Running myths (part 1 of 2)

Learn the truth about some common running myths and the truth about them
Running has been around for a while, like a LONG while. Your body, was actually made to run, believe it or not.
Somehow, we've managed to make it extremely complicated and come up with some weird theories around an ancestral activity which should be perfectly natural.

Omar Martinez
Humans have been running around for thousands of years, but recent ways of living are a lot more sedentary. In the short span of 3 generations or so, we have managed to confuse people around an activity which should be perfectly natural and normal. Part of this is because of marketing strategies focused on selling more shoes through gimmicks and also because training programs rarely ever include the person's lifestyle into consideration and only focus on a few individual metrics. Overthinking running and observing through just one angle at a time has led to some bogus conclusions and myths.

Let's go over some common misconceptions around running and try to understand the truth behind them.

I can't tell you I have all the answers, but these are some things I have known to be true and that I've seen work during my experience as an athlete and a coach.
Some common Running Myths
Stretching before a run is not necessary.
At least not in the way most people think. Static stretching, which means holding a position for a few seconds to relax a muscle, can actually cause injuries and serves no real purpose. All you really need to do before a run is an easier run to get the blood flowing and the joints moving. If you do have a job or habits which may impair your mobility, a quick session of dynamic stretching will have benefits in terms of mobility. Nothing fancy though, just going over the basic movements which will take place when you run are more than enough.
Running is bad for your knees.
I know this sounds counter intuitive, but studies have shown that people who run show a lower incidence of inflammation in the knees due to the fact that they get stronger and recover faster from efforts .It's a weird catch-22 because bad running can cause knee injuries, but they will recover faster than people getting injured by under-use. The solution here is learning about proper technique and also getting the right shoes for it, which leads me to the next point.
Shoes with more padding are better for you.
I won't delve much into the whole evolution side of things because I've made myself very clear on this point. But can you guess what happens when you put a thick layer of cushion between the floor and the receptors in your feet in charge of letting you know you're stepping the wrong way? Indeed, bad form becomes almost imperceptible and this will lead to injury and accentuation of the problems. Putting too much support on your foot muscles will also make them weak and this leads to a bunch of imbalances as the misalignment works itself up the kinetic chain of your body. It's funny how Nike and then the rest of the shoe industry raced for a full decade to see who could put more bubbles and springs in their shoes until the latest technology circled around to minimalist shoes with zero drop. Follow the reports of injuries and try to find a correlation with the amount of stuff in shoes, top scientist in shoe companies put more and more stuff and the injury problem just gets bigger. So are minimal shoes the solution?
Runners don't need to strength train.
A lot of runners, especially the old school ones believe strength training is not necessary for running. Maybe this comes from seeing the elite long distance runners as skinny men going really fast. What a lot of people over look is that these guys are not light because they don't eat, but they rather have really dense muscles which have become really efficient at processing energy through lots of work. If you ever meet an elite runner, though, ask them if there's any strength training involved and you will know the truth. Having a strong support for your frame will help having a right posture, endure the impact with more ease, and prevent injuries over the long run (pun intended)
You need to cover really long distances for long races.
Even if you are running a marathon, running over 2.5hr during a session makes no difference in terms of fitness and it will interfere with your recovery. Focus on quality over quantity and make sure you follow the right program. You will notice modern trainig programs made by coaches in the know will rarely ever include a run of over 26km for a marathon program. The only exceptions are for beginners who need some mental reassurance before a race, but it's not ideal. You can check this video out where Dr. Jack Daniels goes over the training volume for specific intensities and explains briefly why running more than2.5hr is pretty much a waste of time.
Cramps happen because of dehydration or lack of electrolytes.
There are several studies showing that cramping really comes from using muscles at an intensity for which they are not conditioned and sometimes even triggered by psychological factors. If they were cause by bad conductivity due to a lack of electrolytes, it would be the whole body cramping, not just specific parts. You need to work on your mental game and also have a solid race plan to avoid cramping. On a related note, bananas are useless against cramping.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2011, comparing blood electrolyte and hydration levels of two groups of Ironman triathletes concluded that cramping was a result of increased running speed, not dehydration or electrolyte losses. This is also explored in Dr. Noakes' book "Waterlogged".
You can also learn more about it in this interesting episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Binging on pasta the night before a race is good carb loading.
Sadly, a big bowl of pasta before race day will probably bring you more harm than good. In reality carb loading is dove over several days before the race and a protocol to deplete muscles from glycogen is done previously for best results. Also, this practice is better done with complex and natural carbs such as rice, potatoes, and barley vs the inflammatory gluten of most flours. Consult your coach or a nutritionist to learn how to carb load correctly before a race.
OK, so these are the myths I'll cover for now. When I started writing this article I noticed it was getting a bit long, so I've split it into two parts. Let me know what you think and check out the rest of the list on next week's newsletter. If you have any thoughts or want to share some advice, correct anything, or ask questions, feel free to drop me a line about the article.

Have a great week and put on some happy miles while you're at it.
A quick overview of some POSE method drills you can do as a warm up before a run instead of stretching.
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