True or False? ᐅ 5 Common Running Myths

woman running in group

by Abe Ankers, Sport Scientist

Running isn’t always as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. Ever wondered if strength training is for runners, or if you should stay out of the cold? Sport scientist Abe Ankers debunks 5 of the most common running myths.

guy resting and stretching

1. “Strength training slows you down”

This is simply not true. The world’s best endurance athletes spend up to 10% of their time training for strength, and for good reason. (1, 2) Strength training can improve running economy by as much as 8% as well as improving muscular endurance, flexibility, and posture. (3) Runners should also include upper body strength training.

2. “I’m too [insert adjective] to run”

Think of “runners” and the lean figures of Paula Radcliffe and Eliud Kipchoge probably come to mind. But here’s some perspective. Olympic athletes represent less than 0.0001% of the population. For the rest of us – tall, short, fat, thin, young or old, let’s remember we were made to run – not sit at a desk. British comedian Eddie Izzard, whose flat feet and proneness to gain weight made the idea of running laughable not so long ago, recently completed 27 marathons in as many days. Now at the age of 58 he is attempting 28 in a row! In his own words, “if I can run 26 miles every day, anyone can.”

3. “Always stretch before a run”

The answer is NO STATIC STRETCHING! Static stretching involves holding a muscle in a lengthened position for a set period. Think of runners bending torturously toward the toes and leaning against lamp posts. The evidence is clear. Static stretching does not reduce the risk of injury and can worsen performance. (4)

If you want to loosen your joints and increase flexibility before your run, then incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm up. Dynamic stretches involve actively stretching muscles through the full range of motion. Dynamic stretches such as leg swings and side lunges help raise body temperature and increase blood flow to the muscles. This will prepare you for running and reduce the risk of injury.   

4. “Don’t run in the cold”

If you run in the cold, you’ll catch a cold. We’ve all heard that before. It’s true that certain illnesses are more prevalent in cold weather. But did you know that common cold viruses spread more easily indoors in cold weather because the windows and doors are closed?

Staying indoors is not the answer. Regular, moderate exercise boosts the immune system and running outside in the cold can help combat SAD and stimulate extra calorie burning.

Ein Mann läuft im Winter

5. “No pain, no gain”

We all need help to get off the sofa. The no pain, no gain mantra might be the perfect motivation, but decades of research has shown that the most successful endurance athletes spend more than 80% of their training time in the “green zone” at a low, comfortable intensity. (5) (6)

So the next time you face an uphill struggle, don’t be pressured to maintain your pace until you taste blood. It’s ok to walk. Leading exercise physiologist Dr. Stephen Seiler says,

“When we slow down on most days, we’ve got the energy and motivation to train hard on some days – performances get better and the process is more enjoyable and sustainable.”

Last word

Running is an ideal way to get fit, lose weight, prevent illness, improve mental health and lengthen life. It needn’t be confusing. Your workouts should keep you motivated, energized and injury free. Remember to eat healthily and allow for rest and recovery. Now you know – run with it!

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Abe Ankers

Abe’s background in sports science and exercise physiology comes in handy when he’s running and cycling. He likes to share his insights with others. View all posts by Abe Ankers »