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10 Running Myths Busted!

 So you never have to waste your time on them again.

For a lot of us runners, we’ve have had our big race postponed for 2020. This means that a race that was going to be in 1 or 2 months is now going to take place in 6 months.


What does this mean for you? Well, that means it's time for you to redefine your goals and with this create a new training plan. A training plan that is going to take you from wherever you are now, to wherever you want to be.  


To help you in creating this game-changing training plan, I’m going to bust 10 myths that you need to be aware of.


1. You should be doing a tempo run every week


A long-held belief in the running community is that you need to run at your race pace to run faster. An assumption that without running at a pace close to your race pace, you’re going to lose your ability to sustain that pace or lose that feel.  This is simply not true [1]!


Don’t get me wrong, you can improve by including a tempo run every week into your training plan. It is, however, not the most effective way to train. Your time is precious, so I'm going to guess that you're going to want to maximise that time spent training.


Whether you’re a world-class professional distance runner or a 20k/week ‘weekend warrior’, the research has shown, time and time again, that the most effective way to train is 80/20 [1]. So, what does this mean? 80% of your sessions should be in the green zone (moderate intensity), at a low comfortable intensity and 20% of your sessions should in the red zone (severe intensity), at a very hard intensity.


In the words of Prof Stephen Seiler, tempo runs are ‘too much pain, for too little gain’


2. Your max heart rate is 220-your age


We're often told that our max heart rate is 220-our age. For example, let's say you're 30 years old. Subtract 30 from 220, to get a maximum heart rate of 190 bpm. But here's the thing. Whilst this works reasonably well at a population level, this is unreliable on an individual level.


But why does this matter? Why should you care?


We all characterise our heart rate zones based on %s of our max heart rate. If you're relying on guesswork by using an equation, you're wasting your time. Instead, you can determine this with a scientific performance test. All you need is a treadmill and chest heart rate monitor strap with the correct protocol.


3. Running is bad for your knees

We’ve all heard it. Don’t run! It’s bad for your knees!


Research, however, demonstrates that recreational running in distances up to the marathon has a protective effect against the development of knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, it appears to provide improved knee health and function in the long-term [2]. What is unknown, however, is the ideal amount of running required to optimise joint health.


The volume of running that you can tolerate is dependent on a number of factors, including your past or current history of knee pain. In view of offsetting any negative effects of running. You should apply careful management to their running loads [3], and complete up to two strength and conditioning sessions per week.


4. You’re wearing the wrong running shoe type and this is the cause of your niggle or injury.


You may have stumbled across posts on Instagram or Facebook that you’re wearing the wrong running shoe type, and that this is the cause of your niggle or injury. You may have heard that you need to match your shoes features to your foot type. For example, motion-controlled shoes to pronated feet.


Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of conclusive evidence that using this method to prescribe running shoes reduces your risk of injury [4]. When purchasing your new pair of runners. You should be aware that there is NO conclusive evidence that any shoe, regardless of type, is effective in reducing your risk of sustaining a running-related injury [4].


5. Not stretching enough causes injury.


Many running coaches and even the England Athletics coaching manual states that static stretching (i.e. long holds of >15 seconds) decreases your risk of injury and improves running performance [5].


Research, however, demonstrates that this is false [5–7]. If anything, static stretching performed one hour prior to your race or run can negatively affect performance. Specifically, it can reduce your running economy and the efficiency of your muscles and tendons to store and release elastic energy.


Finally, and sadly, static stretching will not reduce the intensity or duration of delayed onset muscle soreness [5]. 


6. Strength training should be high rep, low resistance to mimic the endurance demands of running.


Light, circuit-type resistance training (3 sets of 40-45 seconds of continuous repetitions), has NOT been demonstrated to improve endurance running performance [8] or reduce your risk of injury. This means that your bodypump class will offer you little benefit when added to your running training plan.


Owing to the repetitive loading of runner you should seek to develop tendon stiffness in your hip, thigh and calf musculature. This is best achieved with 2-4 sets of 4-10 slow, heavy repetitions, with 2-3 minutes of rest between sets.    



7. Your glutes are your most important muscle for running.

Don't get me wrong. Your glutes are important for running, but when it comes to supporting your body during running, your calf and thigh muscles play a bigger role.  


In fact, the calf musculature contributes to approximately 50% of the torque that supports your body during endurance-paced running [9]. 


Here's the bit that you might NOT enjoy reading.....Your ability to push off with your calf muscles declines by approximately 31% between 20 and 60 years of age [10]. The net effect? A shorter step (shuffling pattern) [10]. The best way to slow such a decline is through an effective strength and conditioning plan.


8. When I’m injured, I can’t train?

It’s an incredibly difficult time when injured, which can be challenging not only physically but also mentally. With a feeling of a loss of purpose and a fear of losing all those fitness gains common. Feelings that may lead you to you running through injury. The net result? That initial niggle develops into something more significant, requiring more time away from running that would’ve been initially required. 


All, however, is not lost when injured. By effective cross-training, you can maintain your cardiovascular fitness, by replacing running with a cross-trainer/ bike/ swimming or even an at-home workout that doesn’t require access to a gym. All that you need to do is raise your heart rate and maintain it high enough so as to stress your cardiovascular system.


Let’s take this workout as an example. Set a timer for 15 minutes and do as many rounds as possible of:

  1. 15 Body Weight Squats

  2. 10 Burpees

  3. 5 Push Ups


Take a rest as and when you need and note how many rounds you complete. Giving yourself a clear target to try and beat next time.


9. If I have a couple of rest days, I’m going to lose all my levels of fitness

This is simply not true. You’re not going to lose all of your fitness levels by taking a day of rest. The opposite is true!


You don’t get faster by training; you get faster by allowing the adaptations to occur. Your body needs time to adapt to the stress, allowing you to arrive at your next key workout fitter than before, a process called supercompensation.


10. Don’t run in the cold.


If you run in the cold, you’ll catch a cold. We’ve all heard that before. It’s true that certain illnesses are more prevalent in cold weather.


Regular, moderate exercise, however, boosts your immune system and is incredibly important for your mental health. Two things which are incredibly important in view of the pandemic.


(1) Seiler, Stephen, Tonnessen E. Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance: the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training. 2016;:1–27.

(2) Alentorn-Geli E, Samuelsson K, Musahl V, et al. The Association of Recreational and Competitive Running With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sport Phys Ther 2017;47:373–90.

(3) Gabbett TJ. The training-injury prevention paradox: Should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med 2016;50:273–80.

(4) Nigg BM, Baltich J, Hoerzer S, et al. Running shoes and running injuries: Mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘Preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:1290–4. 

(5) Baxter C, Mc Naughton LR, Sparks A, et al. Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners. Res Sport Med 2017;25:78–90. 

(6) Saragiotto BT, Yamato TP, Hespanhol Junior LC, et al. What are the main risk factors for running-related injuries? Sport Med 2014;44:1153–63. 

(7) Yeung SS, Yeung EW, Gillespie LD. Interventions for preventing lower limb soft-tissue running injuries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev Published Online First: 2011. 

(8) Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB. The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:871–7. 

(9) Willy RW, Bigelow MA, Kolesar A, et al. Knee contact forces and lower extremity support moments during running in young individuals post-partial meniscectomy. Knee Surgery, Sport Traumatol Arthrosc 2017;25:115–22. 

(10) DeVita P, Fellin RE, Seay JF, et al. The relationships between age and running biomechanics. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2016;48:98–106. 


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