5 Bad Running Habits (and How to Break Them)

As runners, we can get into ruts and find ourselves doing things that we know are not going to improve our running, and could possibly lead to injuries and other problems. But old (and bad) habits are sometimes hard to break. Here are some common not-so-great habits of runners and what you can do to break them.


Swinging Your Arms Across Your Chest

The most efficient way to run using back and forth movement. When you swing your arms across the midline of your body, your upper body is forced to work a lot harder so you’re wasting a lot of energy. It also creates a tendency to hunch over, which means your chest is compressed and you’re not going to breathe as easily. Your legs mimic what your arms do, so swinging your arms across your chest also makes your legs cross over each other, too. Your body has to work a lot harder to create that lateral movement.

How to break it: Try to pay more attention to where your arms are. Relax your shoulders and try to keep your arms low and at a 90-degree angle. If your arms are positioned low, it’s harder for them to cross. Focus on moving your elbows front to back, rotating at the shoulder. If your shoulders and arms start creeping up as you get tired, drop your arms to your side and shake them out. Then re-position them at your sides, at a 90-degree angle.


Not Using Sunscreen

Runners can come up with lots of reasons why they don’t use sunscreen – I don’t burn, I’m running in the shade, it’s cloudy, I’m just going to sweat it off, etc. But it’s important to protect your skin since the regular exposure will increase your risk for skin cancer.

How to break it: Use a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 and offers broad spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Stick formulations are good for runners' faces because the sunscreen won't run into your eyes. If you’re going to be running for a couple of hours and know you’ll be sweating a lot, carry extra sunscreen so you can reapply.


Not Hydrating Enough

Some runners won't drink water while running because they think they'll get a side stitch. And then there are those who avoid the water stops during races because they don't want to waste time. By not replacing fluids that you’re losing through sweat, you’re putting yourself at risk for dehydration and other heat-related problems. Not being properly hydrated can also have a detrimental effect on your

How to break it:  If you're running longer than 30 minutes, you really need to hydrate during your run to avoid the effects of dehydration. The current fluid recommendations for runners say that they should "obey your thirst" and drink when their mouth is dry and they feel the need to drink.


Not Listening to Your Body

Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong and needs attention. Some runners push through pain (not just muscle fatigue) while running or don’t address a chronic issue that keeps popping up. Ignoring a problem may make it worse or lead to other issues. 

How to break it: Be kind to your body and listen to what it’s trying to signal to you. If you start feeling pain, such as a muscle cramp, while you’re running, stop and walk, or stretch to see if you can alleviate the pain. If you’re feeling the same pain during your runs or – even worse – when you’re just walking around, take a break from training and see if a few days off from running makes a difference. If you don’t see any improvement, make an appointment with a physical therapist or sports doctor.


Focusing Only on Running

Some runners assume the only way to become a better runner is to run more. In reality, runners need to be well-balanced and work other activities and strengthening into their training so they can reduce their injury risk and improve performance. Running every day without giving yourself a break can lead to injury.

How to break it:  Work some cross-training activities into your weekly training. Swimming and biking are excellent options for runners ​since they’ll give your joints a break from the pounding. Yoga is also a good choice because you’ll work on your strengthening and flexibility. All runners can benefit from strength-training 1-2x a week to build strength and endurance and improve injury resistance.

Was this page helpful?