We live in a wonderful time when all the answers to our questions are at our fingertips. Who was that actor with the face in the movie with the car? You know, that guy. These days we don't have to know or remember much. We can look up anything we need to know in mere seconds. A far cry from the days when my parents had a 20-book encyclopedia set as our only source of information inside the house. Today, we don't even have to type, our BFF Siri has all the answers. I imagine in the future, we will be able to just ask our questions into the open air as we walk down the street and the answers will be delivered instantly to our brains.
The problem with so much readily available information is that it is left up to us to determine what is valuable and what is garbage. We all know that there's a lot of bad information out there. Some of it is well-meaning but misguided, some it outdated and some of it outright lies designed to mislead us. I'm here to help you sort through some of the bad running advice. Here is my list of bad running advice that you safely ignore.
GO HARD OR GO HOME
There seems to be a push lately for hard-core training. Go hard or go home. While hard-core determination or hard-core commitment is to be admired, don't confuse it with the intensity of your training. Your training program should be a mix of high intensity and low intensity workouts. In fact, a schedule of nothing but high intensity workouts will quickly lead to overtraining, burnout or worse, injury. Rest and recovery is as important in your training schedule as those high intensity days. In fact, most athletes will thrive on just one to two high intensity days per week. Be sure to schedule easier, enjoyable, lower intensity runs into your training cycle. A better piece of advice is to run hard on your hard days and run easy on your easy days. Runners often make the mistake of running too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days.
PUSH PAST PAIN
Never ever (ever!) push through physical pain. Physical pain is your body's way of communicating to you that something is wrong. If something hurts, stop running before you make it worse. Sometimes we just need rest to heal, but if you keep pushing through physical pain, you can make it worse and put yourself out of commission for even longer. The important thing is to learn the difference between physical pain and discomfort. Better advice is to push through feeling tired, push through the burning sensation in your muscles, push through heavy breathing and mental discomfort, but never push through physical pain. I wrote a post on how to tell the difference between pain and discomfort.
RUNNING IS BAD FOR YOUR KNEES
Ahh, my favorite piece of bad running advice. It often comes from well-meaning people who think they are trying to help. When Grandpa or a co-worker offers up this piece of bad advice, I assure them I am taking proper precautions to avoid any problems. The truth is a bad training plan can be bad for your knees. Runners who increase their mileage too quickly, run too fast for their abilities, don't rest enough and don't strength train may have knee (or other) problems. If you train responsibly, increase your mileage and intensity at the proper rate, include strength training and listen to your favorite running coach (that's me), then running is not bad for your knees. Bad training is bad for your knees.
PERFORM STATIC STRETCHING BEFORE RUNNING
Not long ago it was common practice to recommend static stretching (holding stretch for 30 seconds) before workouts. Today we know that stretching before you workout can actually hinder performance. A more effective use of time before your workout would be to perform a dynamic warm up to move the joints through the full range of motion. Here is a quick dynamic warm up to try before your next run. Better advice is to save the static stretches for after your runs.
RUN FAST IN THE BEGINNING TO BANK TIME IN THE END WHEN YOU'RE TIRED
This doesn't work. It doesn't work on your long run and it certainly doesn't work on race day. Even if you feel great in the beginning and running faster than usual or planned, it is good idea to slow down in the first half of your run to a sustainable pace. If you feel great after the first half, feel free to pick up the pace and finish strong. It never works the other way around. You can't bank time in the beginning to finish strong. Better advice to always work towards achieving a negative split, this means you run the second half faster than the first. Trust me on this one.
YOU HAVE TO RUN A CERTAIN PACE TO BE A REAL RUNNER
My personal pet peeve is when someone tells you that you have to run at least a (insert arbitrary pace here) mile in order to be considered a real runner. I call BS! If you strap on a pair of running shoes and hit the road, if you're out there, you're a runner. Period. If you take walk breaks, you're still a runner. The great thing about the running community is that they are largely supportive. I find the jerks and naysayers are often on the sidelines voicing their opinions while not even doing it themselves. Better advice:
YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT, YOU'LL JUST RUN IT OFF
We don't train in a bubble. Everything matters. Your nutrition directly affects your running performance. If you consistently eat like crap, it will catch up with you. That's not to say there isn't room in your diet for treats and indulgences, but if you want to look, feel and perform your best, nutrition matters. The old adage is true, you can't out train a bad diet. Better advice is to eat to perform. I wrote a post about why sometimes you gain weight while marathon training and how to avoid it.
YOU SHOULD CARBO-LOAD BEFORE YOUR 5K
If you're looking for an excuse to eat four servings of pasta, I'm sorry to tell you that your upcoming 5K isn't it. Carbo-loading can be a an effective tool for long distance runners who need to increase their glycogen stores before an endurance race. Even then, a more effective strategy is to slowly increase carbs in the days leading up to race day. Better advice to fuel for a 5K is to eat proper portions of a mix of high quality carbohydrates, fats and protein most of the time to look, feel and perform your best.
YOU CAN REST WHEN YOU'RE DEAD
Rest is as important in your training cycle as your workouts. You get stronger and faster during rest, not during the workout. If you never rest, you never allow your body the time it needs to repair, recover and build. You will eventually stall your progress if you don't rest. You'll risk overtraining, burnout and injury. Resting isn't laziness, it's an important part of the plan. Better advice is to schedule rest days into your training cycle. You can walk, stretch, foam roll or do other low-intensity activities on rest days, but don't neglect them.
SAVE MONEY BY BUYING YOUR RUNNING SHOES ONLINE
When you're a new runner your local running store is a valuable resource available to help you start your running journey. The employees at these stores are knowledgeable runners and coaches that can help you choose the correct shoe for your individual needs. You shouldn't buy shoes because of their pretty colors, you need to buy the shoes that will support you in the unique way that you run. You can test out the shoes before you buy them and have access to a coach or knowledgeable associate to ask questions. Choosing the right shoe is an important decision. You will pay a little more at a local store than buying last year's model at a discount website, but by supporting your local running store you help support your community and the businesses and families within them.
What's the worst running advice you've ever received?
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