The more running grows in popularity, the greater risk there is that runners will receive misguided information. While some claims may have a degree of truth, common myths and misconceptions around running and runners are ever present. Now, in my sixth year of running, over 5,000 miles logged and countless half marathons and marathons under my belt, I’d like to dig into what running claims may or may not be true.
Claim #1 Runners are lean fighting machines
This is a common misrepresentation of runners, perhaps stemming from elite runners who look very lean. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. It is a sport for everyone and the MCM is an event for everyone, thus the nickname “The People’s Marathon.”
People run for different reasons and are at various stages of their running journeys. Some run to just get some cardio in, others run for the sheer pleasure and there are those that run because they thrive on accomplishing specific goals.
Claim #2 Running gives you bad knees
David Felson, a researcher and epidemiologist at Boston University School of Medicine, says that “’running is healthy for the joint.” Daniel Lieberman, a professor in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard and author of Exercised also speaks about the notion that exercise, including running, is actually good for your joints because it promotes movement and can prevent injury. As Lieberman explains it, “a lot of those injuries, I think, are preventable by learning to run properly. We don’t treat running as a skill in our culture.”
There you have it folks, running is not necessarily running your knees to the ground; it’s how we run that makes the difference for our knees.
Claim #3 Runners run in any weather
This is true —at least for me and many of the people I run with. The weather forecast can say 90% storm and we’ll say “well it’s not 100%.” Cold? Check. Rain? Check. Snow? Check. Let’s run! Just be sure to dress appropriately for the weather when running outdoors.
Claim #4 Carb loading is a must before running
Research shows that carb-loading can reduce fatigue and improve performance by as much as 3% for exercise lasting more than 90 minutes.
For individuals who are consistently running, eating carbs is a very important part of our dietary intake as it helps to increase the level of glycogen stored in our bodies, a necessary source for the energy needed in a long run. But, it is important to note that this is proven to be most effective on prolonged periods of strenuous activity, like running a marathon. There’s no need to alter your diet or consume extra carbohydrates before a shorter run.
Claim #5 You must always stretch before or after running
Yes, the body needs to warm up. But for running, what’s often referred to as “static stretching” is not the most optimal way to start your run. It’s more important for runners to focus on mobility and less on flexibility. For runners, a dynamic warm-up including high knees, butt kickers, skips and lunges is a great way to get your muscles warmed up or simply walking or jogging for at least ten minutes prior to a hard run can get the blood flowing, increase your range of motion and help prevent injuries.
Stretching after a run is even more important. This can help improve and maintain muscle flexibility, as well as reduce soreness. I also highly recommend adding foam rolling to your post-run stretching routine. There is nothing more satisfying to me than getting back from a long run and rolling out my thighs on my foam roller! This is how we should all roll.
Claim #6: Black toenails are unavoidable when running
We have all heard of the notorious toenail stories; that if you run long distances, you’re going to lose one or more toenails or it will eventually get black.
The consistent rubbing of your toenails against your shoes while you are running may cause a blood blister. The black color is the dried blood as a result of the wound not having the opportunity to breathe and so it takes a lot longer to heal. This can cause your nail plate to separate and loosen, which may lead to your toenail falling off.
Another cause of trauma to your toenails is from wearing shoes that are too small or socks that are too tight. Add miles and miles of your toes pounding against the front of your sneakers and alas, black toenails or losing it all together.
One way to avoid this is by ensuring you’re buying the right size shoes, which means having enough room (but not too much) between your toe and the front of the shoes as you stand and especially when you’re running. Take into consideration the extra layer of wearing socks – preferably moisture-wicking –when also finding the right shoe size.
Lastly, try to keep your toenails short. The longer the nails, the more chances of hitting the front of your shoe and causing trauma resulting in blood blisters that can lead to your nail falling off.
Claim #7 Runners don’t need to strength train
Before I got into running, I was into CrossFit. While my primary focus now is on running, I have kept some of my kettlebell routines in my training, which I believe has made me a stronger runner.
For long distance running, strength training may be implemented into your routine without taking too much time away from getting in your miles. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve and what your preferences are. Some runners use weights to supplement or enhance their training for specific reasons, some runners participate in other sports outside of running, and some runners switch up their routes and routines to strengthen different muscles by running or walking up hills, which works the same as lunges.
The reality is adding some form of strength-training activity specifically for your core into your routine can provide many benefits. It can help with injury prevention, enhanced performance, increased cardiovascular strength and improve your running form and technique. If you’re in need of cross-training ideas, check out this list of indoor workouts you can implement to be a stronger and faster runner.
Written by Veronica Gutierrez
Veronica Gutierrez is a proud military spouse with three children. An avid runner, she joined the MCM Organization as a marketing specialist in October 2019 with an MBA from Loyola Marymount University and over 15 years of marketing experience under her belt. Veronica and her family now calls Fredericksburg, VA home and can be seen running in and around the area.