I’ve been running for a decent amount of time now: almost six years! Through those six years, I have suffered multiple injuries, ran a 5k at 39 weeks pregnant, finished a marathon, and cried a lot of happy and sad tears.
Oh! And I became an RRCA Certified Running Coach. So, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about running. Ten things. I know at least ten things about running. And you know what? It’s time to permanently bust those ten running myths.
MYTH #1: It’s ok to skip strength training days.
It really, really is not ok. A lot of times, we look at our week and say to ourselves, “I can’t skip a running day, and I need a day off, so I’ll just skip strength training this week.” Do not do this! Skip the running day. Yes, I am serious. We tend to think that more running = better/faster running, but that’s not always the case. Over-training combined with failure to build and strengthen key muscles is a recipe for injury. If you have to skip something here and there, skip an easy run and opt for lifting weights. Your body will thank you. And so will your wallet when you don’t have to shell out cash for more injury rehabs.
MYTH #2: The hear rate monitor on my watch is accurate.
Well, the wrist HR monitors are totally *inaccurate* — but the best way to gauge your HR is to wear a chest strap. During my RRCA training, we learned something that I still find valuable to this day: Sing a song as you run. If you’re constantly pausing to breathe, or you are huffing and puffing, you are running too fast for an easy training run despite what an HR monitor says. Easy runs should be easy effort. Use the HR monitor in your watch as one of many tools to guide your training.
MYTH #3: The only way to run faster is to complete interval repeats. Anyone else hate speed intervals on a damn track? Just me? I’m fine with that! Look, speed intervals help you get faster. There’s no argument there. But there are also other ways to increase your speed, including: high knee drills, hill repeats, strides, AND — STRENGTH TRAINING (see myth #1). You may end up running intervals to take your speed to the next level, but in the meantime, there are plenty of other ways to increase your speed.
MYTH #4: I only need to buy new running shoes when the treads are significantly worn.
No, you need to buy running shoes when you feel like you need them. If your shoes begin feeling uncomfortable or if you think the arch support is wearing down, get a new pair of shoes. I mean…you should also buy a new pair of shoes if you want them regardless of wear-and-tear. Want to read more about shoes? Check out my interview with Josh Boggs from Second Sole Running.
MYTH #5: Run streaking and marathoning are what makes a “real runner.” FALSE. TOTALLY FALSE. But, there’s this unspoken rule in the running community that all of us have to run a marathon or run for a year straight to be considered “real runners.” Let me be clear: a runner is someone who runs (and that includes walk/run!). Not all of us are cut out for long distances or consecutive running days. A marathon and a run streak require lifestyle changes aside from pounding the pavement non-stop. If you are going to run streak, read this post first.
MYTH #6: Apps work in place of a running coach. *insert palm to head emoji* Look, apps aren’t bad if you’re just starting out. I’m not totally against C25K, because a 5K is a short distance. Beyond that, DO NOT rely on an app to train you. There are automated marathon training apps out there, and they make me cringe. Spend the money and hire a coach. Am I partial? Maybe, but I’m not even coaching right now, so this isn’t a sales pitch. The issue with most pre-manufactured long distance plans is that the longer distances may not be right for you. Despite what some say, a 20-miler is not a training requirement for a marathon. I love Jeff Galloway, but his 26.2 plan instructs you to run the full 26.2 miles before the marathon to “prove to yourself you can do it.” DO. NOT. DO. THAT. Your body does not gain training benefits by running more than about three hours. My longest run for 26.2 was 16 miles based on my pace. No 20! It was not right for me, and it may not be right for you.
MYTH #7: I don’t need to fuel myself with more food unless I burn X amount of calories or run over X amount of minutes. You need to eat when you’re hungry. It’s that simple. WHAT you eat is individual and should be based on your body composition, food allergies, running goals, etc. Read more about the nutrition associated with running in my interview with registered dietitian Heather Larson.
MYTH #8: I have to drink a lot of water during races and long runs. Careful here. A good rule of thumb is to take sips. Something I have always told my athletes is that hydration is a lifestyle, not a race-day thing. Drinking tons of water on race day can cause overhydration and hyponatremia (a condition where sodium levels become dangerously low). Hydrate religiously during your training cycle. Drink sips of water during the race, and consider leaping over to the hydration table with a sports drink (or carry your own — I prefer NUUN Elite Endurance). Of course, this is a general rule. Work with your running coach regarding special conditions such as extreme heat and humidity.
MYTH #9: Easy runs are junk miles. You might not believe me, but running slower helps you run faster. Aerobic fitness is the key to distance running, and you improve aerobic fitness by staying in the aerobic zone: 70-80% of your max HR (be careful with HR monitors; see myth #2). Aerobic fitness, combined with speed training, can help you get faster. However, most running plans prescribe 1-2 workouts per week and the rest are easy runs. Easy running builds physical and mental stamina, and those are two keys to successfully completing a distance race.
MYTH #10: Running on the treadmill is better for your body. No, no no. What’s best for your body and fitness is running on a variety of terrains. Try your best to switch it up! Run on both the track and even pavement if you can (uneven pavement can cause a host of injuries including ITBS). If possible, run on other terrains, too, including a track and/or trails. A track is softer than other surfaces, and technical trails help build balance and agility (but be careful if the trails are super technical, and get the right shoes — like these New Balance ones — if they are!).
Keep on keeping on! Peace – Love – Running,
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