Running. It seems easy, doesn’t it? Put on your shoes and run out the door. I even tell my coaching clients that running is a simple sport. You don’t need much equipment besides good shoes. But wait! There are a lot of running myths out there.
Should those shoes be supportive or minimal? Or should I go barefoot? Do I need socks? What should I eat before I run? During? What about water/electrolytes/carbohydrate replacements? Suddenly running sounds a lot more complicated, doesn’t it?
There are a lot of “facts” about running that new runners in particular are led to believe. Even experienced runners probably believe some of the so-called truths about running. Read on while we bust up some running myths.
12 Running Myths You May Still Believe
Running Myth #1. More is always better
Many runners are always striving for more: more mileage, more speed work, more days per week. Frankly, the more attitude can lead to injury and burnout. While increasing mileage is important, there is a time and a method to doing so, and, depending on your goals, there is no need to keep increasing beyond a certain point. Most people need at least one day off from running per week, and others benefit from more.
Speed work is a high-intensity activity from which your body needs to recover. One or two days per week is adequate. Beyond that, you will start to see diminishing returns.
Running Myth #2. Stretch before running
Stretching has long been a subject of controversy. The jury is still out on whether post-workout stretching will reduce injury or improve your running, but studies have shown that static stretching before a workout can actually diminish your performance. Instead, begin your workout with dynamic movements like high knees, lunges, leg swings, and skips. These prepare your body to perform at its best.
Running Myth #3. Running hurts your knees
There have been no studies that have shown that running is bad for your knees. On the contrary, running strengthens your muscles and joints and that may help prevent knee injuries.
Running Myth #4. You’re too (pick one) tall, heavy, big, short to be a good runner
Yes, most elite level runners are slight of build. But we’re not talking about elites here. Runners of all sizes can improve their performance by following a proper training program, and you will see athletes of all heights and builds on the award stage scooping up those age-group awards.
Running Myth #5. If you’re slow, you’re not a “real” runner
This idea seems to persist in spite of runners like John Bingham, the Penguin, who celebrates slower runners in his books and other writing. His well-known quote, which begins “If you run, you are a runner…” says it all.
Running Myth #6. Running will make you skinny
It is true that running is an excellent calorie burner and if weight loss is one of your goals adding running to your program can help. It is not a done deal, though. Many runners make up the calorie burn and increased hunger by eating more, and not always making the most healthful choices. Have you ever seen the crowd after a 5k mowing through the post-race cookie buffet? Sorry, people, running a 5k burns around 300 calories, not enough to make up for those cheeseburgers and french fries you gulped down afterward.
Running Myth #7. Older people shouldn’t run anymore
Running Myth #8. Resting will make you lose your fitness
I see this frequently with experienced runners who are concerned that their taper, or even taking an extra day off during training will lead them to lose fitness. You’d have to take at least five days off before your fitness level would start to diminish, so this shouldn’t be a concern for most runners.
Sometimes, due to illness or injury, you will be forced to take off some running days. This will benefit you in the long run, as pushing through without rest will cause your recovery to take even longer. Sometimes you need an extra day (or even two) of rest. It won’t hurt your training as long as you don’t do it too frequently. And if you find that you continue to be worn out or exhausted during your training, you should take a look at your program; it may need some adjusting.
Running Myth #9. Speed work must be done on a track
While a track is a great place to get a good speed workout, there are a lot of different and equally effective options available. A tempo run on the road is an excellent alternative, hill workouts are speed work in disguise, and even creating a measured, flat route for intervals on a safe road is effective. You can also get a great speed workout on a treadmill. Variety is the spice of life and running.
Running Myth #10. There’s no point in a 20-minute run
Every runner has done this: You oversleep. You have to go to work and now you only have about 20 minutes to run. You say to yourself, “what’s the point?” In reality, a 20-minute run is a great way to loosen up your muscles and joints, while giving them an “easy day” to recover or prepare for a hard workout. Ask anyone who used that 20 minutes for a quick run if it was worth it.
Running Myth #11. You must carbo load before a race
I get this from my cross country runners. “Should I have pasta the night before the race?” Well, they’re running three miles, so the answer is no. Unless you like pasta. If you’re already eating healthfully there is no need to do anything special before a shorter race. If you will be running for two hours or more in your event, it is better to increase your carbohydrate consumption during the week leading up to the race, not just the night before.
#12. You can get sick from running in the cold or rain
I had a very wise mother who understood that germs and bacteria cause illness, not the cold and wet, so I never bought into this myth. Actually, it will probably do you good to get outside and away from all of those germs floating around in the warm air of your home or office.
Running really is a simple sport. Ask a few questions, get fitted for the right shoes, do a little research (like reading this post and others), then walk out the door and, well, just do it.
Did I miss a running myth? Do you have a running question?
This post is updated from an article I wrote in 2014 on Live from La Quinta.
Now It’s Time for the Running Coaches’ Corner!
My weekly linkups! Please stop by and check out all of the great recipes, workouts, and information that all these awesome bloggers share every week!
Meatless Monday with Sarah and Deborah
Meatless Monday with Annmarie and Rachel
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Wild Workout Wednesday with Annmarie, Michelle, Jen, and Nicole
The Plant Based Potluck Party with Deborah
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Living a Life of Fitness, Health and Happiness with Jill
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