Myth 1: You have to run fast every session
In running, each session has a purpose. Whether it be improving the efficiency of the heart and lungs or improving the body’s ability to clear the waste products associated with energy production, they all have an intended stimulus.
To truly maximise performance, you have you to maximise the development of your aerobic capacity i.e. your body’s ability to produce energy aerobically therefore causing no waste products such as lactate to build up which causes fatigue. This means you can run faster, for longer. Simples. The best way to achieve this? Conversational pace running. Running at zone 1 or 2 is where you will improve endurance, blood volume, mitochondrial mass and capillary density. Simply put, your body will be more efficient at delivering oxygen to the working muscles at a faster pace.
This method should form the bulk of your training as it’s one of the most trainable qualities in beginner/intermediate runners and take huge amounts of training volume to truly hit your maximum potential. Unless you’ve clocked up at least 400-500 hours of zone 1 or 2 training in a year, there’s still more gainz to be had.
Not only this but take in to consideration the recovery demands of constantly running fast every session and the increased injury risk. You can see there is no need to go ‘all out’ every run. In fact, you will become a better runner if you don’t.
Myth 2: Static stretching before you run prevents injuries
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this claim and the research even suggests that stretching pre-workout can reduce power output during the session and potential hinder performance. Just to clarify, we are talking static stretching whereby a stretch is held in place for an extended period of time. Dynamic stretching such as leg swings is different. So here is my take. If you really lack range of motion and mobility, then the negatives of stretching pre-workout aren’t that big of a deal in comparison to helping you move better. So, carry on with it but perhaps avoid doing it pre-workout on sprint/hill rep days. If you’ve got good ROM and mobility, then save your static stretching for post workout as this will help kickstart your recovery process.
Myth 3: Pasta makes you fun faster....#carb-loading
First up, if your event is less than 90 mins, then just no. Second, your body stores glycogen (carbohydrates broken down into glucose and then broken down further into glycogen for storage) in the muscles and liver. This means you can store only a limited amount of glycogen to utilise during a race. So smashing a bowl of pasta the night before isn’t really going to change anything other than maybe making you bloated on race day.
However, there is evidence to suggest that we can ‘train’ the body to allow a slight increase in the storage of glycogen. This means you will be able to run for longer before having to refuel and potentially avoid hitting ‘the wall’ altogether. This requires you to increase carbohydrate intake over a period of a week leading up to race day. A recommendation would be to consume 50-55% of your daily calories from carbs and then 3 days out from race day increase that to 70% with a normal dinner the night before. The key is that this increase doesn’t come at the expense of overall calorie increase i.e. switching out foods rather than adding.
Myth 4: Running is bad for your knees
Running is one of the most injurious sports there is. Add to that a high percentage of those injuries happen at the knee, you can understand the above thinking. However, the majority of injuries in running come from one simple concept.
DOING TOO MUCH TOO QUICKLY WITHOUT PRE-REQUISITE STRENGTH
Simply put, injuries come from overuse, this overuse occurs when people increase weekly mileage too quickly, increase speed too quickly or don’t have enough strength to absorb the huge impact forces that occur when running. It’s that simple.
Myth 5: If you lift heavy weights, you’ll get bulky and slow
This is the one that frustrates me the most as it is often an excuse used by runners to avoid lifting weights. Strength training is VITAL for runners to reduce the risk of injury and improve run economy and performance. Strength training is also predominantly neuromuscular in terms if it’s adaptations. This means we improve activation, efficiency and force production of muscle fibres rather than increasing their size. This is key to ensuring your joints, tendons and ligaments don’t suffer overuse and has also been shown to make you a more efficient runner.
Add to that the fact it takes a significant amount of work to actually increase size/mass. You need to be in a large calorie surplus and while runners do like to eat, it’s a tough feat to achieve. I’ve been lifting weights since I was 16 and it’s only improved my running and plays a huge part in my recovery post-race and having never suffered an injury. Ever.
Myth 6: Barefoot running is better and less risk of injury
I get it. You read Born to Run and went out and got some Vibram Five Fingers (Google it if you have no idea what I’m talking about). You started to run your normal mileage and then boom, calf and achillies problems. Foot problems. Ankle problems.
There is no consistent evidence to suggest minimalist/barefoot/forefoot striking causes less injuries. None. Vibram even got sued over false claims they made about barefoot running. Whilst barefoot running reduces injury occurrence at the knee, it increased injury occurrence at the calf, ankle and foot instead! That’s simply because we load the leg differently depending on heel/forefoot strike. There’s even more recent evidence to suggest heel striking could be more efficient and cost less energy per stride.
Now I’m not saying changing foot striking pattern/footwear won’t benefit some people. If after addressing strength, range of motion and technique, such as over striding (which you can still do as a forefoot striker) and you’re still in pain then maybe for striking pattern is worth looking at. And that goes both ways, heel to forefoot and vice versa. However, change needs to happen slowly, muscles need to be conditioned gradually to reduce the chance of injuries occurring elsewhere. If you wear cushioned shoes, they feel good and you don’t suffer with injuries, then stick with it. The same applies at the opposite end. If it works, don’t change it because a book claims the same thing works for everyone. 99% of the time that claim will be false.