15 Common Myths About Running Punctured

by | 24 May 2021 | Running motivation

Runners and non-runners alike are a very opinionated bunch when it comes to the topic of running. There are some well-known truths about running that ‘everyone knows’ and some are so ‘common’ that nothing can change them.

New runners sit around the fire like wide-eyed students and listen to old sage heads telling them the truths in whispering voices, shaky gnarled fingers pointed at heavens, bats circling above.

Sometimes the truths are true but sometimes it turns out that some ‘truths’ are simply common myths, some quite funny.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular common myths about running:

1st of the common myths about running: ‘I am too old, or too big, or too skinny or not built to run’

Really?

People tend to compare themselves to the top names in the game or at least some of the more athletic amateurs they spot in parks. And when you look at the bigger picture there is a miniscule minority of the world’s population who will line up on the ‘start’ line hoping to make it into their country’s Olympic team.

For the rest of us, everything goes. We all qualify. If you want to run dressed like a T. Rex, do it. If your thing is running alone at dawn and singing throughout, carry on.

Anybody who wants to run is allowed to run and welcome to run. No boundaries. Go and do it. Nobody has the right to judge you.

You call the shots, it’s your game and your rules.

2nd running myth: ‘Always stretch BEFORE the run’

Well, it’s good if you do but let’s note a difference between a warm up and a cool down. Different stretches, different outcomes.

Dynamic stretches work for your cold muscles, hence you should warm up by doing those.

Static stretches work when your muscles are warm, hence we use them AFTER running.

local park ideal for new runners
Photo by Oksana Taran on Unsplash
Reverse the two and you are likely to end up in a static stretch that will attack your cold muscles and run the risk of pulling one of them out and getting you hurt.

Many runners confuse the two by blurring the differences. So, yes, do stretch but be aware of what stretches come first.

‘Bad for the knees’ is my fave common myth about running

‘You will ruin your knees by running on those pavements’, says a non runner to a runner.

I did hurt my knee but that was because of woefully inadequate shoes that I wore some years ago. And, it’s also true that you can ruin your knee if you slip and fall but you can do that in the shower at home, no need to run long distances.

Interestingly (thank you internet), I found an article where there is a report done by researchers who compared recreational runners with those guys who don’t run at all.

It appears that by running for 30 minutes regularly (rather than sitting down) the knees will have less chance of inflammation (that could lead to arthritis). You can read the full article here.

Also, I would kindly recommend knee strengthening exercises. Practice them daily in the comfort of your own home, they are not time consuming and the benefits are there for you to take.

Of course, if you carry more weight, or one leg is slightly shorter than the other, or your pelvis is tilted, there will be more pressure on the knee.

But the point is, know your limits, prepare well, take it easy and you can avoid injuries.

‘Running is bad for the heart’ myth

Unfortunately, people died from heart attacks when running marathons. However, many more non-runners die from heart attacks than those people who run long or fast.

Running is not designed to kill. On the contrary, it’s an excellent choice if you want to keep your heart healthy into your older years. Your arteries widen, decreasing your heartbeat and the actual heart will grow larger due to changes to your vascular system developed by running.

If in doubt, please consult your friendly doctor and seek advice in case you need more reassurance.

Hyde Park in London is a great place to run
Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash

‘Without pain there’s no gain’

I myself tried to be brave once and carried on running when my knee was hurting. I went on until the knee ballooned and I simply couldn’t move any longer.

Did you know that top marathon runners spend the majority of their time in lower cardio (lower intensity) training zones? And they should know.

If you can’t sustain a tempo – slow down. If you’re too tired – stop. If you cannot breathe when running up that hill – slow down or stop altogether. You’re nor training in elite forces.

If there is pain, stop the pain!

You will gain if you run within your abilities, not if you push yourself far and beyond.

‘Strength training slows you down’

Ok, let’s not confuse all strength training workouts thinking they are the same. They are not.

If you spend hours in the gym lifting tonnes of weights, getting bigger and bulkier, yeah, excess muscle weight is likely to slow you down. If I remember it correctly, Hulk is not known for his running speed prowess.

But if you work on your overall strength by getting stronger leg and core muscles, a more toned and developed torso and generally better shaped body, you are likely to gain speed rather than slow down. After all, you’ll improve your posture, endurance and running economy.

Look at all those top runners – do they look as if they’ve never worked out in the gym?

‘Pasta before the race is good for your running’

Meals rich in carbohydrates like rice or pasta are beneficial if you’re facing a long run, like a marathon, but not necessarily a must-eat meal before a leisurely jog or a 5K parkrun race.

The idea is to eat and hydrate well, keep your diet healthy at all times and the running body will respond in kind. The last thing you need is a pasta festival later on Saturday evening, before a Sunday morning race in the park.

I will eat my favourite pasta bolognese an evening before a very long run, but will make sure I don’t eat too late – or too much. Moderation and timing are the key.

‘It is best to run every day’

That schedule has become popular with some runners. I’ve read that some run every day in January to keep beating that awful winter blues. Yes, regular exercising is important but so is the rest between the runs. I’ve also read stories from some runners who got injured while running every day.

The truth is, running on consecutive days can lead to overtraining and overtraining can lead to injuries.

Many new runners aren’t aware of it, they go and plough on daily, and get stopped in as little as a week or two. Strong, trained pros can run daily but they will be fully aware of the intensity they can withstand.

If you are really keen to exercise every day then you can cross-train during non-running days by cycling, swimming or simply walking, giving your running muscles a much needed rest.

I love running in London thanks to fantastic parks and sights
Photo by Adam Tinworth on Unsplash

‘Don’t run in cold weather’

That one probably comes from the people who dislike being outside when it’s cold. The logic goes, you will catch cold if you go outside when it’s cold.

Perhaps someone should inform those guys who dip into freezing rivers for fun, and live to tell the tale.

Shame that nobody informed viruses about that either. So far they’ve been known to spread easily inside, in warm rooms with closed windows. Remember your office in the winter? A colleague sneezes and everyone soon follows?

Running outside, dressed weather appropriately, is likely to boost your immune system and burn way more calories than sitting inside, not running at all.

‘Mileage is all that matters in running’

Some people will proudly inform you ‘how many miles they’ve covered this month.’

But….why?!

This is about quality not quantity. It’s about fun and health. Running too much is not all that matters. It can become stale and uneventful at best.

At worst you can put lots of strain onto your body and stop running as a result. Or even worse, get injured through overtraining and then stop running, whether you want it or not.

‘Running fast makes you a better runner’

When people race they run as fast as they can. Kinda makes sense.

There are recreational runners who run slow, and slower, and there are some who run like a wind. Or try to.

Apparently fast means quality. You’re not good if you run slow. Many new runners give it all they’ve got and then tearfully listen to their physios who explain why they got injured.

Constant pressure that hard and fast running applies to the body is a sure pass to the Injury Land. Especially with new runners who are still developing.

Slow will make you stronger, and as you get stronger you’ll naturally get faster.

‘You can’t miss a run’

…….because running makes you feel good, clears your headspace, boosts your immune system, relaxes you, keeps you healthy….. All valid reasons from a psychological point of view.

But your right knee, left ankle, and either of your hamstrings are not au fait with such pleasant facts. They move until they move no more. Any added pressure on your body will lead to potentially miserable time on the injury couch.

Running is about the whole process, an experience, not individual runs.

One run does not make running, and resting your body between the runs will not affect your running in a negative way. On the contrary, it will help it.

Here you need to look into a bigger picture. It’s running in general that you want to continue and by doing so dropping some runs is part of the game.

‘You’ll lose toenails with distance running’

Yes and no. I did. I wore that as a badge of honour, especially on the beach. But in fact, to an untrained eye that ghastly look may have been the result of me foul-playing with a hammer rather than running marathons.

And by changing into more appropriate shoes for distance running, and acquiring much better running socks, advertised as ‘marathon’ socks, all my toes have been in place for several years and aren’t looking to be going anywhere, despite running those long distances.

If you do lose your toes, find out why you’ve lost them.

Start by looking at your shoes and socks.

‘Long distances are better’

In what sense? Do they make you look ‘tougher’ because you’re on the move for hours? Usain Bolt is not famous for being a marathon runner, and yet look at the great man’s physique.

But let’s forget about the top guys. There’s only a few of them on the planet.

Running for us, unburdened amateurs, is about quality not just quantity. If you go out and pile on those junk miles because ‘long distances are better’ you are missing on the rest of the fun.

You can split your week and do slow easy runs, longer runs, intervals, tempo runs, fartlek running and hill runs. Each equally fun and beneficial.

Be an all-rounder, develop to the max. No need to focus on simply running forever and looking disheveled once you’re done. Enjoy yourself in various ways.

‘Runners can eat whatever they want’

Anyone can eat whatever they want but for some reason people assume that runners are more entitled than anyone else – because we burn loads of calories. Well, do we?

If you burn just a few hundred calories during a short easy run (a humble chocolate bar equivalent) and then feel peckish and treat yourself with a burger because ‘you have been working out’, the simple maths tells me that much more calories entered rather than exited the system.

Long distance and hard-working professional runners burn loads of calories hence they really do eat more (cake as well, yum) to regain what they’ve lost. I burn several thousand calories during each long run but I still have to watch what I eat.

Eat less, you’ll lose weight and strength, get tired and slow down much quicker. Eat more and the waist will show.

In other words, like anyone else, runners need to watch their calorie intake.

If we trust everything we hear about running we may miss the actual point, or waste time, or simply make mistakes. Imagine not running because you are led to believe that you are not ‘built’ like a runner’? Or being convinced that you’ll ruin your knees, so what’s the point in trying? Or that you should run hard every day to get stronger, with better stamina? Or that running gives you an open ticket to eating lots because ‘you are burning calories’?

In reality, running as a way of getting fit is simply ideal. We can improve mental health, we can lose weight and prevent some illnesses, we can actually lengthen our life. But to achieve that through running, we need to run ‘right’ by getting the facts as close to right as possible.

Learn before you start, refresh your knowledge as you go, never stop learning new things about running.

And that’s how you’ll realise your full running potential.

Cover photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.

Be.Your.Best.

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