Avoiding Running Mistakes: Tips for a Safe and Successful Start

Running is a fantastic way to improve both physical and mental health and as the snow melts around town, many of us will want to return to or pick up running this spring. But .... some of us may end up with an injury or pain from running that may be due to a few common and once known, easily avoided running mistakes.

It's important for new runners (anyone who hasn't run for 3 or more months counts as a new runner!) to start with shorter distances and gradually increase their speed and intensity as they become comfortable with their current level of fitness and running capacity. By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, one can enjoy the benefits of running without the risk of injury.  With patience and consistency, running can be an enjoyable activity that contributes positively to your overall well-being, whether your primary form of exercise or just a way to stay fit in the off-season.

Common Running Mistakes

1. Doing Too Much Too Soon

It can be tempting to rush into running and push yourself to go farther or faster than you are ready for, but this can lead to injury and setbacks. To avoid this, it's important to start slow and gradually increase your mileage or intensity over time. In particular, a common mistake is thinking 3-5 km is a short run, for new runners (remember the 3 month rule) 3-5 km is a big load on the body.  In particular, for the first few runs anywhere from 1-5 min minutes of running can be considered a significant load. Using a walk run program where you consistently increase your running and decrease the amount of walking over the first two weeks can be instrumental in preventing an overuse injury. Although following a walk run program at the beginning can feel painfully slow and boring, you'll be running the whole session in no time…..and they have been proven time and time again to work! (I’ve added some links to running programs at the bottom)


2. Skipping Warm-ups

Warm-up exercises are essential for preparing the muscles for physical activity and can also increase blood flow, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve range of motion. A typical warm up that I suggest to my patients is to start with a few minutes of walking and progress the speed from there, but routines including dynamic movements done with gradual increases in intensity work fine as well (just no static stretching please!).

3. Too Slow of a Cadence

The cadence refers to the number of steps you take per minute while running (how fast your feet are turning, not how fast you are running). A slow cadence can lead to over-striding, requiring better muscle activation and adding a breaking force all of which puts more stress on your joints and increases your risk of injury. Research has shown that the ideal cadence for most runners is around 180 steps per minute.


4. Ignoring Warning Signs from Your Body

Although often difficult to recognize and interpret, most people's bodies will give warning signs before an injury can occur. Learning to listen and interpret these signs correctly can significantly decrease running injuries, optimize our training and speed up recovery. Warning signs can include persistent pain, discomfort, fatigue, or soreness even after rest. Ignoring these can lead to serious injuries and setbacks that can derail your fitness goals. Consulting with a healthcare professional or certified trainer can help you identify warning signs and develop a plan to prevent injury.

5. Not Tracking Your Workouts

Keeping track of your runs can be beneficial for a number of reasons. For starters, it allows you to monitor your progress and identify areas for improvement. This can be done in a number of ways, including using a fitness app or simply jotting down your workouts with pen and paper. Keeping tabs on your workouts can help you (and if needed your physio) identify patterns in your performance and make adjustments to your training plan accordingly.

6. Expecting Linear Progress

It's important to recognize that progress in running is not always steady, as it can be affected by a variety of factors such as weather or personal circumstances. Pushing yourself too hard can result in burnout, overtraining, and injury. Therefore, it's crucial to listen to your body and take rest days or back off when needed.  Remember that progress in running is not always a straight line, but rather a journey with ups and downs.

Injury Prevention Tips

1. Importance of Rest and Recovery

When it comes to injury prevention in running, rest and recovery are absolutely crucial. Taking regular rest days and allowing time for proper recovery can help prevent overuse injuries that can be seriously damaging to the body. Additionally, stretching, foam rolling, and other forms of active recovery can help reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury.

It's also important to remember that proper nutrition and hydration are essential for adequate recovery and injury prevention. Ignoring the need for rest and recovery can result in chronic injuries that may require extended periods of time away from running. To ensure that you stay healthy and injury-free, it's important to prioritize rest and recovery as part of your overall running routine.

2. Increasing Your Cadence

Increasing your cadence can help reduce the impact on your joints, potentially lowering the risk of injury.  To increase your cadence, it's important to focus on taking shorter, quicker steps and maintaining a consistent rhythm. One of the tips I give my patients is to first record your cadence, then if it's below 170 bpm to increase it by 10%.  Once you have your optimal running cadence, find a music playlist at that cadence (or metronome) which you will then automatically match your step rate to.  It's important to gradually increase your cadence over time to avoid overexertion and muscle strain (10% increase at a time is a safe way to do this).

3. Gradually Increase

To prevent injuries while running, it's important to take a gradual approach when increasing your running. Sudden increases in distance, intensity, or elevation can lead to injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures, tendinopathies, and bursitis to list a few . It's crucial to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard too quickly and following a training program can help to keep us on track.

4. Choose the Right Running Surface

Different surfaces can have varying impacts on your body and choosing the right one can help prevent injuries. Planar surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, put more strain on specific tissues and require a slower progression in distance and load. On the other hand, uneven surfaces like grass, dirt, or single track trails provide more variation and spread the load more evenly between your joints, muscles and tissues. When choosing a running surface, it's important to consider factors such as terrain, weather conditions, and your own comfort level. Varying your running surface can also help prevent overuse injuries by giving different muscles and tissues time to recover between runs.

5. Running Frequently

 In our busy lifestyles it is often hard to consistently get out to run and we only prioritize time for a "good run" or work out.  Often people think they need lots of rest days in-between their runs for recovery. Turns out that running shorter distances more frequently helps to "toughen" our tissues and make them less susceptible to the repetitive nature of running.  Fortunately for our busy lives, 5 minutes counts as a run for injury prevention in runners.  So squeeze it in whenever you can regardless of your shoes or clothes; out with the kids, dog walks, walking home from work....it all counts!  It's important to gradually increase your mileage and incorporate rest days into your routine to give your body time to recover so make sure that you are not running more than 6 days a week. If you are running more than 4, congratulations! Just make sure to vary the length, difficulty and type of run you are going on.

6. Strengthening Exercises

Exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises can strengthen the muscles used in running, while core strengthening exercises like planks and bridges can improve posture and balance, reducing the risk of injury. In addition to injury prevention, incorporating strength training can also increase endurance and speed.

7. Professional Help

Ignoring or pushing through persistent pain or swelling can lead to more serious injuries and longer recovery times. Seeking the help of a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan to prevent further injury.  Often by properly assessing your injury a training program can be developed to keep you running while avoiding the types of running that caused your injury and may delay your healing.

More Running Tips

Choosing the proper shoe can be a bit difficult so I have purposely not included much on it in this post. But a quick formula for looking at your current shoe choice goes as so: if you have no pain, do not change your shoes! (If it ain't broke, don't fix it) Shoe choice can make a significant difference to your pain and injury (both cause, prevention and cure) but can be a risky move and often causes pain or increases in pain if done incorrectly.   If you are having pain (feet, ankles, knees, hips, backs) that you think may be related to your running, book an appointment with a physiotherapist and they will go through whether changing your shoes is a good choice.


To sum it up, running injuries can be prevented by avoiding common mistakes such as skipping warm-ups, doing too much too soon, ignoring warning signs from your body, and expecting linear progress. You can also focus on injury prevention tips like increasing your cadence, gradually increasing distance, choosing the right surface to run on, doing strengthening exercises for runners, and getting professional help when necessary. Remember to take care of yourself by resting and recovering well, eating a balanced diet, and having a positive mindset towards running. Want more running tips? Check out the links below for more training plans and common running trail loops around golden with elevation and distances!

Walk-Run (jog) Program

Day Walk(min) Run
1 4:30 30 sec
2 Rest Rest
3 4:00 1 min
4 Rest Rest
5 3:30 1.5 min

*Take a 30-minute run and break it down into 6 intervals of 5 minutes, which are further broken down into the above recommendations. The program continues until the individual reaches 30 minutes of consecutive running.

Distance/Elevation of Common Golden Running Trails

Bush Party 1.5Km 0m Elevation

Adaptive Trail: 2km 35m

7up +berminator: 2 Km 75m

Rodeo drive + Selkirk Slacker + Quientins to Chute the duck: 3Km, 150m

Take it Easy no extension 4km

Rock about + Trail and error 5.5Km 150m

Take it Easy with extension 6km 150m

Hemiptera + Odenata 6km 120m elevation

Selkirk Slacker + Kobes 6.5 200m

Selkirk Slack + Huff and puff 7Km 200m

Selkirk Slack + Magic dragon 8KM, 250m

Selkirk Slack + Kobes + magic dragon 10km,  300m

Rotary Trail 10km