For an exercise most people partake in (or should, at least), there are plenty of misconceptions about running.
Must you always stretch beforehand? Does taking a few days off affect your progress? And what about that barefooted thing?
Here, we debunk the most renowned running rumours, so you can run free of nonsense.
Myth 1 | You must always stretch before you run
Amateur runners dramatically extending their lower limbs atop their garden wall in the name of a pre-run stretch is a common sight around the world. Turns out, those people are wasting their time. That's right – stretching provides zero benefit to your run. Tamra Llewellyn, the University of Nebraska's assistant professor of health and human performance, told The Guardian that the increased motion of a stretch beforehand isn't necessary as runners merely move their legs in one plane; if anything, it'll increase injury. Instead, save the stretches for afterwards.
Myth 2 | Missing a workout is detrimental to your progress
In a word, no. In fact, not taking a few days off can lead to burnout and injury; rest days will rebuild your body and aid your future performance while failing to decrease your fitness. This means you can incorporate up to five rest days into your schedule before jumping back on the wagon. Of course, while the number of days is respective to the runner (experiment to see what works best for you), be sure to ease back into your running routine once your rest is complete.
Myth 3 | Running in cold weather is unhealthy
Probably the oldest myth in the running book, this, but it's simple – running in the cold does not make you sick. If you dress appropriately for the weather and ensure both your head and hands remain warm throughout, there's no reason why you should contract an illness. In fact, seeing as exposure to germs is what leads to illness, chances are you're more likely to get sick by shunning the run and staying at home. Consider cold weather an excuse no longer.
Myth 4 | Runners don't need to build strength
There's no two ways about it – strength training helps build your running potential; leg exercises, focused on balance and stability, will build the muscles and joints you use most when in action. Depending on what you expect to gain from running, regular 15-20 minute exercises are ideal – and mandatory for those who have any long-distance marathons on the horizon. For those of you sighing at the back, remember: a leaner body is sure to follow.
Myth 5 | Run barefoot for optimum effect
The recent craze of running barefoot is more common than ever as many believe it to reduce the risk of podiatry injury (for that, we can thank Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run) – but allow elite-level coach Keith McDonald to tell you otherwise: "It sounds like a wonderful idea because it's about running as naturally as you possibly can – however most adults don't run properly and need the support of a shoe to prevent injury." Sports performance coach Hannah Schultz levels, "For most people, it's just too stressful on the body and on the joints." Maybe it's time to invest in those running shoes after all.
Myth 6 | The more you run, the better you'll run
You'd be forgiven for assuming that the higher number of miles you run correlates to a more successful fitness regime. But in actual fact, it's what you do with those miles that counts. Look no further than the Hanson method: devised by brothers Keith and Kevin, their training scheme stresses quality over quantity and aims to eliminate the amount of people who focus on increased mileage as opposed to recovery time. Believe it or not, it's the switching up of your workouts (speed tests one day, a long run the next) that'll lead to a more successful running performance. Push yourself, by all means – just not too hard.