Even seasoned runners have preconceived notions about what makes a runner a runner, but a lot of them are just plain wrong. Like “I don’t have a runner’s build” is total b.s. Everyone can be a runner — but it’s a lot harder to believe if you have misguided ideas about running.
Andy Jones-Wilkins of CTS and Ted Ramos of Well-Fit are both seasoned, run-coaching veterans. They’ve seen, heard and fixed it all — and they’re here to dispel some of the myths that drive them bananas when people talk about running.
MYTH #1: I CAN’T RUN
This myth is so pervasive that both coaches immediately cite it as the number 1 lie they hear new runners utter. It’s also one that most runners hear from friends and family who don’t want to join a morning jog. But everyone can run, say Jones-Wilkins and Ramos. You might need to start with a walk-run program, or just walking, but you’ll get there. The mistake most people make is going too hard or too far too quickly, says Ramos — and that can lead to injury or discomfort that makes it seem like you’re just not cut out for the sport. A slow-and-steady build into running means you absolutely can run (and so can your best friend, partner or coworker).
MYTH #2: RUNNERS SHOULDN’T STRENGTH TRAIN
Core strength is where you can make major gains if you plateau otherwise, yet for some reason, runners often think strength training doesn’t apply. Ramos is a huge proponent of getting in the gym or working with bodyweight to improve core strength for better balance on the run.
It can make a runner less prone to injury, as well. A 2013 review found, “despite a few outlying studies, consistently favorable estimates were obtained for all injury prevention measures except stretching. Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved.” With that in mind, how hard is it to add a few minutes of core work and a weight set each week?
MYTH #3: I DON’T HAVE A RUNNER’S BODY
Every body is a runner’s body, say Ramos and Jones-Wilkins. Millions of people finish marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks annually — and not all of them are tall, thin and speedy. Even at the elite level, body types vary: sprinters are more muscular, while distance runners have that long, lean build we typically think of when we picture runners. This myth drives both coaches crazy because it’s always possible to become a runner. But you have to actually get out and try running. So if you — or your friend or partner — ever use the excuse “I’m not built to run,” rethink that: You might have to start small, but success is certainly possible.
MYTH #4: RUNNING IS BAD FOR YOUR KNEES
Thankfully, it’s not just coaches who strenuously disagree with this oft-cited myth. Recent science kills it as well. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that runners are no more or less likely to have knee problems than non-runners. The study’s lead author, Robert Hyldahl, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, said smart running is not likely to harm healthy knees.
MYTH #5: I DON’T NEED A COACH
A coach can analyze your stride and gait and offer minor suggestions and tweaks — not to completely change your running, just to improve it. Running for exercise and fitness, maybe with a weight loss side-effect, is something you can handle on your own, but Ramos explains that most people are convinced there’s no way a run coach can help. Getting outside help can dial up your training so you’re actually working toward your goals in a smart way with a thoughtful training plan — it can also help you get technically better on the trails or road, if, say, you want to run a 5K in less than 20 minutes.
MYTH #6: EVERY RUN NEEDS INTERVALS
Definitely not true, says Ramos. Most of our running adaptations come during those rest days and easy runs so you can make the most of those intervals. New runners often get attached to the endorphin rush, or that need for speed, that makes you feel like a badass. Soon, every run is harder than the last — until you hit the wall and find yourself nursing minor injuries, getting burned out or actually getting slower.
MYTH #7: I JUST NEED TO RUN TO GET BETTER
The counter-myth to the one about needing speedwork every workout is the myth that we just need to put in tons of miles to get faster. That’ll work for a while, says Ramos, but real gains in strength and speed require intervals and harder efforts — just not all the time. A structured training plan should blend both easy and hard runs so you can push yourself and then recover and adapt.
MYTH #8: THERE ARE SET FUEL AND HYDRATION RULES
There are certain truths about hydration and eating during your runs. You need to drink on long runs, you should supplement with electrolytes if you’re going long or hard and you’ll need to eat eventually. But there are no hard or fast rules of running nutrition, says Jones-Wilkins. Anyone who tells you that there’s an exact amount of liquid, calories or electrolytes every runner needs on every run is making it up.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN