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Written by WellBe&Co

When it comes to running wisdom, numerous myths and misconceptions have been generated over time, and some of these more popular theories have turned out to be a lot more fiction than fact.

Recent research has debunked some of the most widely-known rules and beliefs. From stretching before a run to adopting extreme fad diets, here are some of the most common running myths that you should kick to the curb.

Myth busters: running facts vs fiction

Myth 1: Running trail is harder than road

Road runners thinking about trying their hand at trail running are often hesitant to tackle more technical routes due to the unfamiliar terrain. But is trail running really harder than road running? 

It’s true that trail running requires a lot more attention than running on local roads. This is largely due to the uneven terrain, steeper grades and winding switchback, while road running provides smoother and harder surfaces which often correlate to faster times. 

Because of this, people tend to think that road running has a lower level of difficulty, while the slower and more technical nature of trail running tends to get a bad reputation. 

Often we want to categorize trail running and road running as two completely different activities but, at the end of the day, they are both just running. According to most athletes, if you are already an avid runner, then you already have all the skills you need to run on the trails. 

In fact, trying your hand at trial running could benefit you in the long run since many health professionals actually report seeing less injuries in runners that mix their training with some trail running and road running than those who prefer to stick just to the roads.

Myth 2: Runners don’t need strength training 

Most people tend to think that if they want to improve their running, all they should focus on is running. In actual fact, if you want to perform at your full potential, you should try to adopt a more comprehensive approach to your training. 

Strength training is a key part of boosting performance and preventing injury. Strategically targeting different body parts on different days will also help you to better strengthen your muscles, improve your power output, give you a stronger, better push on the roads and improve your overall race time. 

That’s why it’s important to supplement regular roadwork with occasional training to strengthen muscles and joints, as well as to target areas of fitness that you may not normally pay attention to – such as flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength.

Myth 3: Taking a few days off will hurt your fitness

The benefits of rest days shouldn’t be underestimated. Most people tend to forget that one of the most important parts of exercising effectively is giving our bodies time to recover.

Often, being stuck in an “I must work out everyday” mindset will do more harm than good. A lot of the time we tend to feel like taking a day or two off for rest and recovery, or sometimes even for illness, means that we have immediately lost the miles that we’ve logged during the week.

The truth is that cardiovascular fitness doesn’t just disappear overnight. Studies show that there is little decrease in general fitness over the first 10 days of inactivity in trained athletes. So if you need a rest day, take it. There’s no real need to ‘make up’ for the lost time.

Myth 4: Running is bad for your knees 

Running will mess up your knees completely. It’s only a matter of time, right? Wrong. Research shows that running is in fact really healthy for your joints and plays a significant role in preventing bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

A recent study even found that 80 marathon athletes reported that their bones and joints around the knee actually became stronger after training! And while 45% of running injuries do involve knee pain, it’s not the running itself that is inherently strenuous on your body, but rather the related issues which result from weak hips, tight muscles and overuse.

The only time you should really be cautious about injuring your knees when running is if you’ve had a recent knee surgery or if you’re significantly overweight. If that’s the case, it’s always better to start with a more gradual fitness routine before jumping right into an intensive running routine. 

Myth 5: You don’t have the right body shape to be a runner 

Often people are told that they are too tall, too heavy, too big or too short to be a good runner.

While it’s true that most elite trail or roadrunners have a specific shape and build, we’re not all born elite gold-medalists who are predisposed to a smaller frame and leaner body fat percentage. In reality, most of us don’t have single-digit body fat, and there is no ideal body type for someone looking to get into the sport. 

While an individual’s body weight is undoubtedly important when it comes to distance running (since being lighter generally makes running a little easier), runners of all shapes and sizes are capable of beating times and breaking personal records.

Simply put: anyone can become a runner. At any big race, whether it’s a 5km or marathon, you’ll see athletes with varying body types cross the finish line. All it takes is a good level of aerobic fitness and the right training program.

Myth 6: Stretch before you run 

While many people swear by a regular stretch routine before a run or race, static stretching is not actually the optimal way to warm up before a run. 

In general, the rule is to never stretch a cold muscle. Certified running coaches tend to agree that you should never engage in static stretching before a run as lengthening your muscles could actually over-strain your muscles, and a simple stretch might even end up slowing you down instead.

Your primary focus should instead be to get enough oxygen into your muscles before you partake in any type of physical exertion. A good idea is to start it by warming up with a slow walk. Swing your arms back  and forth to get the blood moving or do a few shoulder shrugs. The idea is to slowly elevate your heart rate for a few minutes before you pick up your pace. 

Myth 7: There is a perfect diet for running

These days, athletes are always always looking for a new fad diet that will make them leaner and faster. 

In reality, there is no specific diet for athletes looking to build stamina and better their performance. The bottom line is that proper nutrition and a balanced diet is all that matters when it comes to keeping your body fit and strong – and research has shown that we are able to thrive equally well on a variety of diets. 

The key is trying different diets to find out what works best for you and to create a sustainable lifestyle centre around holistic, healthy living. Essentially, it is all about experimenting with a range of meals and eating plans to see what combination of foods will help you feel good while also enabling you to reach your peak athletic performance. 

Whether it’s a vegan lifestyle, a ketogenic diet or a plant-based way of living, once you’ve figured out your best diet, it will undoubtedly give you more energy and stamina when you head out on the roads or the trails. 

A final word 

Don’t let any myths or misconceptions keep you from hitting the road – or the trail, or the track. At the end of the day, running is an ever-evolving sport, and new studies, better research and different theories are always showing up in the running community. 

The trick is to use these opportunities to learn something new so that you can better develop your running wisdom and put your best foot forward every time you hit the roads.  

A word from WellBe&Co

This blog was written by WellBe&Co in collaboration with RunMalibu. RunMalibu is taking virtual running to the next level with their US-based virtual races hosted between 7th and 8th November 2021. 

Gemma Oberholzer

About Gemma Oberholzer

I guess you can say I'm a serial self-improver. Since I was a kid I can remember being weirdly thrilled at the idea of learning something new and figuring out how to use that new found knowledge to better myself. This perpetual learn-grow itch eventually lead me to the field of Health and Wellness and it's here I've been, fascinated for the last 8 years of my study and work life. From Human Life Scientist and learning the mechanics of physiology and intricacies of metabolic biochemistry, to Food and Nutrition Scientist where I deepened my understanding of diet and it's key role in human performance and health. Geared with this comprehensive education and better appreciation for human health, I've since been able to practically apply this in my career through the fields of research, product development, brand management and marketing. In 2018, I was finally able to bring all these learnings together and so my passion project, WellBe&Co, was born. WellBe&Co is a personal and corporate wellness company specializing in easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions. It's here that I've gained invaluable insights into the human-side of the health and wellness industry in a way that has enabled me to provide relevant content and value-adding services to individuals and companies alike and live out our mission to build communities that know better and grow together through better health.

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