Running seems pretty simple. To get started, just put one foot in front of the other and repeat. Then, get faster the more often you do it. Of course, that’s ignoring all of the subtleties in training, but in general, running seems pretty simple.
Or, at least, it does until you start working with a coach, running with longtime marathoners or taking advice you overheard at the start line of a race. A few runners weighed in on the strangest advice they’ve been given — and the results were a mixed bag of brilliant, terrible and downright hilarious.
ADVICE TO CONSIDER
“Visualize holding an egg.”
Not because you’re reliving a childhood nightmare of one of those egg-carrying contests. This piece of advice — sometimes changing up the food to a chip or cupcake — really just means you should keep your hands relaxed. Clenching your fists not only wastes energy, it can also cause you to tense your arms and upper back, compromising your running form. So, next time you notice you’re death-gripping your fists (or your phone), loosen up.
“Bandage your nipples.”
The rumor you can actually chafe your nipples (especially men who aren’t wearing a fitted sports bra to run) during a long race is very true. The solution is to cover your nipples with bandages to help avoid chafing and even bleeding during your run or race.
“It’s rarely ‘just gas.’”
Whenever you start getting ‘that urge,’ it’s time to start thinking about finding the closest bathroom. It’s probably just wishful thinking that you’re just a bit gassy — more than 80% of runners report GI distress in-run, and diarrhea, or runner’s trots, is the most common form of that distress. (Second piece of advice here: Never run in white underpants.)
“A stretched groin is a happy groin.”
Maybe don’t take this one to the extreme, but do perform a few dynamic warmup stretches that target your groin area, especially trail runners who are running on uneven terrain and prone to fast changes in direction and weird movement patterns. Groin pain isn’t uncommon for distance runners, and doing some warmups that target all of your major leg and hip muscles only benefits your running overall. It’s worth the few minutes before your workout.
ADVICE TO SKIP
“Run the marathon like an 800-meter.”
For some reason, bad marathon advice tends to fall into two camps: This one, where you’re told that going ‘all out’ and then settling in makes sense, and the other camp where you’re told to basically slow yourself down. By starting much faster than your goal race time, you’re setting yourself up for early exhaustion, gut issues and the inevitable feeling of failure when you realize there’s no way you can sustain this pace. This piece of advice is going to irritate every runner around you as well — the racers who are actually running at that pace are going to have to dodge around you when you end up hitting the wall.
“Drink two cups of water at every aid station.”
That amount of water is likely to lead to gut distress or at least a need to hop into a few port-a-potties along the course. Second, if you’re drinking only water — and that amount — you run the risk of hyponatremia, diluting the electrolytes in your body to dangerous levels. Be wary of any general hydration advice — your needs will be different depending on your current fitness, weather conditions, course conditions and your genetic makeup.
“Real runners don’t wear tights.”
Any real runners who’ve run in sub-freezing temps during the winter know this advice is patently ridiculous. Sure, for racing, you should start a little chilly because you’ll warm up quickly, but covering your knees with running tights when it’s hovering around or below freezing is good practice since joints may be more at risk for inflammation as temperatures drop. Even more, studies show that as muscles get cold, they produce less power. Don’t let your one friend who refuses to put away his shorts in the dead of winter sway you.
“You should never run more than every other day.”
The idea that you can’t possibly do back-to-back runs because your body needs time to recover is ridiculous. Usually the advice comes from someone who’s spent their life running too hard, too fast without a training plan. Yes, if you only ever go out and run as hard, as fast and as far as you can, you need more recovery time. But if you balance your run workouts, easy runs and long runs, you can safely run multiple days in a row. (But weekly rest days are important.)
“Don’t do it.”
Of course, you should ignore this bad advice and run. One more time for the people in the back: Anyone can be a runner. Sure, you may not be winning races at the moment, but running has so many physical and mental benefits. Runners — at any volume — have been shown to live longer, and who wouldn’t want that?
FOR A CHUCKLE
“Pretend a bear is chasing you.”
This may not work at the start of a marathon, but if you need some motivation to get through an interval session, it might be a great go-to.