When we think of running, it’s easy to think of bad knees, shin splints, and injuries. But the truth is, smart training and pre-planning will help to ensure a smooth road ahead. It’s time to debunk some common running myths and misconceptions.

MYTH: Running Is All In The Legs

When it comes to running, strong legs are all that matter, right? Not so fast! It might seem like common sense that a runner’s body is built by long runs, sprints, and squats, but a weak core and upper body will catch up with you eventually.

Weak abdominal muscles can become fatigued during a long run. A stable core, on the other hand, leads to better control over form and greater force generated with each stride. A 2017 trial demonstrated that a 6-week core and pelvic strength program led to improved race times. Strong abdominals and back muscles just might be your ticket.

Strong arms can also make a difference on race day. When you run, your arms swing in unison with your legs, allowing you to shift your weight and keep your body upright. Stronger arms make for a more powerful swing — and that swing can carry you forward when your legs are fatigued near the end of a race.

MYTH: A Runner’s Diet Is One Big Carbfest

When you picture a runner’s diet, you might picture piles of pasta and thick slices of bread. Carb-loading may have captured the public imagination, but that’s far from the whole story.

While carbohydrates can be an important source of fuel, runners will benefit from a balanced diet throughout their training. One study on macronutrients and performance suggests a diet of 60-70% carbs, 12-15% protein, and 15-28% fat is best for athletes, with a higher intake of carbs immediately before and after competition. Aim for complex carbs from whole grains and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and healthy unsaturated fats for a healthy diet that will complement your training.

MYTH: Long Strides Are The Key to Speed

For newbies just getting off the couch, the key to running might seem like it lies in long strides that maximize the distance between one foot and the next. But that also maximizes the impact your legs absorb with every step. Focus on stride length and you might be headed to shin splints and stress fractures.

Running cadence — or steps per minute — increases with speed. For elite athletes, that cadence is 180 steps per minute or more. The shorter your stride, the higher your cadence. Even better, a report from the American Journal of Sports Medicine shows that re-training your gait towards shorter strides and softer footfalls results in a 62% lower rate of injury. A higher cadence with quick foot turnover will keep you running faster and longer.