As one of the highest calorie-burning activities, running is the cardio workout of choice for many of us who want to lose weight while improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s simple, adaptable to every fitness level, and can be done outside or on a treadmill at the fitness center. Even though running is fairly straight-forward, key training mistakes common to both new and seasoned runners can result in over-training and injuries that hinder your fitness goals. Are you guilty of any of the following training mistakes?


1.    Building mileage too quickly.


When you first start running, it’s best to start out slow and build mileage up gradually as cardiovascular endurance and leg strength improves. A good rule of thumb is to add no more than 10 percent each week to your total mileage. For instance, if you’re running less than 10 miles a week, add no more than one mile at a time; when you reach 20, you can safely add two miles, and so on. Building mileage this way will make you a stronger, less injury-prone runner.


2.    Trying to run fast every time.


There’s something exhilarating about feeling fast, so it’s tempting to try to run at maximum pace every time. The problem with this is your body needs recovery time after you push it hard. Incorporating easier runs enables time to repair, re-build and get stronger. Easier doesn’t mean 15 or 30 seconds slower, either – even Olympic athletes run an average of 2 ½ minutes slower than race pace during easy runs.


3.    Training by pace rather than effort.


Hand in hand with running hard every time is training by pace. Being able to check your pace each mile on the treadmill display or a GPS watch is helpful, but it can encourage unrealistic expectations. Your body and the conditions you’re running in (even something as simple as humidity) change from day to day, and so will your pace. Although you should always have a goal, a better way to train is by effort: the way a particular pace feels at the time. If you’re shooting for a hard run, the effort should feel hard; if you’re trying to go easy, it should feel comfortable. Training this way will help you maximize the times you ‘have it’ and accommodate the times you don’t.


4.    Not giving yourself enough training time for an event or trying to make up for missed training runs.


Sadly, unpreparedness is one of the main reasons so many people have bad race experiences and never do them again. To start, follow these suggested training timelines:


  • 5K or 10K — 6 to 8 weeks
  • Half marathon – 12 to 14 weeks
  • Marathon – 16 to 22 weeks


Even with a reasonable plan, life happens – sickness, injury, or unexpected engagements sometimes interfere with key training runs. Trying to make up for missed workouts risks serious injury and lengthens recovery time for small injuries. Don’t be afraid to take a few days off, then jump back in at your current fitness level. It’s better to be healthy, if slightly undertrained, then too burned out for the actual event. If you miss too much training, it’s best to forfeit.


Train Smart, Stay Strong


Take a cue from other runners who have made these mistakes in their running training and train smarter, not harder. Building a base, incorporating rest and easy days, and giving yourself a sufficient window to prepare for big events will keep your performance safe and strong.