13 Feb 2018

5 Common mistakes when starting a running program

So for those of you who decided your New Year’s Resolution was going to be ‘Get fitter’ or ‘Start some regular exercise’ or maybe to ‘Run a half marathon’, then this blog is for you! By this stage you’ve probably got a few runs under your belt and maybe you’re starting to realise it’s not as easy as you had hoped!

This blog is going to run you through the 5 biggest mistakes people make when trying to start a new running program and hopefully give you a few tips to help you make it to your 2018 goal, whatever that might be! There’s a good chance that by this stage in the year you’re getting a bit of an idea of what I’m talking about here.
 running program       
Number 1: You’ve started with too much too early!
So here you are in February, you’ve done a few runs a week and you’re starting to feel tired…. The body is feeling tight and rundown,  you’ve got a couple of small niggles which are starting to prevent you from running as far or maybe you just can’t be bothered anymore.

The biggest mistake people make when starting a run program is too many km’s too early and instead of getting fitter, you’re getting an injury! Most running injuries occur through training error e.g building up quicker than your body can tolerate or running too much with poor biomechanics!

Everybody is different and your run schedule depends on a few things… most importantly how much exercise you were doing beforehand! If you were doing next to nothing then you’ve gotta take it slow. This might mean 2 short runs in the first week around the 2-3km mark. Even if you feel good at this stage, stick to the schedule and wait until the next week to build on this. Don’t get over excited and belt out 4 runs in the first week close to your max distance.

Did you know a regular marathon training schedule is around 16 weeks? That’s 16 weeks of regular running on top of a BASELINE fitness of regular 10km runs prior to even starting this schedule. If this seems like a lot, that’s because it is and is a reflection on the time you should be giving to hitting a goal such as a half marathon or marathon to avoid giving up after 6 weeks because you’ve got an overuse injury!
Number 2: You’ve given no thought to your Shoes!
Now I’m sure you’ve heard it before, your shoes can make a huge difference! Does that mean you need to go out and buy a new pair just to go running in..? Not necessarily. Does that mean you need to go and get your foot assessed and placed in the perfect shoe for your foot..? Not really. Everyone has their own style. Chances are you have heard of the term ‘overpronator’ or maybe you’ve been told your ‘feet are flat’ or maybe that you run on your toes. The question is do these things really matter, and the answer is no. You might have the flattest feet in the world but your biomechanics allow for this and for whatever reason you don’t get any injuries.

These are the three things I recommend when looking for shoes prior to starting a running program (if you’re looking to buy newbies) or if your shoes already fit this category then keep what you’ve got.

  1. Make sure they’re comfortable
    • You’re going to be spending a bit of time in these shoes so make sure when you put them on, they feel right. Don’t be sucked in to going for a shoe which tells you it has ‘good arch support’ or ‘cushioned sole’ if it doesn’t feel right on your foot.
  2. Aim for a lighter shoe
    • Keep it simple. You obviously don’t want extra weight on your feet. Opt for something on the lighter side which still feels like it’s giving you adequate support.
  3. Don’t make big changes from your usual shoe
    • The body likes what it’s used to! Don’t make huge changes. If you’ve used runners which have worked in the past then stick to what you know and what your body knows!

In saying all this, your choice of shoe is important and can have huge effects on your running. So don’t just get into a program without giving them any thought at all!

Number 3: You’re not changing up the variables…
What variables? If I want to get better at running then I just go out and run right?
Wrong. Do you know why it’s so hard to break habit? Because the body hates change. And when it comes to running, doing what your body hates is the best way to get better! Don’t go out and do the same thing over and over because your body will love this and won’t adapt and will struggle to improve. Change it up!

Change up your pace/load/intensity: try a short quick run and a long slow run during your weekly program
Change up your routes: road running, trail running, hill runs, flat runs, suburban runs, country runs… the options are endless

Change up the type of training: introduce some cross training, the best thing you can do is add in some strength/circuit training into your program. The best runners in the world will be strength training at least 2 x a week.


Here is an example of a program you could possibly try for one of your training weeks.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Strength and Conditioning (Circuit) Short quick run/speed work Rest Long, slow run Strength and conditioning (gym work focused on lower limb muscles) Rest Middle distance run

Number 4: You haven’t got a rest schedule
This is probably the least thought about part of your running program and also one of the most important. One of the biggest errors you can make is not allowing the body to rest and recuperate post training. Without adequate rest your runs will become harder, your performance will diminish and it will become mentally harder to get out and train… all signs of overtraining.

So what to do? How much rest do I need? The best thing you can do is plan your weekly runs (and further) to ensure this is achieved and make sure you stick to it! This may involve a recovery week every 4-6 weeks which involves NO running. Ensure you’re incorporating adequate cool down and stretch time post training runs and most importantly adequate sleep.

When your program first begins, your first couple of weeks might look like this…

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Short quick run/speed work Rest Rest Strength and Conditioning Rest Middle distance run Rest

It’s also important to consider the other components of your life… your social, work and family life should also be factored into your program. If Monday is usually a long day at work for you, then this might be one of your rest days.

Don’t underestimate how important good rest and sleep is and look for the signs of overtraining. These can include:

  • Decreased performance
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomniarunning man
  • Extended muscle soreness
  • Personality changes, loss of concentration

Number 5: You’ve got niggles and you’re not getting them looked at
Last but not least tip number 5. Niggles. Otherwise known as something that is a persistent annoyance or discomfort and these are precursors to INJURIES.  As physiotherapists we always recommend an assessment prior to starting any significant change in training program to ensure your body is ready to handle this change. For running this might involve looking at your gait, assessing your stabilising muscles and talking about your program, your shoes and your goals.

See: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

Whether it’s some slight low back pain, shin pain, knee pain or foot pain the best thing you can do prior to starting a running program is to get these niggles looked at, because as your mileage increases chances are they’re only going to get worse! Consider this… 1km = roughly 1,300 steps when walking so maybe reduce this a bit for running steps… lets say 1,100 steps. If you run 10km, that’s 11,000 steps. A half marathon is 23,210 steps and a marathon is 46,420 steps! So, for example, your hip muscles are compensating for your foot which rolls in every time it lands and are having to work extra hard to control this. For a marathon that is over 46,000 times that this muscle is doing a job it doesn’t want to do. Chances are you’re going to end up with a sore hip. The fact of the matter is that running is a repetitive sport and is thus prone to repetitive strain injuries. Get the little niggles looked at early and prevent them from becoming full blown injuries which keep you sidelined for weeks instead of days.

If you have any questions about your running program or want an assessment prior to starting a program then book in a session with one of our physiotherapists today in our Kellyville or Carlingford clinics.

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