Six common running mistakes that can make or break performance

The Chaminade Cross Country team makes time to stretch after an intense track workout.

The Chaminade Cross Country team makes time to stretch after an intense track workout.

Many do not think twice before going out for a run, but serious runners know that there can be simple errors that will not only detriment your body and performance, but limit abilities for a successful future in running. Being on the Chaminade cross country team, I’ve seen these six common errors runners make when it comes to training.


These running tips prove to be essential when it comes to race day, and top performance is on the line. Photographer: Emily Ochsner


Stretching prior to and after running is very important, especially when it comes to preventing injuries. All too often a runner will hit the pavement for a run without properly stretching and warming up tightened muscles. Immediately forcing these large muscle groups that one depends on for running such as hamstrings, quads, calves, and the Iliotibial or IT band area near the groin can strain these muscles and cause a tear or pull to occur. Before a run make sure you stretch distinct muscles throughout your legs. After the run it is healthy to stretch once more so that muscles have a chance to cool down.

2.Running on Cement

Pavement is not only hard on the soles of one’s feet but on the body as well. Joints are constantly jolted during a run, impacting knees, and bones in the feet. Too much impact leads to injuries such as shin splints, knee problems, tendonitis, and stress fractures. It is crucial to find soft surfaces that will cushion the impact. Dirt trails, sand, or grassy routes are best to prevent these injuries, thus leading to the next important aspect of running, having a pair of great shoes.


Having an acceptable pair of running shoes with a sole thick enough to embrace the impact of a run is very important as well. Shoes with thin or worn down soles cause the feet to be more susceptible to stress fractures around metatarsal regions (the toes) in the feet. Shoes with thick and out lasting soles provide stability and strength for hard surfaces, but it is best overall to trade out old shoes every 300-400 miles.


Runners benefit from having a day of rest completely free from running at least once a week. This gives the body time to recover and ease overworked muscles before the next hard week of training. The next day back to running will give muscles and joints a refreshed state. Speed and strength gains are made when runners follow training weeks with a day off, because muscles and tendons have the chance to repair and build back muscle fibers faster than if they were to constantly be working for days on end with no break.

5.Cross Training

Not only is it great to have a day off, but cross training, or doing different exercise regimes and physical activities, is beneficial as well. It is helpful to work out different groups of muscles in other areas of exercise. Redundancy or boredom with running is also reduced; swimming or cycling are great cross training options. Stationary cycling or biking continues to exert the same general muscles used in running, yet without the impact. Swimming provides strength training opportunities; the body is working just as hard but weighs half as much when submerged in water. Muscles are soothed and repaired additionally.


A common routine or technique many runners have become dependent on before a race is carbo-loading. While it might be tempting to order a large pasta dish at Buca di Beppo the evening before a race, this will detriment one’s performance. Marathon runners and ultra-runners that must depend on stored levels of glycogen in muscles in order to run for miles on end can get away with this, but shorter distanced- runners, such as track and cross country, should not consume overly high amounts of carbs the night before if they want to have ideal amounts of energy and perform well. Eating too many carbohydrates retains water and leaves the body feeling sluggish and fatigued. This is the very opposite of what a runner should feel like on race day. When it comes to a common 5k (3 mile) cross country race, the dinner and night before the race should be a meal that is a balance of all food groups and not solely a majority of carbs.

Almost anyone can call themselves a runner, but serious runners use caution and hold and respect for their body in the way that they train. These topics are common running mistakes either made or avoided, but they can easily be followed and learned in order to ensure quality performance.