Running is a basic movement and one of the simplest forms of exercise. Because almost anyone can do it, there is a lot of misinformation out there. How do you know what’s true and what’s wrong? Below is a look at some of the many running myths and the truths behind them.
Static Stretching Before a Run Helps to Enhance Performance
Many runners are in the habit of doing toe-touches and other similar exercises before running. The conventional wisdom is that stretching before a run can prime your muscles and help to limit injuries to the hamstrings and other major muscles.
Researchers have found that this is not always the case. In 2014, a review of multiple studies was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The review showed that active warm-ups were able to enhance performance. In contrast, static stretches failed to yield similar benefits; rather, some studies have found that these stretches are more likely to reduce a runner’s strength.
Other research suggests they can cause injury at the cytoskeletal level; other effects include an increased tolerance to pain. Pain tolerance is not necessarily desirable as it can result in injuries being worsened since an individual may continue to exercise damaged muscles and making the injury worse.
Soft Surfaces Are Less Likely to Cause Injury
It is sometimes suggested that running on trails and other relatively soft surfaces cause less damage since the impact is reduced. However, it is well-known that our bodies alter the way we make contact with the ground to make injury less likely. We tend to run a little more softly on harder surfaces than on soft surfaces.
The result is that we automatically keep the forces on the feet constant depending on the nature of the running surface. Another argument as to why softer surfaces may not be safer is this: they may present other risks since they are often uneven. For example, the risk of a runner twisting their ankle is greater on a softer running surface when compared to the risk on a hard one.
Too Much Running is Bad for You
In recent years, the widespread notion that too much running is unhealthy has become more common. One of the pieces of evidence used to support this idea is a study from 2012 showing that people who run more than 20 or 25 miles a week do not have a mortality advantage over non-runners. This is in comparison to those who run up to 20 or 25 miles; this group has a 19 percent lower mortality rate when compared to non-runners.
The big problem that many have with this study is that the numbers were arrived at after adjusting for weight, cholesterol and a number of other factors known to negatively affect health and increase mortality rates. A reduction in mortality risks from these factors is exactly what running provides.
Running Burns Roughly the Same Number of Calories as Walking
It is popularly stated that it is possible to burn about the same number of calories walking for a similar distance as you would running. This is not the case as there is a big difference in intensity between walking a certain distance and running that same distance. That intensity can account for a big difference in the number of calories burned. For example, this study shows that runners burn far more calories in the period after running when compared to walkers after walks.