Long distance running is a fun pastime for many people, especially for those who enjoy an hour or so of being outdoors on their own. Besides being an enjoyable activity, long distance running is a great way to stay fit and healthy. And if a runner needs accountability to keep up the good work, there are plenty of marathons and other long distance running opportunities. Before you begin your long distance running program, however, take some time to read about these common myths surrounding running. Are they fact or fiction?
You’re Only a Runner If…
There’s no stereotype when it comes to running. Runners run. That’s the bottom line. People of all sizes, shapes, and abilities can enjoy long distance running. Even if you don’t enjoy running, you can be a runner. In fact, anyone who runs on a regular basis can give themselves the title Runner!
Some would say that you’re not a runner unless you’ve run in a race. That’s entirely fiction. Every runner is training his body. Whether you’re training for the next marathon or you’re simply working to improve your health, long distance running is for runners.
Running can be just one aspect to your total body training. It’s a good idea for runners to perform plenty of stretches and strength training exercises. Your body will benefit from a variety of exercises. Runners need to be strong and flexible to get the best benefits from long distance running.
Runners Should Stretch Before Running
Not necessarily. It depends on what type of stretches you like to do. Static stretching provides a greater benefit when your muscles are warmed up. Static stretches focus on elongating your muscles as you relax, but to do this effectively, your muscles need to be warm and pliable. So jog for a bit, then do your static stretches, and then begin long distance running.
If you prefer dynamic movement stretches, then it’s fine to stretch before you’re warmed up! Dynamic movement stretching focuses on stretching your muscles through motion. For instance, you can stretch your hips with Leg Swings. Each time you swing your leg back and forth, you bring it up higher. This type of stretch gets blood pumping to your muscles and activates them for long distance running.
Always Take Time to Cool Down After Long Distance Running
Thankfully, this is fiction! You’re more than welcome to walk or stretch while your body returns to its normal state, but it’s not necessary. If you’d rather crash on the grass, that’s fine too! The deep breaths that your lungs require as you calm down from long distance running are the perfect way for your body to slowly get back to normal.
That deep breathing – almost panting – helps your body cool down after long distance running. It’s also the perfect way to get extra oxygen to your body as you recover. And it’s the best way for your body to get rid of any waste that has built up in your muscles. So whether you chose to do gentle cool down exercises or not, your body has a great recovery plan already in place!
Strength Training Is Useless for Long Distance Running
Fiction, for sure! In fact, strength training is a crucial element in training for long distance running. Injury occurs when muscles are weak. Strength training builds up weak muscles and keeps your body balanced. It also increases your flexibility, which is an important aspect to preventing injury!
You’ve probably heard that long distance running can hurt your knees. That’s a partial truth. The running itself doesn’t cause injury, but poor form and weak muscles certainly increase the likelihood of injury. If you want to injury-proof your body for long distance running, the best thing you can do is build strong and balanced muscles.
Obviously, it’s important to strengthen your lower body if you expect to be a powerful runner. But did you know that it’s also crucial to strengthen your upper body? Long distance running takes a toll on your body, and the first thing to give way is correct posture. Once your shoulders begin to curve over, your breathing becomes shallow and your body tires quickly. Upper body strength helps you maintain that posture and finish strong!
Running Is Guaranteed to Prevent Osteoporosis
While running does put an excellent load on your lower body, your upper body is still susceptible to joint issues like osteoporosis. To keep your whole body in good condition, it’s crucial to implement an exercise regime that challenges both the upper and the lower body. Do a variety of exercise!
Long distance running is a great way to strengthen and protect your spine and hips from degenerative diseases like osteoporosis. The pounding of your feet against the pavement or the grass puts a load on those important areas of your lower body. But to keep your upper body strong, include exercises like yoga, Pilates, or strength training into your daily routine. A few Yoga poses could be the perfect cool down to your long distance running routine. Or you can do some dynamic stretching and then do a quick upper body workout if you’re not too tired.
Runners Can Eat Anything They Want
Unfortunately, this is a myth. Your body needs plenty of energy and stamina for long distance running, and you’ll only get that from nourishing foods. A balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, carbs, and plenty of protein will give you the nutrition you need to keep your body healthy and strong.
Complex carbohydrates are also important for long distance running. These carbs break down slowly in your body and give you the steady supply of energy that you’ll need to finish your run. Complex carbs include whole grain breads and pastas. They can also be found in many veggies and fruits. Basically, following a healthy diet will offer plenty of fuel for long distance running.
Low Potassium Is the Cause for Muscle Cramps
That’s very unlikely. Low glucose, dehydration, or low electrolytes are more likely the culprit. Since your body will sweat quite a bit during long distance running, you need to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. When you sweat, you also lose electrolytes like sodium. Drinking water that’s combined with necessary electrolytes is probably a good idea when you’re participating in long distance running!
Muscles also need glucose to stay strong. If your workout is intense, you should take 60-90 seconds in between exercises or running intervals to allow your muscles to rest and recover. That way, your body can replenish the glucose that helps those muscles to continue functioning properly without cramping.
Running Barefoot or with Barefoot Shoes Is the Best Option
Sorry, this one is also fiction. For some runners, barefoot shoes may be a great option! But for others, they can cause incredible discomfort. It all depends on what is normal for your body. In the United States, most long distance running participants are used to wearing running shoes that give their feet and ankles plenty of support.
That doesn’t mean that you can never switch to barefoot running! In fact, long distance running in bare feet may be the perfect option for some runners – like we said before, it all depends. If you do decide to switch to long distance running barefoot, you need to transition slowly. Do shorter runs in bare feet first and then gradually work your way up to the longer distance.
So now you know the facts behind many of the common myths about runners and long distance running programs. You’ve got the truth, now get running!