Runners get a ton of advice… all the time. Sometimes they seek it themselves, and at other times, tips are freely showered upon them.
These could come from a misinformed runner, a relative, or even a total stranger walking past you. And the best ones come from people who never ran in their lives!
While given with good intentions, some of these tips can be potentially dangerous. Especially to beginners.
So, let’s take a look at some of these worst pieces of advice that runners often receive. And also learn, what we should do instead.
1. Just Run
Just put on your shoes. Hit the road. Put one foot in front of the other. And off you go. You have become a runner!
Sounds great… doesn’t it?
While this advice shows the simplicity of running, it can be dangerous for a lot of reasons. Especially to those who have lived a sedentary life and now want to start running.
Why? You ask.
Let’s take a look at how a beginner typically takes this advice:
- He runs every day – in fact, he swears to do so.
- Runs hard and fast every single time – thinking he should make the effort count.
He finds running unenjoyable – and may continue to run through the discomfort. For a short while. But how long do you think, you can do something that you don’t enjoy?
So he just quits running. And this is the case if he doesn’t get injured. And so ends the potentially amazing athletic career of a beginner.
Then, what is the right thing to do?
We need to understand that it takes time and patience to develop the cardiovascular and muscular systems of our body. We need to train properly. We need to give our bodies time to recover – in order to gain the most benefits.
Easy running at conversational pace is the best way to do that. Beginners should exclusively start with easy running. That means no huffing and puffing on those runs.
Learn the basics by reading books and online resources. Or pay a good coach to train you.
Basically, you should learn about:
- Different types of running – easy runs, intervals, tempo runs, etc.
- Good running form
- The importance of recovery
- Periodization (following a running plan)
- Supplemental training like strength training, stretching, plyometrics, etc.
- Proper running gear, especially running shoes
It may seem overwhelming at first. But trust me – put some effort into learning about this awesome sport and you’ll thank me later.
2. Run Through the Pain, It’ll Go Away
Most probably, you will experience some sort of pain, at some point in your running journey. And you may get the advice, “Just ignore the pain and keep going. You will be fine.”
Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. You need to pay attention to it. And seek professional help if need be.
While it may be okay to run through muscle soreness; you can get into serious trouble if you run through an injury. Learn the difference between muscle soreness and a real injury. Learn to listen to your body.
A bad injury can keep you from running for a long time. If you feel pain, here is what to do:
- Take a few days off.
- Implement RICE – Rest, ice, compression, elevate.
- If it doesn’t fix the problem, seek professional help. Don’t push through the pain.
3. Don’t Run Because Running is Bad for Your Knees
This is the advice you’ll most likely get from people who never ran in their whole lives. And they will say this about not just running, but about weight-lifting and many other such activities.
It is true that running is a high-impact sport that puts a lot of stress on your joints. But running itself is not the problem, “running incorrectly” is.
Let’s look at some reasons that can cause knee problems:
- Overtraining – Running too much too soon
- Running with incorrect form
- Not allowing enough recovery time
- No running plan or periodization
- Wrong running shoes
- Not listening to your body
- Being overweight
By taking care of the above issues, you significantly reduce the chances of a knee injury. Or any other injury for that matter. So take it easy. And don’t push yourself harder than your body can handle.
4. Always Stretch Before Starting a Run
This isn’t actually a piece of bad advice. But it becomes so when it is misunderstood.
We need to understand that there are different types of stretches that have different purposes.
Generally, there are two types of stretching exercises – dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretches are movement-based. So in a dynamic stretch, your joints and muscles go through their full range of motion. You don’t hold a certain position. They help your body warm-up, which can be quite useful. Some examples of dynamic stretches are lunges, hip circles, arm circles, side-to-side leg swinging, etc.
You can even get away with only a brisk walk before your easy runs. But doing some light dynamic stretches before your hard runs (intervals, tempo runs) can be beneficial. And performing some running specific drills before your hard workouts are highly recommended.
In a static stretch, you have to extend your muscles and hold the position for about 20-30 seconds or more. Some examples of static stretches are – hip flexors, hamstring stretch, lower back stretch, etc.
So the type of stretching you want to do before a run is dynamic stretching. Static stretching should be done after you finish your run. This is where most beginners make a mistake and do static stretches before starting their running workout. By doing static stretches before your runs, you will fatigue the muscles which can lead to injuries.
5. Breathe Through Your Nose, Not Your Mouth
While inhaling through your nose will be fine at a slow pace, it’s going to be hard when you run fast.
Breathing through your mouth simply enables you to take in more oxygen. Which, of course, is a huge advantage.
Additionally, make sure you’re not chest breathing. Breathe with your belly instead. You should feel your belly expand when you inhale – and contract when you exhale.
6. Run With Long Strides
If you take longer steps, you’ll cover more ground. That’s common sense. Right?
But wait. This can cause a lot of trouble for you.
If you try to take longer steps, Your feet will land way ahead of your knees and your center of mass. This is called overstriding.
And overstriding is a big problem. You can easily get injured.
So what should you do instead?
Take shorter strides, focus on landing under your center of mass – below your extended knee. Try to run with a higher cadence – that is the number of steps you take per minute.
180 steps per minute is a good number. But you don’t need to follow this number as a rule set in stone. Your cadence will vary depending on your pace, height, etc.
Just don’t overstride.
7. Don’t Run You’ll Get Extremely Thin
This one comes from people who see running as a means of losing weight and nothing more. Another group that gives you this advice has a perception of fitness – affected by movies and tv. They see those beefy actors and models and think their bodies are the ultimate standard of fitness.
In truth, to be a successful distance runner, you’ll have to get lighter. It improves your running economy.
Also, running is much more than just a means of fitness. It does wonderful things to your body and mind. Science says that. And anyone running for a while knows that.
8. You Could Eat Anything if You Run a Lot
You’ll be burning a lot of calories with a fair amount of weekly mileage. But this doesn’t mean you should eat whatever you want.
While it is true that you’ll need a lot of calories; the source of those calories is also important. The quality of food makes a world of difference to your performance. So limit your junk food intake and eat more of the healthy foods.
- Does Running Damage Your Knees? webmd.com.
- The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and How to Get Started. healthline.com.
- Image source: Pixabay.com