Common Mistakes New Runners Make (Part 1) – Intensity

New runners contact me for many reasons, often asking for help with pacing, breathing, and managing shin pain. However, most runners really need help with the same thing — creating a balanced training plan.

I build my plans around four main factors: (1) Intensity, (2) Frequency, (3) Volume , and (4) Response.

In most cases, when I help runners avoid making common mistakes in these areas, their original problems resolve, their enjoyment increases and their performance improves. Over the next 4 weeks, I will elaborate on each of the 4 factors. This week, I will focus on:

(1) The Intensity Mistake: Ambitious Runners Often Train Too Fast.

shannon mcginn 2

Shannon at Natirar Park. (The name is Raritan backwards).

Intensity describes effort. If your effort is “moderately hard” to “very challenging” every time you run, you are running fast too often.

New runners need to focus on adapting to their running program by training at an easy pace. The simplest way to estimate an appropriate easy pace is to use the Talk Test. If you can not talk comfortably in sentences while running, slow down.

Consider using a run/walk method to avoid becoming too winded, if necessary. I want to see my runners reach 10-15 miles per week at an easy pace before I will entertain the idea of adding one day of faster speed work. When adding a fast day of running, remember only 10-20% of weekly mileage should be run at a faster pace than the rest of your training. This is not a lot of fast miles.

If you find that you are having difficulty training, ask yourself if you are making this common mistake. I look forward to speaking in more detail about the other mistakes in coming weeks. By correcting these common mistakes, you will create a more balanced training plan that will allow you to run with more enjoyment, with a lower injury risk, and with better results along the way.

Next Mistake: Frequency


Shannon McGinn is an RRCA Certified Distance Running Coach and the owner of Creating Momentum.

She is a life-long runner, becoming more involved in racing after surviving cancer. She considers herself a marathon and ultramarathon specialist, earning several USATF National Championship top 10 or better placements in the 50k and 50M distances. She has not missed a day of running since December, 2011.

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