7 Sneaky Things that Ruin Your Running Goals

Are you tired of running mile after mile and not seeing progress?

Are you following your training plan and still experiencing injuries?

Are you worried you will never be the runner you want to be?

If this sounds like you, I get it. Because this was me a few years ago.

As a multi-sport athlete, I started running again. And I did all the things I was supposed to do — strength training, yoga, healthy eating, and following the training plan.

But I kept getting injured and having to take time off running despite doing all the right things.

I read the articles and research. I was fit and strong. I was doing everything they told me to do. But I wasn’t making the kind of progress I wanted.

What in the heck was going on?

A five-session running program and many conversations with a physical therapist (PT) who had been a collegiate runner finally made it all click for me.

And I want to make it click for you, which is why I'm writing about these sneaky seven things.

These things all seem harmless or even the right things to do. However, they often ruin running goals and stop you from being the runner you want to be.

And we can’t let that happen, can we?

1. Maintaining a narrow range of paces

You know you're supposed to run at a different pace depending on the workout (e.g., easy, tempo, interval). However, an injury often occurs when your paces do not differ significantly.

My paces differed only by two minutes. This range was too narrow, and I suffered. A better range would have been closer to five minutes.

Everyone wants to run faster, but running slower will widen your pace range and help avoid injury and make better progress.

2. Counting only miles ran

For years, I thought running was all about the miles. That’s all runners talk about, and who doesn’t want to run more miles?

But miles should not be the primary focus. Tracking time on your feet, which equals the amount of training stress, helps avoid injury.

Running the same mileage as a faster runner means running longer, having more training stress, and a greater risk of injury. Track time instead.

3. Using copy and paste workouts

Progress often stalls when individualized running needs are not addressed. This gap happens when you use magazines, social media, and peers as your source for workouts.

Even running and strength plans targeted to a specific level (e.g., beginner half marathon) cannot focus on your unique needs and are only generally applicable.

A custom plan is key to making progress. While this often involves a financial investment, it helps you avoid frustration and stalled progress.

4. Focusing solely on your glute and core strength

Since my pain was in my lower body, everything I read said to start there to resolve weaknesses and imbalances. However, targeted strength training didn’t work.

Because I had a completely different issue. A VO2 max treadmill test indicated I was hyperventilating, which is the strongest predictor of myoskeletal problems.

Chronic injuries reflect the need to look at the problem systemically, not in isolation, to find the source, which may be as basic as incorrect breathing.

5. Failing to adjust for overall load & lifestyle factors

Most days, I ran according to my plan but forgetting about the laps I swam the day before or dismissing how tired I was feeling.

My Garmin tracked the training load of other activities, but it didn’t factor in lifestyle influences (e.g., sleep, stress) that made me vulnerable to injury.

A proactive strategy to avoiding injury is reviewing training load numbers with daily subjective data on the lifestyle factors that affect you the most.

6. Letting your ego direct your training

My ego said to push harder on every run to become a better runner quicker. My weekly dry-needling sessions became a badge of honor.

I overestimated my abilities and the time I needed to recover with my ego in charge. Eventually, I sidelined myself and had to stop running.

Lose your ego and instead cultivate patience, listen to critical feedback from your body, and accept that there are no shortcuts to progress.

7. Neglecting your identity as a runner

My PT told me to write down who I was as a runner without referring to miles or pace. I was at a loss.

Until I realized I run because I love being outdoors, experiencing nature, and exploring different places. Running fast or long was a bonus.

An identity based on joy, not miles or pace, helps you stay injury-free, running longer, and becoming the runner you want to be.

Let’s make you the runner you want to be

Whether you are struggling with your lack of progress, injuries, or identity as a runner, I understand your frustration. It’s challenging to keep your chin up and doing all the “right” things when you see little to no improvement.

Maybe you’ve even questioned whether you are really a runner because you can’t seem to figure it all out.

But here’s the thing…

You ARE a runner.

And although those struggles and frustrations seem overwhelming, they are solvable.

You have to look hard for the seemingly harmless things that are sabotaging your running, but you will find them. And then you will fix them.

So imagine the feeling of relief when you fix one sneaky thing that keeps bringing your running down.

Or how successful you will feel when you change another thing, and suddenly your progress goes from okay to outstanding.

And now imagine the joy of staying injury-free for a long time.

Whether it was running around your block for the first time or finishing your 20th marathon, I know you’ve already achieved great things with your running.

Let’s see what awesome goals you are going to accomplish next.

Curious writer, researcher, ruminator who also runs, hikes, swims, and does karate. Trained psychotherapist, former academia, current consultant.