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8 Common Running (& Fitness) Myths

Running is pretty straightforward. Grab a pair of decent shoes and head out the door. In fact, this sport is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most accessible sports of all times.

Nonetheless, if you peel back the layers, you’ll find that the running world is full of all sorts of lies, myths, misconceptions and total B.S. just like any other sports industry in the world.

As a result, today I decided to debunk some of the most common myths about running so you could know what’s worth believing and what should be taken with a grain of salt—helping you run free of nonsense.

8 Common Running (& Fitness) Myths

Without further ado, here are some of the most common running myths that do more harm than good.

1. You Need to Have a Certain Body Type

If you think that you are not skinny enough, or too old to start running, or don’t have those ‘long lower limbs” often associated with famous runners, to take up the sport, then toss that erroneous line of thinking aside and get REAL: You don’t need to have a certain body type to take up running.

The truth is: Anybody can be a runner—regardless of age, bodyweight, gender, {fill your excuse here}, etc.

In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect running body type.

As long you don’t suffer from a serious medical condition, you can run. And if you are really out of shape or have been a couch potato for as long as you can remember, then you can take up running today and see real improvement in just a few weeks.

All you need is your body (no matter what package it came in), proper shoes and there you go.

Not convinced yet? Well, just head out to a local race and you’ll notice that participants and racers come in all ages and body sizes and types under the sun.

As a result, instead of sitting around and lamenting your fate and genetics, stop, get up, get off your butt and start running. That’s what it takes.

Start on The Right Foot

If you are a beginner, then I urge to begin slowly, maybe even start walking in the first few weeks. As you get stronger, include a bit of running while following the walk/run method recipe until you can run for 30 minutes straight without much huffing and puffing.

Here are a few posts to help you out:

The 8-Week Beginner Running Program

The 30-Day Beginner Running Challenge

The Walk/Run Method

The 30-Minute Beginner Treadmill Workout

2. You Should Always Stretch Before your Runs

Stretching is vital for runners (and for all sorts of athletes), but doing static stretching—holding a stretch for a period of time— is not the best way to start off your workouts.

In fact, you could actually hurt yourself with static stretching by straining your muscles—especially if you are stretching a cold muscle.

Also, pre-run static stretching can also hurt your performance. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, distance runners who did a set of static stretching exercises before running had drastically reduced their performance in contrast to those who didn’t stretch.

The Solution

Start your runs by walking for at least five minutes while taking deep breaths, then do a set of dynamic moves like leg swings, walking lunges, butt kicks, straight leg kicks and high knees to get your heart rate up and body ready for the task ahead.

Next, slowly pick up the pace until you reach your goal training pace.

If you are looking for a more comprehensive warm-up routine, check my post here.

Last up, do your static stretching after your run, when your muscles are well warmed up and ready to stretch without getting strained. Focus on your low back, hip and leg muscles.

3. Runners Do Not Need to Strength Train

Throughout my years as a runner, I usually find that the runners who hit the weight room on a regular basis to be less prone to injury and performance flare-ups than those who don’t strength train.

The fact is: Strength training can help you build strength and power in the muscles you use the most while running, leading to improved performance and less risk of an injury.

According to research, a plethora of overuse injury is associated with a muscle imbalance—the type of muscle imbalances that can be fixed with a regular strength training routine.

Just don’t get me wrong here. You don’t need to become an Olympic weightlifter training for +20 hour per week to reap the benefits of strength training when it comes to running.

In fact, even a couple of short session lasting no more than 30 minutes each is enough to make you a stronger, and a more well-rounded runner.

Start Lifting

Schedule at least two strength sessions per week. Do plenty of multi-join body weight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, planks, and lunges.

Make sure also to do plenty of unilateral exercises to help you build stability and balance, such as single-leg exercises, stability ball training and balance training for more balanced running.

And please don’t ignore your upper body—you need that to maintain good form,  strong arm swing, and a well-balanced physique.

Here are a few of my favorite strength workout routines for runners:

13 Plank Variations For Runners

The Sliders’ Strength Workout

Leg Strength Exercises for Runners

For more workout, check out my Cross-Training Workouts Page.

4. You’ve to Run Every Day to Improve

If you believe that you can only improve by running every day, then you are just setting the stage for overtraining and all sorts of overuse injury.

The truth is, running every day is not required. In fact, hitting the pavement on a daily basis is actually the recipe for disaster.

In other words, you can always get too much of a good thing—running is no exception.

Make Recovery a Priority

The key here is to work smarter, not harder—that should be your motto whether you are looking to improve your 5K timing or increase your productivity at work.

You’ll stand a better chance of reaching your best if you take at least one day off from training each week—maybe even more at certain periods of your training cycles.

Therefore, make sure to incorporate plenty of recovery—preferably active recovery—and cross-training workouts—think biking, swimming, rowing, strength training, and yoga—into your training program if you are serious about reaching your full running potential.

Experiment with different rest ratio and rest days. I usually perform my best when I take at least one day off from training each week. I also do plenty of active recovery and cross-training workouts to keep things balanced.

5. Running will Ruin your Knees

By far, this is the most widespread and common myth among non-runners.

Nevertheless, as a runner, you are well aware that this myth has no truth behind it. Still, I  think it’s a good idea to arm yourself with the right knowledge so you can win and have the last say whenever you hear this annoying argument.

If Science Has to Say Anything…

Running might be your best course of action when it comes to promoting good knee health and protecting your against joint degeneration, according to research.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and conducted at the Stanford University concluded that the progress of knee osteoarthritis was neither more common nor more severe in a group of distance runners when compared to a group of non-runners over an 18-year period.

Not only that, according to another study, runners had a drastically lower risk of needing hip or knee replacement surgery than their sedentary counterparts.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that runners are immune to knee problems. Au contraire, knee injury is pretty common among runners.

Nonetheless, as a runner, you can ward off most cases of knee injury if you take the right precautions, like starting slow, building gradually, taking enough recovery days, fixing muscles imbalances with strength training and so on.

Prevention is better than cure, as you already know.

Other than that, running is good for your knees, period.

6. A Midfoot Strike is the Best

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but the topic of footstrike is one of the major sticking points in the running world, with schools of thoughts emphasizing its importance for performance and injury-free running, while others completely dismiss its significance.

With all said, science has yet to say its word when it comes to the best foot strike landing style/method that there is.

What I believe

I, personally, prefer the mid-foot strike. In fact, I’m a strong proponent of this landing pattern.

However, and having said that, I also believe that there is no such thing as the ideal foot strike that works for everyone.

So what should you do now?

Find your own foot strike—the one that feels and works the best—by learning how to move your foot through the stride as efficiently as possible.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and has a different physiology—so feel free to experiment with different methods—that’s how you’ll find out what works the best for you.

Heel strikers! Ignore the haters

Heel striking has been recently touted as the villain, and that everyone should avoid it like the plague. However, there isn’t enough evidence to prove or disprove, beyond a doubt, that it’s the villain.

Therefore, if you’ve been a heel-striker for the entirety of your life and have never encountered any chronic injuries, then there is no need to change your ways. Keep at it and stop listening to the haters.

7. You Can Eat Whatever you Want

Oh boy, this is one of the tightly held myths out there—especially among runners with a sweet tooth.

The fact is, you can never outrun a bad diet—no matter how fast you are—a bad diet will ways catch up with you. This may sound like a cliché, but it doesn’t make it less true.

Even if you are able to stick to a regular running program, 50 weeks a year, that doesn’t give you a free pass to binge on junk food like sugars, pizzas, and processed stuff.

In other words, no amount of running can balance out a bad diet.

Build Healthy Eating Habits

Runners, just like everyone else, have to follow a healthy diet and watch their daily caloric intake if they are serious about improving their performance, keeping their fitness gains and maintaining their body weight for the long haul.

No buts. And no coconuts about it.

Therefore, even if you are burning off like tons of calories on your runs, you need to pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth.

Focus on high-quality carbohydrates, like vegetables and fruits and whole grains,  lean protein sources such as lean meat, fish and eggs to help repair damaged muscle tissue and speed up recovery, and unsaturated healthy fats from foods like avocados, salmons nuts, and olive oil to improve blood cholesterol levels and ensure other crucial bodily functions.

8. Running in Cold Weather is Unhealthy

“The cold will make you sick” This declaration might rate as the number one health myth of all times—and as someone who runs throughout the winter months—even when it’s raining and unpleasantly cold outside—I really hate this one and I believe that it’s doing more harm than good.

However, the truth is running in the cold will not make you sick nor will it give you pneumonia.

So why do a lot of people get sick during the cold season?

There is actually a simple reason that has none to do with the cold.

Ask any doctor (or just Google it), and you’ll learn that exposure to bacteria and viruses is what makes us sick, and why we get sick more often during the winter months boils down to our tendency to spend the majority of our time indoors within close proximity to each other, making it easier for colds and viruses to spread on a larger and wider scale.

That’s it…

Running is the Best Antidote

And this is not the end of the story. The truth is, running during the cold months is one of the best things you can do to ward off illness and stay active and productive throughout the season.

According to research, people who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to get colds than people who don’t work out. So chances are you are more likely to succumb to sickness by skipping on your outdoor workouts and staying home.

Dress Right

Of course, running in the cold is no easy feat. It comes with its own challenges. Nonetheless, there are a few precautions you need to take to make the most out of cold weather outdoor workouts.

Therefore, be sure to dress appropriately for the cold weather—dress in layers if it’s possible—and cover your hands and head to keep them warm throughout your runs.

If you do this, then there is no reason why you should encounter any sort of trouble during your winter runs.

For more on cold weather running, check my two posts here.

Rules For Winter Running

How to Dress For Winter Running

Featured Image Credit – Presidio of Monterry via Flickr

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David Dack

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