Written by

Ben Parker

March 1, 2023

11 Beginner Mistakes To Avoid When You Start Running

Runna is here providing the top tips to avoid when you start running!

A woman running and smiling.

We get it. How hard can running really be? You simply grab a pair of trainers, lace ‘em up, step out your front door and then put one foot in front of the other at a pace that’s faster than walking. That’s it, right? Wrong. Just go and ask anyone that’s battled to make it past the first mile, or felt that lactic acid build up with a few minutes of embracing the elements (don’t worry, we’ve all been there) and they’ll let you know that running is not quite that simple (probably with a smirk).

Instead, there’s a little more to this old running thing than just having some trainers and an hour spare, especially if you’re a beginner. So to help you join the sweat-soaked, pavement-pounding, endorphin-fueled club of runners – whether you’re looking to crush a couch to 5K, train for a wildly-intimidating half-marathon, look after your mental health or simply figure out what the heck a fartlek is – we’ve used our collective experience to help you avoid some of the most common mistake new runners make when starting out. 

Get ready to pound the pavement and take on the trails with the confidence of a seasoned athlete. 

An image with runners legs.

Mistake No1: Running is Your Only Form of Workout

We haven’t put these mistakes in any kind of order other than the order in which they burst into our heads but, as always, there’s an exception to the rule… and this is it because this might just be the most common mistake of them all. You see, so many runners training for their first race or event commit solely to running without incorporating any other kind of training at all. Trust us, this is only going to lead to two things: sore legs and a hatred for running. So make sure you’re adding cross-training into your schedule too, such as cycling, elliptical, rowing or swimming.

Mistake No2: Forgetting To Cooldown

Okay, I’m going to reveal myself for this one. My name’s Will, the marketing maestro behind Runna, and of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, of which there are many, none makes me twinge with regret as much as plopping down on the couch after my first 10K and not moving. I can’t tell you how stiff my legs were, all I can say is I could hardly walk for days, the stairs were the worst torture device ever invented and I spend the next week researching whether a time machine was actually possible to create. So if you remember to do anything, it’s warming up before you run and cooling down after your run, anything to keep the blood flowing: walking, gentle stretching, foam rolling, anything like that will aid your recovery big time. 

Mistake No3: Ignoring The Need For Rest Days

There are so many awesome benefits when it comes to running, from busting stress, strengthening your muscles, boosting creativity, being competitive and just getting into the great outdoors. But as much as those miles might benefit you, they can also do a fair bit of damage if we don’t respect the need for rest. The truth is, not running can be just as important as those long runs. They help strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, reinvigorate your spirit, reduce the chance of injury and speed up that much needed recovery. Fail to respect the rest day, however, and you’ll find yourself on the highway to burnout, exhaustion, injury and motivation-levels that are rock bottom. 

Mistake No4: Being in Competition With Every Other Runner

Head up, when you first start running, you will encounter a moment while you’re out there, pounding the pavements, embracing the sunshine and loving life, when another runner passes you. In that moment, the competitor inside you will turn up the heat and tell you to keep pace with that runner. Don’t do it. We know that’s harder than it sounds, but the only person you are in competition with is yesterday’s you. Instead, keep your easy runs easy. That’s the secret sauce to making sure your training is sustainable. It takes discipline, experience and getting used to, but it will help so much with your performance and may reduce injury risk too. 

Mistake No5: Letting Your Playlist Get Boring

Running in silence is cool. The sound of feet pounding the pavement, birds chirping away, friends gossipping in coffee shops, your panting gets louder and louder with every mile – it’s all part of the magic. But do you know what’s even cooler: music. It will help you lose yourself in the run, set the pace of your training, distract you from the distance ahead and make your run so much more enjoyable. That’s why we’ve curated a different Spotify playlist for different types of runs, and continue to update them. They’re designed to stop your soundtrack becoming stale, prevent your pace and attitude dropping off, and push you to the finish line with an enviable energy. 

Mistake No6: Failing To Switch It Up

Switch it up. Not just to prevent your runs from becoming tedious or boring, but to really up your running game. Sure, there’s a lot of fun to be had in trying to be the best 5K runner you can possibly be by forever running fast 5Ks. But, in reality, what you’lI find as you become a more experienced runner is you’ll actually become better at running when you add longer distances into your training. That’s because these long runs will also translate improvements back to your shorter, faster efforts too. You see, by building up your body's endurance to run longer at slower speeds, it'll help build your overall fitness, meaning you'll be able to complete a few more reps of your future speed sessions, or endure a slightly faster pace for longer on your 5k runs. Basically, switching up your distances will make you a better all-round runner.

Mistake No7: Going Too Hard All The Time

Ready for another uber-common mistake among beginners: chasing a new PR every time you step out the door for a run. It could be a 5K, a 10K or just a speed session on the treadmill, there’s this burning desire inside every new runner that makes you want to get a new personal record every time you lace up. Don’t do this. Running is not the same as football practice. You don’t need to end your run feeling exhausted in case you feel you haven’t worked hard enough. What you want to adhere to instead is the 80/20 rule. You should be looking to spend 80% of your time doing easy running and only 20% of your time training at or above threshold pace.

Mistake No8: Not Wearing Anti-Chafe Cream

Inner thighs, armpits, buttocks, the nipples, even ‘down there’ are all areas prone to chafing. That’s when your skin rubs skin together (or against a fabric) and the friction causes a mix of redness, irritation and discomfort that makes the remaining miles worse than running on broken glass. Not to drop too much information on this one, but we’ve heard stories of ultramarathon runners using mud on their nether regions just to stop the chafe. Yepp. It’s time to invest in some anti-chafing creams. No ifs or buts. 

Mistake No9: Not Committing To Proper Form

When it comes to running, form is everything. To break this down into the briefest of guides, you want to lean slightly forward, look ahead, keep your shoulder blades neutral, bend the elbows around 90 degrees, stabilize the core, lift and flex the knee, and push off the back leg. It’s also essential to avoiding niggles and injuries, boosting your recovery and, yepp, you guessed it, upping your performance. That’s why we recommend actively doing a lot of form drills and strengthening of the hips and glutes.

Mistake No10: Eating New Foods Before A Run

Pretty sure the heading says it all here, but just in case, trying out a new breakfast the morning before a half-marathon race might not be the best idea if you don’t want to do a Paula. What we’re saying is, if you’re used to fueling your long runs with half a bagel, peanut butter and some sliced banana, make sure you stick to that instead of improvising in order to avoid any unwanted cramping, vomiting or, you know, worse. 

Mistake No11: Not Using The Runna App

Let’s get straight to it: The biggest mistake you can make as a new runner is not downloading the Runna app. Whether you’re looking to go from your couch to a 5K, improve your fitness, train for a half-marathon or even work your way up to a multi-day ultra, our plans are there to unlock your running potential from day one. They set out all of the sessions for you, automatically adjust your mileage, incorporate deload weeks, balance the right types of running for your ability, keep you accountable and keep you engaged by switching it up. Basically, we take care of all the technical parts of your training so that you can focus purely on your running game. And if at any point you need any more support, you can reach the Runna coaches through the support tab. 

Thanks for reading our guide to the most common running mistakes beginners make. For more running insights, inspirations, stories and techniques, follow us on Instagram and Facebook -- or simply check out our personalized running plans.

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