The five ‘sins’ of amateur runners

10. June 2024


Running is booming in every age category and also receives a lot of media coverage – and yet most amateur athletes keep making the same mistakes. Expert, Viktor Röthlin, explains which ones.

1.     Not enough patience

Running requires patience. It takes time to develop. As a beginner, you have to grit your teeth during your initial training runs, because you’ll advance very little to start with. Progress isn’t achieved overnight, but you’ll get there.

Patience is also required if you’re a regular, improving runner, as quantum leaps don’t occur from one day to the next. And the faster you become, the harder it is to improve your times. Whereas you initially reduce these by minutes, this gradually turns to seconds. That’s why the most important motto in running is probably: always keep at it – it will pay off in the end.

2.     Not enough breaks

One observation I’ve made over the years is something I find really extreme in amateur sport: amateur runners NEVER take a break. By break, I don’t mean one or two rest days, but a complete two to three-week break from running twice a year, during which you don’t do any or very little sport. So I encourage you to let your performance really plummet twice a year during a complete break, because afterwards your batteries will be fully recharged, allowing you to train afresh and achieve a new peak performance.

The performance curve for amateur athletes is almost flat or slightly undulating, while for a professional runner it’s much more pronounced with deep troughs and peaks.

3.     Not enough supplementary training

Running is fun, but unlike swimming, it’s not a sport that is simply good for your body, but one that also requires physical effort. And because supplementary training is less fun, many simply leave it out, especially if they’re feeling OK.

The correlation between susceptibility to injury and supplementary training hasn’t been scientifically proven, but I maintain that if you regularly do supplementary training, you’re less likely to be injured or at least reduce the risk. You’ll also be a stronger, tougher and more versatile runner, which also has a positive impact on your performance. If I had to say which supplementary training is particularly important, I’d prioritise your core, feet and legs in that order. Many amateur runners are now aware of the importance of their core, but only a few specifically strengthen their feet.

4.     Not enough recovery

For professional athletes, planning and making time for recovery are extremely important, but exactly the opposite usually applies to amateur runners when they become more ambitious. In addition to their work commitments and everyday routines, they increase their training to achieve a target, but then have to compromise when it comes to recovery and no longer have time for this.

My rule of thumb is that half your training time should be used for recovery. So if you train for eight hours a week, you should specifically set aside four hours for recovery, including a sauna, massage, foam roller or simply doing nothing, for example. And if you increase your training, you should also increase your recovery time.

5.     Not enough shoes

Running is a monotonous sport for your body per se, so you should avoid making this monotony worse by always wearing the same shoes. My advice, therefore, is to not always use the same footwear, but to wear several different pairs of running shoes. I’m not saying this because I like selling shoes, but because I see what kind of shoes people sometimes wear when they come into the shop.

Several shoes give you several options. You can alternate between wearing ones with firm cushioning or ones with softer cushioning, or ones with a flat sole or with a rocker bottom. This varies the strain on your body. I’ve noticed that runners who train in different shoes are less likely to be injured.