Runners get a lot of flack about their morning miles. Ask any regular jogger, and they can probably recite the well-intentioned lecture that concerned friends, family members, and barely-there work acquaintances like to send their way verbatim. These critics – who probably haven’t laced up their running shoes for more than a brisk power walk in years – typically have a litany of the same prodding concerns:
Haven’t you heard that running is bad for your joints?
Why do you do this regularly – it looks awful!
Can I introduce you to an elliptical?
But the truth is, anyone who dedicates themselves to running probably loves the sport enough to gently sidestep these concerns. Many of these complaints are based in myth rather than fact, in any case! Below, I’ve listed a few of the more common myths that runners can confidently ignore whenever another conversation turns into a lecture.
Too Much Running is Bad for You
We’re all suckers for catchy titles. Over the past few years, runners might have noticed some major newspapers circulating articles that seemed to warn against the long-term dangers of running; the Wall Street Journal even featured a piece headlined: “One Running Shoe in the Grave: New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits.” The writer bases this splashy piece on a 2012 study that seemed to imply that runners who achieved an average of 20-25 miles per week had a higher death rate than those who ran sparingly.
However, this article pulled these findings without noting a key caveat: researchers used statistical methods which allowed them to establish an “equalized” baseline for weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol, effectively erasing the majority of running’s positive impact on cardiovascular health. As one particularly irate blogger for Runner’s World put it: “They’re effectively saying, ‘If we ignore the known health benefits of greater amounts of aerobic exercise, then greater amounts of aerobic exercise don’t have any health benefits.’”
So, should you run 25 miles a week? If it’s beyond your ability, probably not. But if you have the capability and urge to do so, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in it.
Missing a Workout Will Tank your Performance
Skipping a workout won’t mean the end of your high performance streak. Use common sense; if you feel sick or notice pain when you run, take a break! Pushing yourself only increases the odds that you’ll get sick – and taking a day to allow your body to recover will have far less of an impact on your running time than a weeklong stint in bed.
You Need to Stretch Before a Run
What do you do to warm up before a run? According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, you probably shouldn’t make static stretches part of your pre-run routine. This 2010 study found that distance runners who performed static stretches tended to have a poorer performance than those who forewent stretches altogether. For best results, do dynamic exercises before a run, and save the static stretches for your cool-down!
Running is Bad for Your Knees
It’s easy to understand why runners and non-runners might think that running is bad for joints when each and every stride feels concussive. But recent research has thoroughly debunked this misconception; in fact, a regular practice of running might actually protect against degenerative joint disorders!
Running in Cold Weather is Unhealthy
Illnesses stem from germs, not temperature. Runners who keep their head and hands warm will be just fine. Ironically, you’re more likely to catch a cold in a warm and crowded room than on a cold running trail!