Over the past 20 years of running I’ve come across every possible running myth, cliche and falsehood. In my experience, these myths that are most difficult to fight are the ones based on assumptions that really make sense within running training. But these myths are not ground in physiological correctness.

We will take a look at three of the biggest training myths many running participants believe in. But by following these it can lead to injuries and burnout.

#1 Minimalistic shoes make you run better/correctly.

Over the last few years we have seen a big upward trend of runners moving towards running with minimalistic shoes. There has been a theory that barefoot running or wearing minimalistic footwear makes you run more correctly, and makes you land on your forefoot. Because you don’t have a bulky shoe on, it forces you to land on your forefoot which is much better for running mechanics. But just because you are running barefoot it doesn’t mean you will evolve to be a forefoot striker.running myths busted

A study by the University of North Carolina who interviewed 35 runners that wore minimalistic shoes and recorded if they were forefoot or feel strikers. Everyone said they were forefoot strikers, once all runners were analysed with a slow motion camera and force plate it was found that over 30% of the participants were in fact heel strikers. The problem for people who run in minimalistic shoes and land on their heel is that they load up the heel with every foot strike much more than wearing traditional running shoes and this can lead to very serious injuries.

What can be done better:

If we take the study above done by the university of North Carolina we can see that its very hard to identify personally ones specific running form and any issues that you may have from your foot strike. Runners should take care when changing ones running form, as this can lead to unnatural mechanics and thus injuries. If they way you run is causing you pain and discomfort then its a probably a good idea to have a look at the way you run. This should be done carefully and over a period of time though.

 

An important factor to remember if you decide to start a transition to barefoot running or minimalistic footware, is to take the time to develop your proprioception, the strength of your foot, and proper barefoot running form. Make sure you don’t assume that switching to minimalistic shoes is a start to running correctly. You need to spend at least 2/3 weeks building a foundation of strength and balance in your feet, hips and lower legs as a whole.

 

#2 Long Marathon training runs Need To Be 20 Miles — Or More.

Long runs are very important for marathon training, there is no denying that. But there seems to be this myth that 20 miles is the magic number for many runners. Mentally, lots of runners feel that once they can run 20 miles comfortably on their long run then they’ll be able to easily handle the 26.2 of the marathon, when race day comes around. However, while hitting the 20-mile mark might feel like it’s an essential component of marathon training, is it really any better physiologically than 19 miles, or even 16 or 17 miles? The scientific research on the topic suggests that it’s not.

In terms of aerobic development, which is one of the main benefits of the long run, research demonstrates that 90 minutes to two hours of running seems to elicit the greatest amount of mitochondrial growth. Research has yet to show that running longer than two hours provides any greater stimulus to aerobic development.

 

So, even if there isn’t any real physiological benefit to running more than 2 hours (which for most sub-elites, is less than 20 miles), why not run 20 miles anyway if it makes you feel more confident?

1. The longer you run, the more tired you become. As a result, your form will begin to break down after 2 hours of running. Major muscles become weak and susceptible to injury while overuse injuries, like tendinitis, begin to take their toll.

2. Recovery time after a very long run is significantly longer than following a moderate long run. This means you can’t complete more marathon-specific workouts, like tempo runs, throughout the week.

What you can do:
Make sure your long run is a complimentary piece to the marathon training puzzle rather than a slow, 3-4 hour run that make up 50 percent or more of your weekly mileage.

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As Luke Humphrey, Olympic Trials marathoner and author of The Hansons Marathon Method explains, you should you downplay the role of the long run and focus instead on increasing your overall weekly training volume and hitting your marathon-specific workouts throughout the week. To simulate the fatigue of the marathon distance, utilize the principle of accumulated fatigue to get your legs prepared to handle the full distress of 26.2 miles.

running myths

One way to do this is by buttressing the long run back-to-back with a medium length run at a steady pace. Using this idea, your weekend workouts might entail 8 miles of running at just slower than goal marathon pace on Saturday followed by 16 to 18 miles, with the last 3-6 miles of that run completed at goal marathon pace, on Sunday. At the end of the weekend, you’ll have run a total of 24 to 26 miles (with many of them hovering around marathon pace), yet you’ll actually reduce the risk of injury and recover faster than if you had tried to hammer out a 20 or 22 miler.

#3 Faster Easy Days Help You Hit Your Goal Sooner

One of the most common training mistakes new runners (and some veterans) make is running too fast on their easy days. It’s not hard to imagine why. In almost every other sport, trying harder is almost always a surefire way to improve. So, when athletes take to running, it’s a common assumption that the harder you run, the faster you’ll improve.

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t how running works. Each day in a well-designed training plan has a specific purpose, and the easy run is no different. The purpose of an easy day is to facilitate recovery and develop the aerobic system. Running too fast actually diminishes your ability to do both.

An easy recovery run increases blood flow to the muscles, helping clear out waste products while delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients. If you run too hard on your easy days, you create more muscle tears than you’re fixing, extending the amount of time you need to fully recover. This can cause you to run poorly on subsequent workouts because your muscles are still fatigued.

 

What can be done better
While running your easy days faster might seem like a fast path to achieving your goals sooner, it will actually hinder your progress. By running too fast on your easy days, you don’t maximize aerobic development and you run the risk of being too tired to perform the essential workouts that will make you faster.

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