5 Myths About Running That You Shouldn’t Believe and 5 Absolutely True Facts
Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.
It’s no surprise that a sport that’s been around for centuries would have developed a lot of myths about it. In 776 B.C., the first event at the first Olympics Games was the footrace. Then came the running boom of the 1970s, when jogging for fitness exploded onto the scene. Fast forward to the 90s, the decade when I began running, and the running world was full of advice. Lots of it included carbo-loading and stretching. That and bad knees, I spent two decades listening to nonrunners tell me how my knees were going to fall apart if I kept running. Well, I kept on running. And now, more than 20 years later, my knees are still going strong.
So what are the real facts about running, and what ideas should we leave behind?
Myth #1: Running will ruin your knees. Runners hear this a lot. Hopefully, this piece of advice will fade away, as it is completely false. For one thing, running helps keep weight off, and not carrying around extra weight is beneficial to your joints. And researchers have conducted studies that have shown that running is beneficial to the cartilage in your knee joints.
Myth #2: You should always stretch before running. Static stretching before a run will not do you any good. I wrote all about it here. A short warm-up and some dynamic stretches are better before you head out for your run.
Myth #3: You need to eat pasta for dinner before a big race. Sadly, this one is not true. The carbo-loading craze of the ’90s is over. You don’t need to eat a giant bowl of pasta the night before a big race. Eating that big bowl of spaghetti can have the effect of making you feel bloated the next day. Instead, increase your carbs slightly in the days leading up to your race. And think healthy and complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, black beans, lentils.
Myth #4: Real runners don’t walk. Don’t let anyone tell you this. It’s simply not true. Popular running coach, Jeff Galloway, has a program where he incorporates running with walking.
Myth #5: Runners can eat anything they want without gaining weight. Like myth #3, I wish this one were true. Unfortunately, running is not a license to eat anything you want. If at the end of the day your calorie expenditure is less than what you’re taking in, you’re going to end up gaining weight. This is true even if you ran 20 miles that day. Runners still need to be conscious of their diet. Although a lot of running does mean you’ll need to eat more calories to keep up your energy levels than someone less active.
Fact #1: Running can boost your mood. Exercise reduces stress and increases your ability to deal with anxiety. It does this by increasing concentrations of norepinephrine, which is a chemical in the brain that helps people to deal with stress. Many studies have shown that people who exercise are less likely to be depressed and show higher levels of emotional well-being.
Fact #2: Running helps build strong bones. Running is a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercises reduce the loss of bone strength. Some studies have shown that more than just slowing down bone loss, running can build bones.
Fact #3: Running helps you live longer. Researchers looked at 14 previous studies which included 232,149 adults. They found that compared to people who didn’t run at all, runners were 27% less likely to die during the study. The researchers concluded that running improves overall health and longevity.
Fact #4: Running can improve your sleep quality. Exercising regularly can help you get deep sleep. Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is how your body and mind rejuvenate during the night. Miss out on deep sleep, and even though you are rested, you may feel fatigued the next day. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep found that people who exercise for more than 30 minutes per day will have better sleep quality. You may want to experiment with what time of day works best for you. Going for a run right before bedtime may make it harder to get to sleep.
Fact #5: You need new shoes every 300 to 500 miles. Running is a simple sport and doesn’t require much equipment. However, your shoes are critical, and once they begin to wear down, you may experience injuries. Keep track of how many miles you run in your shoes. Many apps can help you do this. You can also watch for the following signs: pain when running, worn-out treads, and loss of shock absorption.
Running myths have persisted over time. In the Victorian age, women were told not to run for fear of loosening their uterus. Luckily, that misguided piece of advice is long gone. Hopefully, these other myths will disappear eventually as well.
How about you? What running advice have you been given that was completely wrong? I’d love to hear about it.
Jennifer Geer writes about running, health, and fitness. Follow her on Twitter.