The Top 5 Mistakes Runners Make
by Cristin Van Driel
Runners are for the most part a smart bunch of dedicated athletes. However, we are all human and tend to overlook some common principles that could hinder optimal performance.
Avoiding the weight room
Most runners think lifting weights will put on unwanted bulk. In reality, sport specific strength training will enhance performance, reduce injury risk, and correct muscle imbalances. Running is hard on the body and injuries can result from not being “functionally” strong. Runners should stay away from heavy weights and instead focus on exercises such as walking lunges, chin-ups, push-ups, single leg dead lifts, and core stabilization exercises.
It is not about training harder, it is about training smarter. Runners tend to have type “A” personalities. There is a silent dialogue between runners on who is training harder, running more miles, and racing the most often. A huge limiter to racing success is over-training and not being able to get to the starting line without injury or excessive fatigue. Runners must be in tune with their body and recognize the signs of over-training: sleep loss, nagging injuries, poor performance, fatigue, lack of motivation to train, decrease in appetite, and persistent muscle soreness. Rest and recovery is just as important as training.
Not utilizing rest and recovery tactics
Runners must give daily attention to rest and recovery. All runners must schedule rest and recovery days into their training programs. The body is not meant to train 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Without rest, over-training results and injuries occur. Use of foam rollers, massage, a consistent stretching routine, ice baths, chiropractic care, and proper nutrition are techniques to help the recovery process.
Not using food as fuel
Training and muscle breakdown produce free radicals in our body. Foods high in antioxidants fight these free radicals and strengthen the immune system. Runners need to remember there is a direct correlation to what we put into our bodies and what we get out of our bodies in terms of quality of performance. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats (flaxseed, avocado, almonds, and olive oil) should be the mainstays in your daily diet. Also pay attention to your consumption of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, found in salmon and flax, which help with decreasing inflammation in the body. Post workout nutrition should not be overlooked. It is crucial to consume a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein source of fuel within 30 minutes of your workout. This will help repair muscle breakdown and replenish depleted glycogen.
When runners hear the words “cross-training” most have nightmares of a doctor telling them they are injured and must not run under any circumstances until fully healed. In reality if runners utilized cross-training more they would most likely limit the occurrence of injuries and would likely see a performance improvement. Substituting one or two easy runs a week with a couple sessions running in the pool or riding the bike might just be what the body needs. Cross-training is not just for the injured, it is beneficial for any athlete that wants the best from their body.