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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Training Director

Stretching

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

Q.  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.

A.  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 believes stretching causes many injuries.  It may surprise you to learn this, but he’s not a big advocate of stretching.  After having worked with tens of thousands of runners, and conducting surveys, he’s discovered that those who stretch regularly have more injuries – often as direct result of stretching.  While there are some specific stretches that help some individuals, he believes that most people who run and walk don’t need to stretch at all.

In many other sports, like tennis, basketball, soccer, golf, etc., stretching warms the muscles up for activities that the body was not designed to do.  Running is significantly different than those other activities.  We were designed to run and walk long distances – our ancient ancestors covered thousands of miles a year!  Stretching pushes the tendons and muscles beyond what they are currently ready to do, often into injury.

Before running?

Most runners think they should stretch just before running.  You see them everywhere, legs on benches, leaning against buildings—getting ready to run.  Jeff Galloway doesn’t recommend this.  Just before running, the muscles are tight and may pull or strain easily.  You are particularly at risk early in the morning when you’re cold and blood flow is minimal.  Pushing a cold muscle, tendon, or joint often leads to injury.

After running?

Stretching right after running is also a risky proposition.  The muscles don’t simply stop all activity when you stop running.  They are still “revved up” and ready to respond for about 30 minutes; stretching may cause them to spasm.  When they are working hard like this, a stretch often activates the stretch reflex – leaving you tighter than before.

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.

Rules of the Road

Welcome to Week #2!

Last Saturday, many of you did your Magic Mile (one-mile time trial) and received your individual training recommendations.  Accordingly, we will have pace groups on Saturdays.  During the week, you will practice your predicted race pace and intervals after the hill repeats and drills.  Don’t worry.  It all magically comes together on race day to make you stronger and faster.  Trust your training!

Long runs are run 2 minutes per mile SLOWER than your predicted race pace to reduce wear and tear on your body.  We may further back down the pace if it’s hot or if people are huffing and puffing.  Reducing the impact on the body means you can recover quicker from training runs and can continue progressing with your training.  There are many physiological adaptations the body makes in order to meet the physical demands of distance running, and this is why slowing down is recommended.  These physical adaptations do not simply happen overnight.  The adaptation process is stimulated when the demands of training are greater than what the body is prepared to meet.  The physical overload triggers the adaptation process.  Each time we go above and beyond, which is known as progressive overload, we stimulate this adaptation process.  When we overload the body in gradual, incremental increases, it responds positively by becoming stronger.  If we overload the body too rapidly or too heavily too soon, it doesn’t have time to adapt and we risk poor performances, injury, illness, and/or mental burnout.

It takes discipline to run fast, to slow down, and to rest.  All three are important! 

GALLOWAY RUNNER’S RULES OF THE ROAD

SAFETY FIRST

Group Leaders will always do their best to look out for the safety of the group, but contrary to popular belief, they are not infallible.  SAFETY IS ULTIMATELY YOUR INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY.  Please don’t take up the whole road or trail – run no more than two abreast.  Please look both ways to ensure the road or trail is clear before crossing.  On the trail, if you alter your direction, look over your shoulder before crossing the trail to avoid a potential collision with an oncoming cyclist or passing runner.  On the road, be sure the driver of a car acknowledges your right-of-way before crossing in front of a vehicle.  Obey traffic signals.

EMERGENCY CONTACT

Group Leaders will always carry a cell phone in case of emergency.  Additionally, we maintain a list of all members and their emergency contact’s name and telephone number.  Hopefully we never need to use this list.

RAIN

If it’s just raining, we’ll run.  It might be raining on your race day, so training in the rain may come in handy.  If there is LIGHTNING in the area, we don’t run.  I will text everyone if training is cancelled for any reason.

WATER BOTTLE

Water bottles are REQUIRED on all runs over 10 miles.  We encourage everyone to find a water bottle and carry it with you, even on shorter runs.  Group Leaders may refuse to allow you to run with the group if you don’t carry water.  Dehydration is one of a marathoner’s worst enemies and can occur even before 10 miles, especially on particularly hot and humid days.  Like going out too fast, when one becomes seriously dehydrated, you cannot recover from it during a run.  Only rest and hydration will help.

LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD RULE

Any time we’re running on a road with no sidewalks, we should run on the left side of the road, facing traffic.  By facing oncoming traffic, you may be able to react quicker than if it’s behind you.  When sidewalks are present, we may choose to run on the right side of the road based upon the quality of the sidewalks and depending on our next turn, but otherwise, LEFT SIDE PLEASE.

CALL OUT HAZARDS

Group Leaders and everyone should call out “CAR UP” or “CAR BACK” (or BIKE, RUNNER, etc.).  If you see some other hazard, such as a “PUDDLE” or “ROCK” or “BRANCH” or “SPEED BUMP” in the path (you get the idea), please call it out.  We don’t need any injuries from someone tripping over something, especially when we’re bunched up a bit, as more than one runner could fall.

INJURIES

It’s important to let your Group Leader know if you start to experience any nagging aches or pains resulting from our runs.  By catching issues EARLY, we can usually avoid more severe injuries later.  Sometimes, it may be necessary to reduce your mileage or consider moving you to a slower running group to avoid injury – DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.  One of the major goals of this program is to RUN INJURY FREE.  The program incorporates the walk breaks and sets mileage in order to minimize the chance of injury during the training process.  Finally, as Jeff Galloway states in his “Galloway Training Programs” book, it is okay to be tired, particularly after a long run.  But, if you’re so exhausted that all you do for the rest of the day is lie on the couch, or are very sore, you probably have run too quickly.  So, PLEASE LET US KNOW AT THE FIRST SIGN OF INJURY – this is important for you and important for the group.

LEAVING SOMEONE BEHIND

It’s never a good idea to leave someone behind or alone, even a veteran runner.  The Group Leader (or another responsible person) should drop back with the person having problems, and let the group run on, or the whole group can slow down together depending on the circumstances.  WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, and supporting each other is part of the process.

“RESPECT THE DISTANCE”

As you will discover, there are a lot of aspects to that statement.  Successfully running long distance is not about speed, it is about building ENDURANCE.  You can have all the speed in the world, but if you have not built up the endurance to sustain it, it will not do you any good.