The 11 Most Common Running Mistakes

Ironing out the kinks for a smoother run

After 17 years in the fitness industry, teaching hundreds of runners achieve personal bests, I’ve seen the same common mistakes pop up.  If you can avoid the following common running mistakes you’ll greatly increase your chances of running success!

Going too fast too soon

Ever tried getting back into running, or starting from scratch with a run around the neighbourhood, only to find yourself gasping for air within 60 seconds?  You were most likely going too fast.  Many people equate running with speed, but it’s important that you focus on a sustainable pace, especially at first.  Start with a very easy shuffle that you can keep up for over 2 mins, and use walk/jog intervals until you’re able to jog continuously.  You’re better off doing 30 mins of jog/walk intervals than 5 mins of faster running.


Training too often too soon  

With a new fitness regime comes great motivation and commitment, however if you flog yourself with daily workouts you’ll find yourself sore, exhausted and demotivated within two weeks.  For the best running results we recommend 3 runs per week with rest days between.  Your rest days can include other exercise like boxing, riding, swimming, walking, boot camp or anything else if you’re keen to keep up some activity.  Try to keep two days for complete rest – especially if you’re a beginner.


Poor technique

Slumping back, hunched shoulders, floppy arms, and bouncy, hard hitting steps are the most common technique mistakes that we iron out in classes.  Getting a friend to video you running can be a very sobering but important experience.  Poor technique can waste valuable energy, decrease your performance and leave you open to injury.



Most runners think trying hard involves taking big strides, however a long stride is inefficient and prone to injury.  If you are taking long steps, you’ll be getting higher off the ground and hitting the ground with a greater force for each stride.  Your steps should be smooth like a wheel over the ground, rather than a bouncing pogo stick.  Count how many steps you take in 1 min during your run and strive to gradually build to a turnover of 180 steps per minute.  This shouldn’t be changed overnight.  Instead work on gradually making your strides shorter and faster.  This takes practice!


Wearing old shoes or the wrong shoes

Just because your sneakers are still white after two years doesn’t mean they are still functioning well.  The inside material will be compacted and offering little cushioning and support.  Sneakers have an average life of 12 months and less if you’re running a lot of kilometres per week.  I’ve seen a trend towards wearing light unsupportive sneakers (Nike Free) and street wear flat trainers (Converse Chuck Taylors) but unless you’re biomechanically very lucky you’ll probably run into trouble using these for your workouts.  Seek the advice of experts like Active Feet to choose the right shoe for your body, your activities, and your injury history.  Take your old shoes with you too.


Wrong clothes

Ever see a runner or tennis player in a plain old cotton t-shirt?  This isn’t just due to fashion.  Cotton t-shirts get incredibly heavy when they’re wet and will drag you down if you’re sweating or in the rain.  Regular t-shirts and shorts have nonstrategic seams that can lead to chaffing and riding up that will drive you crazy.  Invest in a running t-shirt or singlet and a good pair of running shorts or tights.  If you’re jogging at night choose something with reflectors for safety.


Not fuelling or hydrating properly

Now that you’re expecting higher performance from your body, you’ll need to fuel it well.  Focus on drinking water throughout the day, and eat a snack or meal about 90mins – 2 hours before your run.  Your energy levels will be vastly different!


Skipping post run stretch

Think stretching is for posers?  Stretching is an important part of a running regime.  You need to ensure the best mobility you can to ward off poor technique, injury and to feel better during and after your runs.  Stretching while warm is the best time to do it so after a run is perfect.


Ignoring pain

It is incredibly common for people to ignore niggles, thinking they’ll just go away.  In my experience most niggles, if ignored, will turn into pain and then an injury that requires time off exercise.  Early intervention is the key to staying committed to your program and avoiding serious injury.  If you have a niggle in your hamstring, your program will need to be adjusted.  You might need time off, or a different run, or ice, or massage.  Every case is different but this is where allied health professionals are invaluable.  Find a physio / massage therapist you know and trust and check in with them whenever something isn’t right.  Think of these as ‘pit stops’ for your body.


Relying solely on the treadmill

The treadmill is a great occasional training option if you cannot run outside due to heat or other safety concerns.  If you do all of your training on a treadmill, you will be ill-prepared for a fun run.  Running outside is vastly different.  Try it and you’ll know what I mean.


Setting unrealistic goals

A marathon is a fantastic goal… for someone who has three or more half marathons under their belt!  If you’ve just started running then you’ll need to set yourself short, medium and longer term goals.  Respect the marathon distance.  Do not think that in 6 weeks time it is safe or achievable to go from couch to 42km.  Start with a 5km, a 10km or two.  Then with this experience under your belt take 9 weeks to train for a half marathon.  Once you complete a half marathon you’ll have a good idea if you want to commit to the whole distance.  Setting realistic goals is the key to running success!



Want a program that will guide you to achieve your best time while avoiding the pitfalls?
Check out our online running program!


Feel fitter than ever and see the results in your finish time

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. jenni

    Hi. I am a hopeless runner and I hate it but I want to do triathlons. Even 2 km is no fun. I can jog 30 min but am injury prone esp si joint. I think I have no core stabity. I think I should stop running and spend 6 weeks on core then learn to run. My current run is a shuffle. IMO i need run coaching in form rather than fitness. Can you comment or recommend a home is outer western Sydney? I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Penni

    Hi great article, wondering though if the 180 steps per minute are for all heights? I’m 6’2?


    1. Jodie - Healthy Balance Fitness

      Hi Penni, Awesome question! There’s definitely variation according to height (and other factors), and running coach Jack Daniels recommended 180 steps or more per minute. A fast turnover is in order to encourage striking the ground with your foot underneath your knee (not stretched out in front). For most runners a stride rate of 180 or more will achieve this, however it’s not a hard and fast rule. The best way to determine your ideal stride rate is to book in with a physio who specialises in treadmill analysis. You’ll be filmed on the treadmill so you can view your technique in slow motion. Together you can determine the best stride rate for landing with your foot safely and effectively under your knee – increasing efficiency and reducing your risk of injury. If you’re around the 160 mark when you’re at a tempo pace, then I’d guess you’re over-striding. It’s all about gradually reducing your stride length and increasing turnover over many months rather than trying to fix it all at once. Hope that helps!

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