Fact or fiction? 7 Running myths, busted
If you're a runner, you'll definitely have heard of some of these 'rules' and well-meaning friends and family will no doubt remind you to 'always stretch before a run'. But what's the truth behind these rules - which are fact and which are fiction? We're here to bust 7 running myths for you!
#1. "Muscle cramps are caused by lack of potassium"
As every runner knows, cramps can affect your run but loading up on potassium may not be the solution. In fact, the main cause of cramps is a lack of glucose or low water and sodium levels in the body. A challenging workout such as HIIT or lifting means your body burns glucose faster, causing lactic acid to form that can cause cramps. Take a 60 to 90 second rest to let your body get rid of lactic acid, giving glucose time to reach your muscles, and make sure you stay hydrated during your workouts.
#2. It's better to be flexible if you're a runner"
Another myth! In fact, runners who are super-flexible are actually the most prone to injury. Stretching is still important but remember that overly-flexible joints are generally less stable.
#3. "Every run should start with a stretch"
Static stretches are not the best way to warm up your muscles pre-run - you could actually end up straining your muscles. Walking and jogging on the spot will elevate your heart rate and get oxygen flowing to your muscles more efficiently than static stretching - aim to do this before your run for around 10 minutes. It's actually best to stretch after a run, when your muscles are already warm. Static stretchin of your lower back, hip and leg muscles can help to prevent injury.
#4. "You should always cool-down after a run"
When all you want is to sit down after a long run, doing a cool down can be exhausting, but we have some good news! It's actually okay to sit down and catch your breath after a long, gruelling run. The idea behind a cool down is to make it easier for your body to return to its pre-exercise state, but your body will eventually return to its resting state anyway. The heavy breathing we all do after a run restores your body's oxygen levels to normal and eliminates waste products such as lactic acid.
#5. "Runners should avoid strength training to prevent tightness"
Strength training is actually really beneficial for runner and there is no evidence to suggest it causes joint tightness or decreases flexibility. In fact, the stronger you are, the more flexible you'll be. Adding strength training to your workouts could actually improve running performance - weight training will make your muscles more powerful.
#6. Barefoot running is better than wearing regular running shoes"
We grow up wearing shoes in this country, so it's what our bodies are used to. For that reason, running in barefoot shoes might not be the best idea! If you do want to give it a try, start by running short distances and build up slowly. Remember that barefoot shoes aren't a great choice for everyone. If you have joint problems, you'll need the extra cushioning and support that regular running shoes provide.
#7. Running alone will prevent osteoporosis
It's true that running loads the spine and hips, but they are not the only joints susceptible to low bone mass. Running only loads your lower body and you'll need to incorporate other exercises too to prevent osteoporosis. Yoga, pilates and lifting weights can all help improve your balance - did you know that falls caused by poor balance are the leading cause of broken hips? Improving your balance reduces your risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
Next time somebody tries to give you some running advice that's based on fact, check that it's actually true before you take it on board - chances are, it could be a myth!