The more you run, the more you want to know about how to improve your stride, increase your pace, extend your distance and prevent injuries. You start to read articles online and in magazines. You pick up tips from other runners that you talk to. Heck, maybe you even read a blog or two! With all this information, you are going to come across lots of things that are just not true. So what are some of the bigger myths that are floating around the world of running?
> Stretch before you run. FALSE! If you want to avoid injuries, I beg you…do NOT do static stretching before you run! Stretching muscles before they have warmed up is a recipe for disaster. While the jury is still out on whether stretching at all is beneficial, there is no debate that by stretching muscles after they are warm and loose drastically reduces your risk for injury. I prefer to do active stretching prior to a run. Some skipping, kick-butts, grapevines and single leg swings. Save the toe touches and quad stretches for after your workout!
> Strength Training is not important. FALSE! If you follow this blog, you know that lack of strength training led to an injury four months ago that I am still dealing with. Sure, running makes your leg muscles strong, but using resistance or weights adds even more strength…improving performance and helping to avoid injuries that result from unknown weak areas or overuse.
> Running is hard on your knees. FALSE! This is one myth that has been out there for a long time. Non-runners or people that jumped into running too quickly will tell you that it will destroy your knees. I challenge you to find a study that proves this. You won’t find one, it doesn’t exist. You need to do cross-training and strengthening exercises in addition to your running, but I promise you…done correctly, running is not detrimental to the life of your knees.
> Minimal shoes will cure all injuries. FALSE! You knew this one was coming. If you go out and buy a pair of barefoot or minimalist shoes and start to run in them, you will actually increase your chance of an injury. It’s the latest craze, so people believe the hype. These types of shoes help to improve your form, but it’s nothing that can’t be done while wearing your “normal”, cushioned shoes. In fact, new research even shows that heel-striking isn’t even bad as long as you land under your hips. I’m not saying that minimalist shoes are bad, but use them in moderation…especially at first!
> Long Slow Distance running is the only way to train for a half or full marathon. FALSE! I’ve done eleven half marathons and two full marathons (include those as part of triathlons). I’ve trained for these several different ways. I’ve also written training programs for other runners/triathletes that are doing these long distance races. I can tell you from experience that you do not need to go out and do long, slow runs in order to get the stamina necessary to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. If you go out and run slow during your training, all you are doing is training yourself to run slow. The majority of your workouts should consist of fast running (intervals, tempo runs, fartleks) and hill work. You can do a long run once in a while to test your fueling or just prepare yourself mentally for running a long time…but even these runs are not necessary to prepare for a long race.
> Cramps are caused by dehydration or low sodium. FALSE! This is going to fly in the face of just about everything else you read, but I’ve recently come across some interesting data. Muscle cramps or spasms are most often caused by fatigue, not lack of water or sodium. While staying well hydrated and nourished is important, studies are now showing that if you drink before you are thirsty, all you are doing is adding water weight. You should only drink to thirst. Drink only when you are thirsty, not every time you see water. This is a lot easier to do if you carry your own water with you and don’t rely on the aid stations. The human body also has an amazing ability to retain sodium. If you are seeing salt in your sweat, all you are doing is excreting the excess sodium that your body is holding from the food that you have eaten recently. Don’t believe Gatorade or Powerade…your body has more than enough sodium/electrolytes to make it through a marathon. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve believed that you needed a certain amount of sodium intake per hour during long runs (I took electrolyte capsules during all of my half and full Ironman triathlons this year), but I now think that this was unnecessary. More on all of this in a future post. If you think I’m crazy, check out this link.