Running Myths Demystified

In today’s world, with all the information that is floating around, it is easy to get information overload.  As runners we know this struggle.  It is often hard to find the perfect balance between our older running methods and the new “ground-breaking” articles that say we should change them.  In todays post we are going to put a few myths under fire to provide a little more clarity to this information overload.  Here are four myths that you can leave at home the next time your on your run.

“I need to stretch before I run so that I don’t injure myself”

This is often one of the oldest preconceived notions of running.  It is often thought that stretching out your muscles before you run will help you prevent injuries and aid in warming up.  A recent study done by PLOSone[1] recently debunked this myth.  This study shows that static stretching before running actually decreases power and speed.  It also showed that, after static stretching, a higher level of effort was needed to perform the same results as the non stretchers.

Instead of doing static stretches, do a warm up consisting of running.  For a long, slower run warming up is not needed.   Just head out the door and be on your way.  For a hard workout that focuses more on speed, warm up with an easy 10 min run followed by three, 15-second, higher effort shakeouts.  These are short, high tempo efforts that are meant to get legs acclimated to running faster.

“I am a marathon runner.  I don’t need to do speed work”

This is a pretty simple one.  To run faster, you need to run faster.  Speed work should have a place in everyone’s training regimen no matter the distance you are aiming to complete.  Now speed work is a very subjective term.  For an athlete trying to PR in the mile speed workouts might consist of high effort 200 meter repeats.  For a marathoner speed work might consist of mile repeats at a 10k pace with ample rest in between.  Even the beginning runner can benefit from speed work.  Faster running improves running economy by forcing the runner to run more efficient to produce higher speeds.  It also helps to make your goal pace feel easier come race day because you have been doing speed workouts at the excess of that pace.  Finally and maybe most importantly it helps to break up the monotony of training and spices things up a bit.

Everyone should be a barefoot runner. It reduces injuries

For some people this statement might be true.  For most it is not.  This often a hot topic for many runners because so many people have deep held beliefs on this issue.  There are as many articles out there saying barefoot running is bad for you as there is saying it is good for you.  So instead of saying one way is better or worse we’re just going to give you a little guidance on it today.  For the majority of people barefoot running for long distance isn’t an option.  To be a barefoot runner you need to have a base built up of a combination of foot strength as well as an already efficient stride.  A heel striker is not the ideal candidate for a barefoot runner.  On the flip side a forefoot striker will be a much better candidate for barefoot running. The other case against barefoot running is that in today’s world most runners run on black top, gravel, or sidewalks.  This is a less than ideal setting for the barefoot runner.

There is however quite a bit to be said for mixing barefoot running into your training.  It can help start to change your running economy to help make you a more efficient runner.  What I would recommend is find a long stretch of grass such as a high school football field or a park.  Then 1-2 times a week mix in barefoot strides on that grass.  Practice fluid and efficient running form at whatever pace you feel comfortable and reap the results.

Running is bad for your knees

If you’re a runner you have probably heard someone say, “if you keep running that much you wont be able to walk when you get older”.  Not only is this old way of thinking not true, running can actually do the opposite for your knees.  A study by Medical Science Sports Exercise found that after tracking over 90,000 different people, runners actually experience less knee and hip problems than the walkers did in that same test.   The study showed that your body actually compensates for all of the extra stress you are putting on it from running.  It also showed that there is a strong correlation between BMI and running injury meaning that the larger you are, the more likely you are to have injuries.  Inversely the more in shape you are, the less likely you are to get injured.  So if you are new to running, start out slow and work your way up.

[1] http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0099238

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