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The 10 great running myths!

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A blog written by Simon Bartlod on an article in ‘Competitor magazine ‘inspired me to write and elaborate on these 10 myths.

1. You Need To Have A Certain Body Type

Everyone is not built the same and as in many different sports, some are more fortunate with receiving better genes. The elite runner will have a complete different body composite/ anthropometric (muscle:fat:skeletal ratio) to the non-elite runner. A great study to look at body type and running performance comes from Bale et al,

“Sixty male distance athletes were divided into three equal groups according to their personal best time for the 10km run. The runners were measured anthropometrically, and each runner completed a detailed questionnaire on his athletic status, training programme and performance.

The runners in this study had similar anthropometric and training profiles to other distance runners of a similar standard. The most able runners were shorter and lighter than those in the other two groups and significantly smaller skinfold values (P < 0.05).

There were no significant differences between the groups for either bone widths or circumferences, but the elite and good runners had significantly higher ponderal indices (P < 0.05) than the average runners, indicating that they are more linear. Elite and good runners were also less endomorphic but more ectomorphic than the average runners.

The elite runners trained more often, ran more miles per week and had been running longer (P < 0.05) than good or average runners. A multiple regression and discriminant function analysis indicated that linearity, total skinfold, the type and frequency of training and the number of years running were the best predictors of running performance and success at the 10km distance.”

Taking this into account it is true that anyone can become a runner

It is therefore important to find a program to suit your individual needs as well as goal.

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2. Stretch Before You Run

Studies has shown that dynamic (movement) warmup like walking out the calf muscles and swinging the leg front-to-back and side-to-side for 2-3 minutes are much better that static stretching (holding the stretch). Dynamic warmups increase the temperature in the muscle and assist in building the energy in the tendons whereas static stretches is shown to deplete the energy and the readiness for the muscles to work.

3. Runners Don’t Need To do Strength Training

There is so much evidence to there to prove this to be one of the biggest myths.

Strength training is not only to build muscle endurance, increase oxygen intake but also to correct muscle imbalance and therefore prevent injuries. It is so important that I prefer athletes to cut on their running sessions to invest in general and functional strength training.

Two interesting studies to include are Millet et al, who concluded “the addition of HWT (heavy weight training) to the endurance training of well-trained triathletes was associated with significant increase in running performance (i.e, VV02max) and an enhancement of running economy, probably determined by an improvement in lower-limb stiffness regulation, as a result of the concurrent strength and endurance training.” and

Delecluse comments that “Today, it is generally accepted that sprint performance, like endurance performance, can improve considerably with training. Strength training, especially, plays a key role in this process”, and Paavolainen et al state “simultaneous explosive-strength and endurance training improved the 5K time in well-trained endurance athletes without changes in theirVu02d9O 2 max.”  

This means it is making you faster!!

4. Barefoot Running Will Reduce Injuries

Science tells us the complete opposite is true even though there are groups that may still believe different. For me it is simple, try to stand on one leg with you knee slightly bend for at least 30s (this is a similar position of the leg when we land on our foot) barefoot and then repeat with your runner on…. So much more balance/stability with runners, right?!

There are also factors like trauma to the sole of the foot, able to run on certain surfaces, increased load on tendons, fascia, muscles etc.

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5. You Have To Run Every Day To Improve

Generally, 2-3 sessions a week will be efficient and adding at least 2 sessions of strength training as previously discussed will be of great benefit. Frequency and intensity of session will vary according to you level of performance and on your running or multi-sport goals.

Session can also differ and be more focussed on quality work rather than only doing long/short runs by doing interval, hill or tempo runs.

6. Running Is Bad for Your Knees

I am sure we al heard this at some stage or the other and the fact is that it is not the running the cause injury the knee but rather the abnormal load on the knee. Varies factor may cause these such as altered biomechanics (the way your knee moves), muscle weakness, mobility of other joint (ankle and hip mobility) and strenuous training regime. Running dynamics also play a role on the load on the knee joint.

The knee joint is a complex joint consisting of the femur (upper leg), tibia (lower leg) and the patella (kneecap). The way the patella is loaded and compressed on the femur with movement during flexion (bending of the knee) and extension (straightening) of knee can play a big role and causing injuries. Injuries in the female population is also found to be higher and may be because of hormonal (especially estrogen) influences.  

The aim is thus to prevent or treat current or acquired injuries by looking at possible biomechanical or loading issues.

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7. Drink at Every Water Station

Drinking too much water can cause the body more harm than good. Drinking too much water can cause a medical condition called hyponatremia which is a decrease in salt levels. Maintaining optimal levels op salt is very important as this plays a big role in muscle contraction and symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, loss of appetite, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps, seizures, and decreased consciousness or coma.

It is important take fluids that contain electrolytes and not water alone. The temperature on the day as well as wind can also play avital role in flued consumption as the higher the demand on the body, the more fuel is needed.

On the other hand, no water of flued is also not good! A great idea is to speak or consult with someone who has a lot of knowledge regarding nutrition for training as well as during events.

8. Potassium Will Prevent Cramping

Contradictory to popular believe, several studies has been done to prove this as a myth.: “There are no clinically significant alterations in serum electrolyte concentrations and there is no alteration in hydration status in runners with exercise associated muscle cramping participating in an ultra-distance race.”

Fair enough, but if it is not decreased potassium levels causing the dodgy muscle cramps, what is?

The same study states that heightened neuromuscular activity (increased demand on the muscle fibres) possibly associated with muscle fatigue is the major cause for cramping.

In conclusion, cramping probably has more to do with inadequate training and subsequent muscle fatigue.

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9. Running Is Supposed to Be Hard

Running should be fun and easy to do!! There are a lot of ways to make training less hard and boring. Continuous jogging for a certain amount of km can be replaced by changing to intervals as well as tempo runs. This will make it more interesting and is also a much more effective way to improve speed and endurance.

10. Cushioned Shoes Will Prevent Injury

The more the cushioning the heavier the shoe. Weight and endurance running does not go well together, so choose wisely. This is also one of those things where the shoe should fit the profile of the athlete. Different cushioning (stacking) of the shoe will influence the heel-to-toe drop and this will influence the in a variety of ways. In a previous article I had a in depth discussion of this, feel free to read on

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