Bad habits. We’ve all got ‘em, but there are several particularly rampant among distance runners, all of which can stand in the way of your personal running goals. Read on and see if you are guilty of any (or all!) of these missteps, then begin working to break these detrimental habits!
The Self-Medicator The self-medicator is invincible, or at least thinks he is. Sore foot? Ice it. Shooting pain in the shins? Ibuprofen should do the trick. Exhausted? Red Bull! Unfortunately, most running-related pain isn’t that simple, and believing that it is often results in severe injuries, such as stress fractures, or mental and physical burnout. The best thing you can do when aches and pains spring up is to play it safe – see a doctor, a physical therapist, someone who can get to the root of the problem and put you back on track.
The Dawdler The Dawdler likes to rest, and likes to do it during a run. Recovery during a workout is one thing, but taking 10 minute water breaks during the course of a long run (or any run) is flat-out counterproductive! Even beginners should make an effort to run-walk, not run-stop. Such a long break in the middle of a run will trick your body into thinking that it’s quitting time, making it tough to get going again and certainly not helping to increase your endurance levels. When you see a water stop, go straight for a cup, down a few sips and be on your way – save the resting for after the run!
The Overachiever On the other side of the coin, this type of runner aspires to train the hardest, run the furthest, finish the fastest and rest the least. Contrary to what you may think, this person is least likely to become a champion and most likely to end up a burnt-out mess. Rest is one of the most important training tools – your muscles absolutely must recover in order to get stronger and prevent injury – and no one should underestimate it. This includes getting enough sleep, taking days completely off from the pounding and making sure that you keep your easy days easy.
The Corner-Cutter This person is busy. He believes that it’s already hard enough to fit in all of this running and just simply doesn’t have the time for all of that stretching and warm up nonsense – he has places to be! Anyone who keeps this up for too long will get what they asked for – lots of free time that used to be spent running! Skipping stretches and warm-ups cause tight muscles and seriously ups your chances of strains, pulls and shin splints. Flexible muscles are essential for faster recovery and faster race times; take the time.
The Junkfood Justifier Pretty much everyone is tempted by fatty, sugary foods, but the Justifier is the one who goes overboard, claiming that he ‘deserves’ it for going running. This is a completely backwards way to view your food – by all means, enjoy the occasional treat and always make sure that you’re consuming enough calories to support your training, but feed your body with the good stuff! Fueling your body with junk is akin to fueling your car with cooking grease – nothing good is going to come of it. On top of that, considering that the average American already consumes far more calories than they really need, it takes quite a bit of running to really require large caloric increases. Eat to run, don’t run to eat – your body will thank you.
Most runners fall into at least one of these categories – which one are you? Once you’ve recognized the problem, it’s time to start taking the steps to correct it. Try talking with your coach, a good friend or significant other if you’re really having a hard time breaking one of these bad habits – sometimes all you need is someone to hold you accountable and keep you on track!