Common Training Mistakes — And How to Avoid Them

March 20, 2015

Nate Vandervest, a running expert at Bellin Fitness, offers the following training tips for those preparing for the Bellin Run:

I work with and meet hundreds of runners every year. During the Bellin Run training runs, I get a lot of questions that refer to training mistakes.

My goal and mission is to make sure people have fun while training for the Bellin Run and can get to race day injury free and in the best shape possible. In order for this to happen, a person’s training must be geared toward his or her fitness level and ability. So that is where we will start the list.

Mistake #1: Setting an Unattainable Goal 

I see this a lot — a person wants to finish in under an hour but he or she has not assessed his or her current fitness level to see if this is a good and reasonable goal. It might be too fast a time and therefore lead to frustration and potential burnout and injury in training. Or the goal might be too easy and a runner is left wondering how much faster he or she could have gone.

To avoid this common mistake, ask a running coach for help or use a “race predictor” calculator that can convert any race or time trial into a predicted finish time for another race. 

Mistake #2: Not Following a Training Program 

Unless you have been running for years, get a good program and stick to it. I have to tell people all the time that a program only works if you do what it says.

The Bellin Run offers a great program that will get you to the finish line. If you are looking to improve on your time, we have personalized programs for that, too. It is much easier to reach your goals when you have a plan to follow. 

Mistake #3: Running Through Injuries

This might come as a surprise, but running injuries are usually caused by ... RUNNING!  If you are in pain and it lasts for more than a week, or if it gets worse even after resting, you need to consult a medical professional.

Bellin has a great team of physicians, physical therapists and athletic and personal trainers who are runners and know runners. Running through an injury usually leads to it getting worse, which cuts down on your quality of training and leads to a longer time away from training. Get help fast — you won’t regret it.

Mistake #4: Running as fast as possible every training run

The first thing I have to tell 90 percent of the runners I train or access is, “SLOW DOWN.” The simple philosophy is this: “keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy.”

Runners tend to think faster must always be better, but the body doesn’t respond well to this type of “race every day” training. You end up in what we call the black hole of training. This is when your run wasn’t fast enough to improve speed or stamina, but it wasn’t slow enough to be an easy day, either.

Your fast interval days should be about 15 seconds faster than your 10K race pace. A tempo run should be about 10-15 seconds slower than race pace. An easy run should be 1 ½ minutes or more slower than race pace. Interval training should be only 8-10 percent of your total weekly mileage, and tempo or threshold runs should be only 10-12 percent. That means only 20 percent of your week should be run at a very intense level. The rest should be slow and easy.

Mistake #5 Comparing Yourself to Other Runners

Every runner is unique. The beauty of our sport is that we can test ourselves without comparing ourselves to others. Be proud of what you have accomplished and the journey that it took for you to get there.

Some runners try to compete with someone who is too far out of their league and it leads to poor results and frustration. Heck, I would love to run side by side with Meb Keflezighi, but I would be lucky to last the first mile — and he wouldn’t have broken a sweat yet.

Trust in your training and the results will come — but don’t overshoot your current fitness level because you want to be like someone else.

Posted in: Bellin Health Sports MedicineTraining  |  2 Comments


  • Thank you so much for those wonderful tips; my goal is to get to the finish line.

    Maria A. Forster    March 22, 2015 at 6:22 pm

  • Ah, the true voice of a professional and proven experience, Nate.
    If all new runners heed your words here, they will never be frustrated
    and will grow to love running for life!  I know—this will be my 39th Bellin!

    Paul Steckart    March 24, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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