Running Mistakes to Avoid

Little habits – that you don’t even realize you have – can cost you a lot of energy and keep you from running/walking faster.  Ignoring them is like driving down the highway with a tarp on top of your car – when the tarp has a loose corner.  The tarp resistance can cause your fuel economy to dip – and your energy and enthusiasm for the trip can go with it.

Look around on the road and you’ll see runners/walkers doing the same thing.  Runners/walkers move parts that don’t need to move and compromise their ability to speed up and stay fresh.  Here are some of the most common bad running/walking habits – and how to fix them.

  1. Swinging your hands across your body.  It’s a running/walking mistake to keep your arms still at your sides while running/walking, or swing them without bending them.  When you run/walk, all your movement should be forward or back.  Any other motion saps energy.  Crossing your hands over the midline of your body is a big one.  Not only does this force your upper body to work harder, it makes you cross your legs over each other, too.  If there’s a white line on the road and you’re hitting it with every step, then you’re spinning your body more.  The easiest fix is to be aware of where your arms are.  Relax your arms, keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle close to your body, and swing your arms forward and back.  As they come forward, your hands should not cross the center line and should come up no further than your breasts.  This arm motion will give power to your run/walk.  Your feet generally move only as fast as your arms.
  2. Looking at your feet.  Look down at your feet and try to breathe in.  Now look in front of you and do the same thing.  When you look down, you’re cutting off valuable oxygen.  Good posture for running/walking allows you to breathe well and provides a long body line to prevent problems with your back, neck, and shoulders.  Chin up when running/walking – it should be parallel to the ground.  Focus your eyes a few feet ahead of you.
  3. Squeezing your fists.  The pressure that you put on your hands translates into your forearms and shoulders.  That energy starts to travel to every part of your body.  If you’re not relaxed in your arms and hands, you’ll eventually feel it in your legs.  When you feel yourself tightening up, let your arms fall to your sides, relax your shoulders, and shake out your hands.
  4. Trying to get faster every day.  To get strong and fast, your body doesn’t just need a workout; it needs to rest.  Remember how Sunday was a traditional day of rest?  There is wisdom in that.  Take a day off at least once per week.  Rest helps to repair muscle tissue, which is what makes you stronger over time.  To get faster, you should either build in rest days and/or truly go easy on your easy days.  Easy doesn’t mean 30 seconds slower than your race pace.  Some of the top runners in the world go as much as two and a half minutes slower per mile than marathon race pace.  And if they can back off some days and still run fast, so can you.
  5. Overstriding.  When runners/walkers try to run/walk faster, a natural inclination is to lengthen your stride in front, reach out farther with your forward foot.  This leads to a clumsy, ungainly gait, striking hard with your feet.  Your shins hurt, and you really don’t get any faster.  All the power of your run/walk comes from pushing with the back leg and foot.  If you’re trying to run/walk fast, concentrate on taking shorter, quicker steps.  Then think of really rolling through your step with your back foot and leg, getting a good push off.  The result will be faster feet and a longer stride where it does you some good – in back.

Training Mistakes

Top 5 Training Mistakes and How to Avoid Them:

No matter how many years we’ve been running or how many races we’ve done, there are still some mistakes we may be prone to. Check out our top 5 training mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – Avoiding the Magic Mile

Jeff Galloway has given us a great tool to determine how fast to run our long runs, race rehearsal runs, and speed workouts. It’s called the Magic Mile (MM), and when we know our MM time, we can run with a plan. When we don’t have a recent (or any) MM, we are just running by feel, which sometimes can get us into trouble.

Solution: Run a Magic Mile every 4 to 6 weeks and check the MM calculator at Jeffgalloway.com to see your recommended paces and run/walk ratios.

Mistake #2 – Running the long ones too fast

Whether we let our friends set the pace or we “just feel good” when starting out on our long runs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of running these too fast. The long run should be at least 2 minutes per mile slower than race pace. You can’t be hurt by running the long ones too slow but running them too fast means you won’t be as recovered as necessary for the rest of your training.

Solution: Know your long run pace based on your Magic Mile prediction and don’t let anything pull you faster.

Mistake #3 – Cutting the long run too short

A marathon or half-marathon is a long way to run. Those who are best prepared for the distance will have the most fun during the race, but many runners balk at doing 14 miles in training for a half-marathon or 26 in training for a marathon. Whether they have difficulty carving out enough time for the long ones or they want to “save the real distance for race day,” they will be more likely to “hit the wall” because their bodies are not ready for the demands of the distance.

Solution: Put the long runs on your schedule months in advance and protect those days like you would an important appointment so there’s less chance you’ll be tempted to skimp on the distance.

Mistake #4 – Not listening to your body when it needs to rest

Small aches and pains come with the territory, not the territory of running, but the territory of living. Not everything calls for time off from running, but when something is affecting your gait (the way you run) or is causing you to feel lethargic, you need some extra time off. Whether the condition was caused by running or some other stress like work, continuing to push yourself when your body needs rest can lead to injury.

Solution: Turn a run day into a walk day. Get out and enjoy the fresh air without any worry about how fast you are going. Even if you have to miss a long run, walking that same distance will give you the endurance you need. If you don’t feel better in a couple of days, see your family doctor.

Mistake #5 – Ignoring nutrition

On race day you will have your socks picked out, your shoes well tested, and the rest of your outfit just right. You will have done the long runs and honed your pace if you have a time goal, but what will you have done for nutrition? If you haven’t practiced what you will have for dinner the night before, breakfast race morning, and during the race, you are ignoring an important factor that will impact your race day experience.

Solution: Use your long run weekends to practice race weekend nutrition, right down to the flavor of sports drink you intend to use. If something isn’t going to work for you, better to find out a month before race day than when it’s all out there on public display.

By Chris Twiggs, Galloway Chief Training Officer


Question from a new runner – about stretching – who came from another training program and is loving the Galloway method.

Question:  Three months running without post-run stretch and the only thing that hurts is my brain trying to figure out how the post-run stretch myth began. Apprehensive at first, because it was drilled into us for years, but it does make sense to allow the body to do its job of recovery/rebuilding without interference. Either of you know where the myth began and why it seems to have spread through the running community? I did notice, with the other program, the slower groups stretched the most, usually together as a group. As you got into the faster pace groups, it was mainly left up to the individual to stretch as much and how they wanted, this was minimal stretching, followed by some planks and core strengthening workouts.

Answer:  I believe that pre- and post-run stretching came from coaches who were used to dealing with athletes in explosive sports like football and basketball. They ended up coaching track and cross-country runners by default, or for an extra stipend, and they used the same pre- and post-workout activities that they used for their other athletes without considering whether they were actually necessary for distance runners.

Jeff Galloway says stretching is overrated!

You may be surprised to hear this, but Jeff Galloway is not a fan of stretching. After working with thousands of runners and studying the data, he has concluded that those who stretch more regularly are prone to getting injured as a direct result. Of course, there are certain stretches which may benefit some people—but usually when it comes to running and walking, stretching isn’t necessary at all!

Other sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or golf require warming up muscles for activities our bodies weren’t exactly made for; however running is an entirely different story. Our ancestors used to run and walk great distances – sometimes even covering thousands of miles in a year! But overstretching forces tendons and muscles beyond what they’re able to handle right now—which can lead to injuries.

Before running?

When it comes to running, you’ve probably seen many runners stretching just before they go. But according to Jeff Galloway’s advice, this isn’t the best idea! Stretching cold muscles can easily cause them to pull or strain, especially if you’re running in the morning when your body is still feeling a little chilly. So it’s best to take care of yourself and warm up with some easy jogging first – that way, your runs will be fun and injury-free!

After running?

If you’ve just finished running, it’s best to wait a bit before stretching. The muscles are still in an active state and stretching right away can cause them to spasm. Instead of helping, this can leave your muscles tighter than when you started. To get the full benefits of your post-run stretch, give your body at least 30 minutes to cool down first!

When, then?

The best time to stretch is after the body is warmed up, relaxed, and when the blood is moving. Since many runners stretch incorrectly, it’s best to wait and stretch after warming up. Don’t stretch to warm the muscles up; it won’t work. Stretch in the evening, for example, or throughout the day as you have time. Many people use stretching as a nice way to prepare for sleep.