Mistakes happen. God knows I’ve made my share of blunders, blubbers and gaffes as a runner. Most of them have led to temporary embarrassment, but some of them have led to injuries that halted my training for months. When I took to the weight room during my hiatus from running, I made a lot of mistakes there, too, including one that ended with — yup, you got it — another injury.
I’m not alone — due to different biomechanics than men, women are at double the risk of experiencing a running injury, and a 2010 study revealed that weight room injuries for women have risen a whopping 63 percent!
A lot of these injuries can be avoided with a little know-how, says John Rowley, Certified Personal Trainer, best-selling author and Director of Wellness for the International Sports Sciences Association. More often than not, injuries can be traced back to several common mistakes women make while training. Here are the seven training mistakes he most frequently sees — and how to fix them.
7 Common Training Mistakes
Mistake #1: You let your ambition get the best of you.
“When you first start running, it’s tempting to think that once you’ve run two miles, you can try to run three the next day,” says Rowley. “But if you’re new to running, or you’re just coming back from an injury, that 50 percent increase is too much.”
Reel it in, speedy! The best way to build up stamina without causing injury is to gradually increase your mileage. Try running the same weekly distance for two weeks in a row before increasing your mileage very gradually. Many running experts suggest adding only ten percent of your weekly mileage to the next week’s total.
Mistake #2: You’re in Beast Mode every time you run.
We get it — you want to annihilate every workout! Many runners try to make every run faster than the last. But if you try to run at top speed every time, you’re going to get too tired, which means that you’ll likely be too drained to run the next day. You’ll also be too worn out to maintain good form while running — a one-way ticket to Injuryville. Hard runs should only be a small part of your training plan, and (like mileage) should be introduced gradually to help your body adapt.
Most of your runs should be at a conversational pace, says Rowley. If you can talk to someone while running without gasping for breath, you’re at a comfortable pace for your body. Regularly running at this speed means that you’ll be able to adequately recover so you can safely run multiple times a week.
Mistake # 3: You’re a one-trick pony.
Although clocking miles and improving your running is a goal for you, sticking to a running-only fitness plan won’t allow you to see results as quickly. Once the body is used to a particular workout, muscles aren’t as engaged, and therefore will not work as hard as they once did. To get the most out of your training, supplement your runs with cross-training activities like swimming, cycling or weights.
Yes — we said weights! Runners, especially female runners, tend to shy away from the weight room. “One of the biggest mistakes I see women make is their belief that strength training will make them big or bulky — which is completely false.” Rowley asserts. “Strength training is the best way to boost metabolism and maximize calorie burn both in and out of the gym. Just sticking to running can actually cause you to lose muscle by burning away the muscle instead of fat.”
Mistake #4: Warm-up? What warm-up?
Rowley sees it all the time in the gym — people bypass the warm-up and load up a barbell right away. While it’s tempting to forgo a proper warm-up due to lack of time or interest, taking a few minutes for a quick walk or jog on the treadmill will help you get more out of your strength-training routine. “The warm-up is extremely important — it increases the temperature of your muscles and tendons, making them more elastic so you’re less likely to injure yourself. It only takes a few minutes, and will make your workout much more effective,” says Rowley.
Mistake #5: You don’t plan your work (or work your plan).
Take the time each week to create a cohesive plan. Don’t just designate three days for running and three days for weights — identify exactly what you’re going to do during those workouts. Will Monday’s run be an easy three miles or an interval workout? What exercises will you do in the weight room on Tuesday?
Write a predetermined plan, and you’ll eliminate many of the workout blunders so many people make every day. A weekly outline lets you visually create a well-rounded workout plan, thereby reducing the risk of injury.
Mistake #6: Pride gets in your way.
Almost every gym has a trainer on duty who can teach you how to use the weight machines correctly or perform an exercise without injury. Please use that resource! Lifting weights can yield a host of benefits, but only if you know how to correctly perform each move. Lifting too quickly, lifting the wrong weight, and using momentum are common culprits that can lead to injury and make your workout less effective. Don’t be too proud to ask for help if you’re not 100 percent sure you’re doing an exercise correctly.
Mistake #7: Between sets, you check your phone, watch TV, get some water, say hello to your friend…
If you rest for too long between sets, your body misses out on prime time for a calorie-burn boost. It can also be distracting — a quick chat with a buddy can easily turn into a 5-minute break. Stay focused by adding quick intervals, and you’ll burn more calories while building endurance. Rowley suggests adding mini cardio bursts, like a 2- to 5-minute jog on the treadmill or jumping rope, between weight sets. Bonus: You can cross off both your cardio and strength training in one 30- to 45-minute workout!
How many of these mistakes have you made? (I counted five. Yikes!) —-Susan