Running has a lot of benefits. A paper published in the Journal Of The American College Of Cardiology found that running for just 5 to 10 minutes a day at slow speeds is enough to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
And beyond this crucial health boost, there are believed to be mental and psychological benefits as well.
To that point, The Guardian has reported stories of people struggling with depressive and even suicidal thoughts who experienced significant improvements in their symptoms thanks to this activity. And those stories are just a few of many examples.
As beneficial as running can be. However, it can also lead to disappointing results and even injuries if it’s not approached correctly.
So if you’re looking to get into a new running routine and tap into those health benefits, take a look at our list of things you should avoid before you get started.
1. Eating Right Before Running
Your body needs energy before going for a run. However, it is important not to mistake this need (as some runners do) for direction to wolf down a meal just before you lace up your sneakers.
In a medically reviewed article at Insider, registered dietician-nutritionist Scott Keatley recommends eating a full two hours before a long run.
He advices that those who eat too soon before a run are likely to feel bloated on account of the food sitting in their stomachs (particularly if they ate fatty foods).
It should be noted that people who go running in the morning (as many prefer to do) don’t always have time to eat breakfast two hours before exercising.
If this is the case for you, it’s recommended to eat a simple snack containing carbs and sugar, like an energy bar.
2. Skipping Stretching
A lot of people stretch before exercising. This is done partially for the intangible benefit; you feel “looser” after stretching, and a little more prepared to engage in physical activity.
Stretching is also believed to prevent injuries. Even beyond these commonly stated reasons for stretching though, there are additional benefits for runners.
Notably, studies have shown that people who stretch for short periods of time not only improve their performance on runs, but lower the energy cost of the exercise, making running itself more bearable.
It’s estimated that even spending 90 seconds per muscle group can lead to improved performance.
3. Ignoring Illnesses Symptoms
Starting a new exercise routine is difficult, which is why many put a lot of emphasis on trying to run every day –– essentially forcing a routine to take shape.
However, problems can arise if, say, you feel a bit of a headache or a cold coming on and decide to continue with your routine anyway.
An article at Time Magazine explains that, while exercising may actually boost your immune response, the effects are different once you’re already sick.
If you go for a run while sick, you will tire more quickly, and your symptoms may worsen –– not only ruining your exercise for that day, but potentially leading to a longer recovery time.
For more serious illnesses like the flu meanwhile, it’s particularly crucial to rest, rather than push.
Some researchers have found that exercising with the flu has the potential to lead to chronic fatigue issues.
4. Trusting Wearable Devices
Since the first appearance of the Apple Watch, the popularity of wearable fitness devices has grown at an incredible pace.
Indeed, a projection last year at Tech Republic suggested that consumers were approaching a spending threshold of $81.5 billion just on wearables capable of collecting data relating to vital signs.
Such devices certainly have their uses, and can be particularly valuable for people who have a medical need to track health data.
But runners using wearables might be overrating their reliability in certain respects.
A recent review of studies showed that wearable devices from brands like Apple or Samsung can measure the steps taken during the day accurately.
However, when it comes to heart rate, results are more variable; they also provide unreliable data with regard to energy expenditure.
So, while it’s fine to count those steps, you shouldn’t attempt to wholly measure the effectiveness of your workouts with wearables.
5. Using Ankle Weights
Wearing ankle weights can seem like an easy way to add resistance training to your cardio routine, and potentially build up leg strength and endurance.
Furthermore, this perception has gained steam over the years in part because prominent athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo have been known to use ankle weights during training.
As tempting as it is to follow the example of leading athletes exhibiting peak fitness however, the reality is that using ankle weights while running is an inefficient and potentially even dangerous way to add strength training to running.
As the health and wellness platform SymptomFind explained in a recent blog post on ankle weights, wrapping an additional weight around your ankle can specifically increase your chances of ligament injuries on the knees, hips, and back.
It also builds up muscle in the front of the thigh, but not on the back, creating a potentially harmful imbalance.
And even before you consider serious consequences like these, it’s worth considering the simple fact that using ankle weights will likely affect the quality of your run.
You’ll move differently to accommodate your weight, which can cause everything from decreased endurance (and shorter runs) to unusual aches and strains.
6. Progressing Too Quickly
As much as running can benefit you in everything from cardiovascular health to mental wellbeing. It is not an activity without risk.
And a lot of that risk comes from overdoing it as you pursue your routine.
Research published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy found, for example, that novice runners who increased their distance by over 30% in two weeks were more vulnerable to distance-related injuries.
This is a strong reminder not to run beyond your capabilities, particularly in the early going.
It can be tempting to push yourself to run faster, harder, and farther –– particularly if you’ve begun to see and feel the benefits of your cardio routine.
But running more than you’re prepared for can result in problems ranging from exhaustion and dehydration to muscle strain and shin splints.
It’s important instead to take your time to build up your muscles and endurance, progressing gradually to more intensive runs.
All in all, running can be a life-changing activity. It can improve your energy levels, physical fitness, and cardiovascular health, and even combat mental health issues.
However, it’s important to remember that there are good and bad ways to exercise, as well as that there are a lot of false advertisements and misconceptions surrounding methods, habits, and equipment.
Keep the tips above in mind, and you’ll be well equipped to avoid certain habits or routines that can be detrimental to your running effort.