There’s nothing like the new year to inspire goal setting and if training for a running race is on your resolution list, there are literally hundreds of them in Vancouver to set your sights on.
As a physiotherapist, I’ve been treating running injuries for 15 years and have suffered through countless of them myself on the way to the start line, so I understand how frustrating it can be to get side-lined just when your running is finally starting to feel good.
Whether your goal is to run your first marathon or to participate in the Sun Run for the first time, here’s some of the mistakes I’ve seen my clients make in their training and how to avoid them:
Not having a plan
With the variety of free and small-fee training plans available online from reputable sources, this is probably one of the easiest mistakes to avoid. Having an established training plan that maps out appropriate progression of mileage, accounts for rest and cross-training days, and builds in both long runs and intervals, will not only make training more interesting, but will also help to vary the forces you exert on your body so that it can adapt more easily.
As I mentioned, there are many great resources available for training plans.
One excellent Canadian physiotherapist-developed site I recommend checking out is The Running Clinic.
Ignoring the whispers
The body is wise. When we start to stress our tissues too quickly, it will often begin to send signals of pain that are important not to ignore. Injuries are always easier to treat when addressed early, so seeking help from a physiotherapist as soon as possible for pain that you are having will help decrease the chance of it developing into something more serious.
Lack of support
Running through the winter in Vancouver almost always means enduring a fair amount of rain. Having a training group that you run with once or twice a week or a few friends to head out with will help keep you inspired to stick to your plan and build relationships that support your running in the process.
There are some well-established, beginner-friendly running groups at local running stores like Forerunners, The Right Shoe, and Vancouver Running Company.
Training with a group that is too fast
I once treated a runner who was chronically injured throughout her training for her first marathon. When she came in to see me after the race, she had run an extremely respectable time for a first-time marathoner…but the folks she trained with had run 25 minutes faster than her! I realized we should have been talking more about who she was running with during those months of pain and recurring injury.
Running with faster friends now and then is a great way to push yourself, but if you push yourself too hard all the time, you risk overloading your tissues to the point of injury.
Know your limits and respect them.
Too much too soon
I saved the most important and common mistake for last. Even if you have a training plan and a great group supporting you, if you start out without some foundational miles of running behind you, you will most likely get injured.
If your goal is a marathon, most training plans expect that you have been running at least 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes prior to beginning the program.
If you are completely new to running, starting with a run-walk program can be an ideal way to prepare your body to gradually accommodate to the stresses of running.
I regularly recommend the run-walk interval programs on The Running Clinic’s site found here.