From heel striking to poor pacing to nutritional errors, lack of core strength and overtraining, the following are all issues that can readily be solved:
Heel striking is a common mistake many runners make; especially when starting out. In fact, in a study published in Gait and Posture Danish researchers found that of the 456 male participants, 96.9 per cent were rearfoot strikers. Similarly, of the 447 women 99.3 per cent were rearfoot strikers. Although the way you foot strikes the floor when you run is a hotly disputed topic in the running world, heel strikes tend to be a symptom of over-striding and they can lead to an increased risk of injury.
If you’re worried that you don’t have good running form there are some steps you can take to overcome this problem. You can begin by shortening your strides (ideally you should have 180 foot strikes per minute). You can also wear shoes that have a slimmer heel-toe ramp angle. Again, although widely disputed, barefoot running or running in minimalist shoes can prevent you from heel striking.
Running too fast
Running is all about speed, right? Well, although you want to be quick, this isn’t always true. When you begin your run – whether it’s on a training session or a race – you feel great. Your legs are strong, your breathing is easy and so you pick up the pace. Fast forward 10 or maybe 20 minutes later though, and it’s a completely different story. You’re out of breath and out of power. The rest of your run is consequently a huge struggle. Running too quickly is an easy mistake to make. To stop yourself from falling into this trap run the first 1 to 1.5km slowly, make sure you know your split times and remember the motto: the slower you start, the faster you finish.
Neglecting your core
Us runners love to run. Although that’s fantastic, it means that we often don’t want to do any other forms of exercise, even though doing those other exercises will make us better runners. One area we often neglect is our core.
Having a strong core is vital if you want to be a good runner. Why? Well, a strong core will help you to maintain a better posture when running, which will help with your breathing and running form. A strong core will also improve your balance, which is fundamental to the running process.
A strong core will also make you a more efficient runner, which means you will have more power and will therefore be faster. So, there are many benefits to be gained when you make time for some core strengthening exercises. If you don’t already do core exercises, some you could try include: the plank, the single-arm farmer’s carry or Russian twists.
Do you honestly know what foods you should to be eating to fuel your running? Although you might have a rough idea, most runners tend to guess when it comes to nutrition. Generally speaking, you need to eat a decent amount of carbohydrates (around 55 per cent of your daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates) and, if you are running regularly, you should eat lots of protein (around 1.2g to 1.4g per kg of bodyweight). Obviously fat, vitamins and minerals are also key to a balanced diet, but runners often make the mistake of eating too much or too little protein and carbohydrates.
If you are going out for a run and have not eaten a meal for some time, you will also need to fuel your body with a carbohydrate-based snack. Researchers at Penn State University found that participants who ate a moderate-GI (glycaemic index) snack 45 minutes prior to exercise received more benefits compared to those who ate a high-GI snack.
Running too often
If you’re a keen runner we’re sure you’ve ran on those days when you’re supposed to rest. Although it can be hard not to run every day, the benefits of resting are too big not to do it. For example, improvements from training do not actually occur during your run. Instead they occur when you rest. This is because training fatigues and stresses the body, but when your body is resting it is given the chance to repair and rebuild. Therefore when you train again your body should be able to cope with the increased strain and load you place upon it.
So, the next time you want to skip a rest day remember that by not resting you’re denying your body the chance to recover and you’re hindering your progress by doing so. Even introducing some cross-training, to do activities other than running, is preferable to completing run sessions day after day without adequate recovery time.