Now that the weather is starting to warm up and the sun’s out for longer, many people find themselves getting outside and moving! One of the simplest ways to enjoy the outdoors is going for a run. All you need is to lace up your runners, grab some headphones and you’re on your way.
And yet, there are so many pieces of advice, words of caution, and unwritten rules floating around that it may feel daunting to enjoy a movement that was likely a familiar, unconscious one in your youth. Whether you’re a long-standing vet who’s gearing up for race season or an enthusiastic newcomer, here are five running myths to debunk:
#1: Running is bad for your knees
There is a common misconception that running will “wear” down your knees, cause damage to the joints, and even result in osteoarthritis (OA) down the line. A recent study looked at patient records over a ten-year period and found that there was no increased risk of developing knee OA associated with running. This revelation is supported by further research that found recreational runners actually had a lower occurrence of knee OA compared to their sedentary counterparts. In fact, even if you already have OA symptoms and show structural arthritic changes, it has been found that running has no association with an increase in both aggravating existing arthritic pain or the likelihood of developing or progressing knee arthritis. In short, your knees will likely thank you down the line for this step on the racetrack!
#2: Your run doesn’t count if you had to add in a walk
Once you get going you might feel the pressure from all your peers on Strava to keep a quick pace and keep pounding pavement right from the start. As tempting as this might be, what we currently know about running and injury prevention is that one of the most important factors is progressive loading. This means to gradually ease yourself into higher intensity runs especially as a novice by increasing intensity (time, pace, distance, for example) overtime. Actually, mixing in lower intensity bouts along with higher intensity sessions is one of the most common training methods among running athletes. So if that means mixing in some walks or finishing with a stroll as a way to gradually ease yourself into running, then not only are you a runner, but you are a runner that is training smart and your future self will thank you for it.
#3: Strength training is a waste of effort
In running, as with many endurance based activities, there’s often a misconception that the only and best way to become better is to spend as much time and effort in the act of running. There is a bit of truth to this by the way of the principle of specificity, meaning you are best at the things you pour hours into practicing. But this also opens you up to the possibility of overtraining and having poor load management. Many runners use regular and consistent strength training to prevent future injuries. So if you’re feeling a bit run down from all those strides, feel free to do some strength training, jump rope, or any kind of cross training as it has all shown transferable benefits to your running performance. A general rule of thumb: all movement is good movement – with proper form, of course!
#4: Running only benefits your cardio
We’ve all heard about how great running is as a form of cardio to strengthen your heart health, improve your respiratory capacity and even reduce cardiovascular mortality risk. All of which is most definitely true, but there are also many other benefits of running that are often overlooked. There have been a number of studies describing the psychological and cognitive benefits of running with a recent study from 2021 concluding recreational running displays effects of boosting mood and improving brain function. Aside from your mental health, recreational running has been associated with reduced all-cause mortality and its even theorized that positive functional adaptations to knee cartilage found in research study participants was due to their time spent running rather than being sedentary.
#5: Everyone must run with the same “perfect” form to prevent injury
Much like any sport with a long history, if you go searching you will find that there exists a multitude of opinions on how you should run and what the best form is when you run to ensure you reduce your risk of injury, improve your pace, improve your distance and everything in between. There is some truth to running form, but, just like you, your running form is completely unique to who you are as an individual. It comes down to your own anatomical proportions, biomechanics, injury history, experience with running, and so much more.
One of the misconceptions you will definitely see out there is the demonizing of heel striking. Heel striking is when you take stride during running and your heel makes contact with the ground first. Research has shown that changing a natural heel strike runner’s stride to a mid or forefoot strike stride doesn’t reduce the risk of running-related injuries or ground impact on the foot.
Whether you’re training for that half or full marathon or simply wanting to engage in a new active hobby this season, running is something that is not only accessible to most people, but also beneficial for long-term physical and mental health. It may seem intimidating for beginners given all the myths and opinions circulating from all angles about this activity, but I hope I was able to shed some light on some of these and debunk the most common misconceptions. Lace up with me this season and let’s hit some running goals!