us more efficient, create structure, reduce the need to think or consciously plan our actions, save us time, and instil good habits.

The mistake

Having no routine in running can lead to issues. Knowing that you’re just going to run today, without a routine in place to make it likely you will run, is a problem.

Without a routine you must decide when and where to run, consciously select clothing to run in, determine how far you’ll run, the type of work out (tempo interval run or a casual jog etc.), and so on.

Each conscious decision you have to make reduces willpower and motivation. Soon, it’ll be easy to feel like not going for a run today and postpone it for another time.

Solve and learn from the mistake

Automate your routine as much as possible and have a consistent daily routine. Reducing the number of conscious decisions, you have to make means you can focus on just the running.

Have a set time to run, it could be the morning or the night. Choose a time and stick to it. No need to think or deliberate what time with yourself.

Lay out your clothes the night before and simply jump into them. No reason to spend 10 minutes looking through your wardrobe, the decisions have already been made.

Have a running plan and stick to each day strictly. You won’t have to decide how far and how intense the workout will be, there’ll be a plan telling you what to do.

Automating your daily routine is a great way to achieve consistency and stability, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

10. Poor form

The mistake: Not running with proper technique is an issue, as it often means energy is wasted and injury is much more likely.

Solve and learn from the mistake:

Posture– This is instrumental in a successful 5K. Common amongst runner who sits at a desk all day or those who may drive is the ‘sitting’ running style. This is where the hips seem to ‘sit down’ into the running stride, meaning energy is directed to the ground. Stand tall and lean forward from the ankles.

Head position– When your running, keep your chin down a little bit but don’t look at the floor. Imagine there’s a string going through your body, keeping you centred. Look where you’re going and try not to look behind you. Keeping the head nice and still means a relaxed, focused and steady 5K run.

Feet– Try landing within the midfoot and the ball of your feet, so the shock of hitting the floor is reduced and distributed evenly. This way, you can establish a steady rhythm and work smoothly throughout the race. If you strike the floor with your heel first, your ankles are coming up against lots of pressure. Not only can this be painful and lead to injury, it can lead to a slower 5K.

Stride length– Make sure your foot isn’t landing with your foot ahead of the knee, try and make it land underneath the knee as it flexes out for the next stride.
Make the stride length flow, with the foot landing slightly in front of you with the knee flexing over the top.

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