Common Misconceptions in Running.
1. Stretching improves performance
Reality- Nope, it impairs it. Numerous studies have shown that it decreases performance from sprints to endurance. How? Well that would take a whole post but it’s mostly through neruomuscular factors, such as decreased muscle recruitment, and decreased stiffness of the system, resulting in less elastic energy return when running.
1a. Flexibility helps improve efficiency .
Reality- Nope, it decreases it. The more flexible you are, the worse your running economy is. Why? Because of it’s impact on the stretch shortening cycle, and the previously mentioned decrease in elastic energy return.
2. Stretching prevents muscle soreness/injury.
Reality- Studies have shown that stretching after a workout does not help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. There also has been no link between stretching and injury prevention.
3. Distance running strengthens your legs.
Reality- Running will either keep absolute strength the same or decrease it.
4. You don’t need to do strength work for the legs.
Reality- Most runners who do strength work avoid the legs and focu on arms and core. The problem is that you want to work the legs. Strength training (or sprint or plyo training) increases performance via increased running economy and anaerobic capacity. It increases the muscle fiber pool that can be recruited. And if done, with no bulk.
4a. You will increase muscle mass if you weight train.
Reality- Only if you do it wrongly and even then you have to be an athlete who is more FT. Most runners won’t have enough extra protein laying around to build more muscle. Most runners are in a negative protein balance because of all the repair that has to occur with running.
5. VO2max is the be all end all.
Reality- Nope. As a test, it’s almost useless in my opinion. This is real controversial so i’ll abstain from more for now.
6. Lactate causes fatigue.
Reality- It corresponds with fatigue but does not cause it. In fact it is a mechanism to help delay fatigue.
7. Muscle Cramps are caused by electrolyte imbalances.
Reality- This one I got from the scienceofsports.com guys. Go read there explanation and you’ll find out that muscle cramps do not come from electrolyte problems. So much for eating bananas for potassium or downing gatorade.
8. Fatigue is due to one specific variable.
Reality- It’s an incredibly complex thing that has it’s roots in the brain. The brain controls all. But we are very very very far from knowing how fatigue works.
9. Everyone needs to move up in distance.
Reality- Bekele and Geb and those guys aren’t 47sec 400 guys. They run 49ish tops according to Renato Canova. What’s that mean. Well, we have guys like Rupp who can do that, yet there’s no way he can stay with those guys over 5k-10k. Pure speed is not the exact answer. It’s specific endurance. Geb, Bekele can hold much closer to their max 400m speed or even max 100m speed than their western constituents.
10. Core strength is incredibly important
Reality- It’s important, but not to the degree that most have given it. There have been only a handful of studies done comparing endurance performance with core training and that without it and so far there has been no improved performance from core training. That doesn’t mean that is definitive, or that it isn’t needed. It just means that 5-10min most days is more than enough, no need for 30-40min core sessions.
10a. Do core work on unstable platforms.
Reality- Don’t use a bosu ball or a balance ball. It decreases the recruitment of the muscles used. It engages the antagonist at the same time as the agonist, instead of teaching it to relax. And a whole lot of other stuff.
11. Putting your hands above your head and staying up after a race/workout helps.
There’s a reason you want to bend over or lay down. Your body is telling you it doesn’t want to work against gravity pumping blood. So, next time someone tells you to get up after a race tell them to go away.
I’m sure there are more but that’s it off the top of my head. I’ll try and expand on some of these topics at some time.