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The 6 worst mistakes a runner can make

Avoid these pitfalls if you want to run well and stay healthy

There is a dizzying amount of advice out there for runners, and a quick Google search will give you thousands of articles. “Do this, not that,” “follow this training plan,” “wear these shoes,”… the list is endless. In our information-overloaded world, it’s easy to focus on the little things while ignoring what’s truly important. Avoid these six mistakes if you want to be a healthy, happy and strong runner.

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Thinking you have to “look like a runner”

There’s a pervasive belief that all runners have a similar body type and if you want to be a runner, you have to look like that, too. Not only is this false, but this way of thinking has led countless runners into a vicious cycle of restricting calories and overtraining in order to fit the mold of what they think a runner should look like. There is no one body type that makes you a runner, and you don’t have to change your body in order to fit in with the running community. If you give your body what it needs and celebrate it for what it can do, you’ll not only improve your performance, but you’ll enjoy the process, too — and that’s what truly makes you “a runner.”


This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of a runner’s body, but it’s so important that it’s worth giving it individual attention. Whether you under-fuel on purpose or accidentally, not giving your body the calories and nutrition it needs to run is a fast-track to fatigue, injuries and a decrease in performance. Make sure you know the signs of underfuelling, and if you suspect this is an issue, talk to a dietitian who can help you develop a nutrition plan that will support your training.

Running through injury

At some point, almost every runner will experience an injury that sidelines them for at least a few days. When you feel an ache or pain creeping up, it’s very tempting to ignore it and continue your training as if nothing’s wrong, but this is often how runners turn a minor injury into a big problem that takes them out of the game for weeks or more. A good way to mediate this is by using the three-day rule: if something is still bothering you after three days, back off your training and seek the advice of a physiotherapist or other sports medicine practitioner.

Running too fast on your easy days

A lot of runners push the pace on their easy days because they’re concerned they’re not getting an effective workout or they’re embarrassed to run slow. We’ve written extensively on this topic, but pushing the pace on your easy days will detract from your ability to run hard on your workout days and eventually lead to over-training and burnout. Even the elites run 80 per cent of their mileage at an easy pace, and you should, too.

Listening to your watch, not your body

With all the wearable tech available to us these days, we have down-to-the-second data to tell us how we’re doing during our runs (and throughout the rest of the day). While this can be a great training tool, we run the risk of paying more attention to the numbers than how our bodies are actually feeling. This can cause us to push the pace when our bodies are asking us to slow down, or discourage us when we don’t hit the paces we were after. Data is great, but don’t forget to check in with how your body is feeling to make sure you’re giving it what it needs.

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Allowing your performance to define you

We all want to run well, but remember that no matter what happens during a run, workout or race, it has no bearing on your worth or who you are as a person. Allowing your running performance to determine your value puts far too much pressure on it and detracts from what is truly important: enjoying it as an activity. No one is going to like you more or less whether you run a personal best, win a race or snag that BQ, so just relax and have fun with it.