5 Common Mistakes New Runners Make

As you take the first steps in your running journey, it’s easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm for bagging more and more miles.

But, like anything in life, there are pitfalls ahead!

New runners frequently end up burning out, getting injured, or suffering from fatigue – all of which hinders their progress.

So here are the top 5 mistakes new runners make – and how to avoid them!


Let’s jump in!

mistakes new runners make

5. Ignoring Running Form

Many runners simply go running, without a thought about how they’re running.   While we all have the innate ability to run, we each have a slightly different running form.   

This is thanks to our biomechanics, our conditioning and adaptation, and how we employ any cues or consciously adjust our form. 

Improving your running form can decrease the probability of getting injured, and improve your running economy – basically making you a more sustainable runner.

Here are some tips for those runners starting to think about form:

keep your eyes up and chin down, so your head is neutral and facing straight ahead.

Consciously relax your shoulders and arms, but maintain a straight spine and tight core.

As for your legs, focus on taking shorter, more frequent strides to avoid overstriding.

Here’s our complete guide to proper running form

mistakes new runners make

4. Lacking Structure In Training

Many runners simply go running, with no structure or target.   

If you’re simply looking to use running as a pasttime to de-stress, then no problem!  But if you’re training for a race or looking to improve your running, it’s wise to spend some time mapping out a basic training plan (you may wish to work with a coach to do this). 

This will allow you to gradually increase your training load by adding in longer and faster runs, and also schedule the necessary rest time needed to recover. If you’ve got a running goal, the best way to reach it is by following a training plan.

Be aware, new runners might experience a case of runner’s itch!

mistakes new runners make

3. Skipping Cross Training

Cross training is any form of exercise that complements your run training – and it’s probably the number one thing most runners simply ignore. 

I recommend to all my runners that they include at least one day’s cross training per week in their training plans, as good cross training can make you a more effective runner.  Cross training can take many shapes and forms, such as cycling, pilates, swimming, and yoga.   

But I recommend that runners hit the gym for a resistance training session which specifically targets the hips, glutes, and core. These are the areas often weakened by running, and targeting them in the gym allows you to even out those imbalances. 

Resistance training can also improve your running economy, as well as reduce the risk of injury – what’s not to love?

mistakes new runners make

2. Running In Old Shoes

Many runners are guilty of not replacing their running shoes often enough. 

Different trainers will tell you to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles, but you can usually tell when a pair of shoes are past their best by comparing them with a pair of new shoes.   

If they’ve lost all their bounce and form, or show signs of uneven wear on the soles, it’s time to get a new pair.

Here’s our guide for how to choose running shoes.

mistakes new runners make

1. Not Fueling Before / Refueling After a Run

The 45-60 minutes after a run is a key time for recovery – your muscles and energy reserves are depleted and are primed to be fed.   

Follow up your runs with a snack or small meal within an hour of finishing, and focus on something that has a mixture of protein and carbohydrates in order to kick-start your recovery properly.   

Otherwise, you’ll take longer to recover, and may not be ready to train again the next day.

Our complete guide … Running Nutrition Guide: What To Eat, For Runners

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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