There are a lot of misconceptions about running floating around out there. People who fancy themselves experts just love to throw these tropes out there whenever you dare to bring up the sport. Of course, often these people spitting “facts” are not runners, have never been runners, nor do they have any actual knowledge to back up what they’re saying. I’m here to set the record straight.
Misconception: Running is bad for your knees.
Reality: This one is the biggest offender. I hear this nonsense nonstop. And it’s always from someone whose experience with running starts and ends with their mouth. Running is not inherently bad for your knees. In fact, running has been shown to be a preventative measure against knee arthritis. What is bad for your knees is running with poor form, improper footwear, or simply pushing yourself too far and putting too much stress on your body. That being said, be sure to heed this advice, and you’ll be just fine:
- Always listen to your body. Seriously. Even if you think you should be able to run farther, some days you just need a break. It’s okay to run a little less.
- Get your feet assessed. I wrote about my experience with Happy Feet’s foot analysis a few months ago. It’s worth taking the time to ensure you are wearing properly fitted shoes that give your body the support it needs. Find your local Happy Feet Plus store location for a free foot analysis.
- Make sure your form is spot on. Not sure what that entails? (Hint: Heel-striking is a no-no.) Instagram is a treasure trove of bite-sized videos from pro athletes that show you exactly how you should hold yourself.
Misconception: You don’t have a runner’s body.
Reality: There is no such thing as a specific runner’s body. Do you have a body? Do you run? Then you have a runner’s body. Sure, you’ve got a leg up, so to speak, on race day if you’re tall and slender, but even those folks have to train tirelessly. I’m neither tall nor slender and in the past have been told I don’t “look like” a runner, but I can still throw down a 7:47/min 10K pace. The fact of the matter is, runners come in all shapes and sizes, and we run at all ranges of speed. Put the time and effort into your training and watch as you casually breeze past others that “look like” they should be faster than you. Or get out there and run a slow and steady race! At the end of the day, you’re out there hitting the pavement, and that’s what matters.
Misconception: You need to drink water constantly.
Reality: Proper hydration is crucial for any runner. Let me be clear on that. But there’s a balance to it, and overhydrating can be equally as damaging as underhydrating. It can make you nauseous (to the point of vomiting), induce a headache, or even make you feel fatigued. It’s difficult to nail down exactly how much each person should drink, because there are so many variables, including how much you sweat and that day’s temperature, but always remember: Just because there’s a hydration station doesn’t mean you need to stop and chug a cup of water. Drink when you’re thirsty. Find what works for you. And on those long runs, pop a couple of electrolyte tabs — I prefer Nuun — into your water bottle/hydration vest to keep your salt levels up.
Misconception: You have to stretch before you run.
Reality: Stretching is absolutely essential for runners, even though you’ll hear plenty of passive runners laugh it off whenever asked, as though it’s beneath them or a mark of superiority to forego it altogether. But static stretches — poses that you hold for extended periods of time — should never be done before a run. In fact, experts suggest that you do this immediately after your run. For me, the last thing I want to do after a run is stretch, so I incorporate a 30-minute evening stretch regimen into my daily routine (whether or not I run), and let me tell you, the difference it makes is palpable. Before your run, especially on race day, the most you want to do is around 10–15 minutes of dynamic warm-ups. This can include lunges, leg swings, and hamstring sweeps.
At the end of the day, don’t listen to the naysayers or heed unsolicited “advice.” Do your research, trust the experts, pay attention to your body’s needs, and keep clocking those miles.