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7 Running Myths to Ignore

Mar 14 2014 - 9:59am

Running: it's one of the most popular forms of cardio around, but there are a few common misconceptions about it that we'd like to dispel. Shedding some light on these myths could help improve your training, change your sneaker shopping habits, and refine your relationship to speed work.

Stretching Before a Run Prevents Injury

Warming up and stretching are not synonymous. Before running, muscles tend to be cold and tight, and a lengthy prerun stretch session may tear a muscle. Instead, start your run with five minutes of jogging to get the blood moving, and save the stretch session for after your run to increase flexibility of your warm and tired muscles.

You should also try a dynamic warmup to prime the joints and get the muscles ready to run. High-knee marches are a simple way to get heart rate up, but here are more moves to incorporate into your active warmup [1].

Running Is the Only Form of Cardio You Need

We all love running because it's a simple and effective way to burn calories, but just pounding the pavement or kicking it on the treadmill can lead to overuse injuries. Cross-training is great for your body and helps keep boredom at bay: mix it up and try different forms of cardio like cycling, swimming (here's a swim workout to follow at the pool [2]), or Zumba — you might just find you like shaking your fanny with a large group of people.

Plus, Zumba and dance classes use a lot of side-to-side movement, which is utterly lacking in running. These lateral moves strengthen underused stabilizing muscles and can help prevent injuries.

You Need to Break In Your Sneaks

Running shoes should feel good the first time you slip them on, with no hot spots, no slipping, and no pinching. If a pair of sneakers feels uncomfortable in the store, they are simply not the shoes for you.

Being familiar with your gait can help in your sneaker selection. If you know that you overpronate and roll to the inside of your foot too much, you might benefit from a stability shoe. Learn more valuable tips for shopping for running shoes here [3]. Then lace up your new sneaks and head out for a run.

There Is a Running Body Type

You don't need to have the long, lithe limbs often associated with famous marathoners to be a runner — anyone can run and run well. Paying attention to your technique, like keeping your torso stable and shoulders down, will certainly help. Here's a checklist to go through during your next run [4]. Thinking about your running, while you're running, is a great way to improve your form.

Runners Don't Need to Strength Train

While running definitely tones your lower body, to prevent injury, it's important to incorporate strength training for the legs — especially if you're trying to run faster or longer. Don't overlook the value of core work for injury prevention either — just a few variations of planks [5] can set you up for the long run.

Try our strength-training plan [6] for runners; it'll work your lower body and chronically underworked stabilizing muscles. Do it twice a week to stay on the road and out of the physical therapist's office.

End Your Run With Sprints

Adding sprints to the end of your workout, when your muscles are spent, is often asking a tired body to move too quickly and can easily lead to injuries, especially since your form could be compromised due to fatigue. Speed work is great to incorporate into your running routine, but use the end of your run as a cooldown rather than a sprint to the finish line.

Walking Is For Wimps

In his book on the similarities between writing and running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running [7], Japanese writer Haruki Murakami brags that he never walked during a race. But walking during runs can be a valuable way to train and race.

Running guru Jeff Galloway has created a training method with walking breaks inserted into runs [8]. This technique allows many to run farther and for longer with fewer injuries. The bottom line: walking is not for wimps. Try a walk-run treadmill [9] workout to test the technique.

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