From 5ks to full marathons, hundreds of thousands of people train for and run in races every year.
If you’re looking to join this group and are starting to train for your first race, it’s important to make sure you’re training in a way that allows you to see great results without increasing your injury risk.
Read on to learn about some of the most common race training mistakes people make and what you should do instead.
Not Fueling Your Body Properly
Every runner has different nutrition needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all plan that will work best for you. But, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to make sure you’re consuming plenty of nutrients that will fuel your body properly:
Drink plenty of water
Add electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium) to make up for those you lose when you sweat
Limit your consumption of high-sugar, highly processed foods
Eat enough carbohydrates and protein to help repair your muscles
Give Yourself Time to Recover
Another mistake new runners make when they start training for a race is assuming that they have to run every single day to make sure they’re prepared. Running on a daily basis isn’t ideal — your body needs time to recover and repair itself. Be sure to follow a training plan that gives you two or three rest days each week.
On your off days, make sure you’re also taking other steps to promote recovery — icing sore muscles, foam rolling, catching up on sleep, etc.
Not Listening to Your Body
The very best training resource you have is your own body. Pay attention and listen to the signals it’s sending you. If you feel pain, fatigue, or a faster-than-usual heart rate, your body is trying to tell you something (usually that you’re over-training and need to take a break).
It’s especially important to listen to your body’s cues while you’re recovering from a dislocated knee or another serious injury. You need to avoid over-taxing your muscles and joints while they’re still trying to repair themselves. Otherwise, you could end up sidelined for much longer than you’d like.
Not Tapering Before Your Race
Tapering your training will allow you to ensure that you’re rested and ready to perform on race day. In the few weeks leading up to your race, you should significantly reduce your training volume — usually by 30-40 percent. Otherwise, you may end up feeling burned out by the time your race comes.
Skipping Cross Training
Many new runners think that the only thing they need to do to prepare for a race is run. While, of course, running is an important part of the training process, it’s certainly not the only part. Make sure you’re incorporating strength and mobility training into your routine at least once a week, too. This will help you avoid muscle imbalances and weakness that could lead to injuries.
Relying on a General Training Plan
Your training plan should be specific both to your personal needs and to the race you’re running. Certain principles like getting enough rest and cross training can carry over to any plan. But, you can’t train for a marathon the same way you’d train for a 10K.
Make sure you’re adjusting the number of miles you’re running each week and the number of rest days you’re taking to match the type of race you’re planning on running. If you need extra guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to a coach or more experienced runner. It can be hard to ask for help sometimes, but it’ll be worth it to save yourself a lot of trouble and make sure you’re training properly.
After they sign up for their first race, many new runners make the mistake of taking on too much, too soon when it comes to their training. This is often because they’re worried about not being prepared on race day and end up overdoing it to try and compensate for a lack of experience.
If you’re a new runner, remember that increasing your training mileage too quickly increases your risk of injury and burnout. Avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10 percent each week.
Training for your first race should be fun and exciting. If you’ve just signed up for a race and aren’t sure where to begin, be sure to keep these common training mistakes in mind. They’ll help you stay safe and get the most out of your preparations.