Stewart Sanders, physical therapist and director of Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Running Clinic, explains what’s fact and what’s fiction behind these five myths about running.
- Age causes running injuries.
You can start running at any time in life. Poor mechanics, muscle weakness or tightness, joint range of motion limitations, and training errors are the underlying factors that can cause injuries or pain while running, not your age. However, age can limit the rate at which your tissues heal from injury. You should make a plan to get into running shape and begin slowly. Before starting a training program, you should consult a coach or health professional.
- Running barefoot is the best way to run.
Recent books and fitness recommendations have shed light on the benefits of barefoot running; however, there are also negatives. While wearing shoes or running barefoot can influence your mechanics, other factors are important to address in order to run safely. Finding a comfortable pair of shoes that support your running style and protect your feet may be important for you.
- Stretching before running prevents injury.
General stretching is important to maintain flexibility and good health. There isn’t much research that shows that doing static stretches prior to running prevents injury. Static stretches (holding a pose for more than 30 seconds) decreases muscle activity and "quiets" the muscle. This is counterintuitive to do prior to exercise. Static stretching is best to do after a run as part of a cool down. Instead, you should warm up with dynamic movements like walking lunges and leg swings.
- Walking a mile burns as many calories as running a mile.
Because running is a high-intensity activity, it burns more energy after a workout is complete. High-intensity workouts tend to have more post-workout calorie burn than low-intensity activities, such as walking, due to the required oxygen consumption. This effect can last long after a workout is complete. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to create this post-workout burn and rid yourself of unwanted calories. Mix in some sprint work with your run to get a greater effect.
- Running will injure your knees.
Your knee joints are very resilient and can withstand the constant weight-bearing stress that running creates. Recent studies have shown that running may actually be associated with fewer knee problems later in life. Runners' knees may actually experience less inflammation than those of non-runners. Knee pain during running is attributed to poor mechanics, training errors or improper shoe wear.