10 running myths busted
Separate fact from fiction!
1 IF YOU CAN’T RUN FOR TEN MINUTES, YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BOTHER STARTING
This is the single biggest mistake beginner runners make – expecting to go from zero to hero in a single training session. Rushing headlong out of the door only to return red-faced and gasping for breath like a goldfish 20 minutes later is a sure-fire route to
running aversion. It’s far better to adopt a walk/run programme (for details, see Running Made Easy, £9.99, Collins & Brown) in which you alternate running for 60 seconds with walking for three minutes a few times. This will give your body time to adjust to the new stresses you’re placing on it. And by breaking a session into small, manageable chunks, you’re far less likely to feel overwhelmed and give up altogether.
2 YOU HAVE TO BE ATHLETIC TO RUN
One of the greatest joys of running is that it’s accessible to everyone, no matter how un-sporty you were at school – just go along to any race and see the variety of shapes, sizes and ages taking part. If you’re slow, choose obstacle races and ultramarathons, where strength and endurance count even more than speed. Or try orienteering, where map-reading is a sought-after skill.
3 IT’S EXPENSIVE
Granted it can be, if you buy all the latest gizmos, belong to a fancy gym and enter razzamatazz races. But if you stick to basic kit, run outdoors and opt for smaller or free races, running is one of the most affordable sports there is. All you really need to buy is a sports bra and trainers – www.sportsdirect.com and www.sportsshoes.com often offer up to 80 per cent off. Can’t afford a gym membership? Set up your own lunchtime running group or join a running club (I worked out that if I attended every session my club hosts it would cost me five pence per time). Yes, some events cost more than a rock-concert ticket, but parkrun (weekly timed events that take place at 9am on Saturdays; www.parkrun.org.uk) is free, and there are many small races that cost under £10 and still include a bulging goody bag and t-shirt – and even a hot meal!
4 RUNNING’S BORING!
What? You obviously haven’t discovered chat-running yet! Trust me, if you find yourself a running buddy, you’ll be so busy catching up with their news you’ll feel intense disappointment when your run is over. Listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks is another way to liven up your training.
5 RUNNING WILL WRECK YOUR JOINTS
Because a force of up to eight times your bodyweight goes through your joints when you run, many people fear that running will wreck their hips, knees and ankles. In fact the opposite is true: one study, conducted at California’s Stanford University in America, tracked nearly 1,000 runners and found runners developed disabling joint changes an average of 12 years later than the non-runners. And another study of 74,000 runners, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, has shown we’re about 50 per cent less likely to need a hip replacement or to develop osteoporosis than walkers, probably due to running’s weight-loss benefits.
6 WALKING DURING A RACE EQUALS FAILURE
Many runners I know firmly believe this – and they’re the ones I find myself passing at the end of a marathon because they’ve run hell for leather during the first 20 miles, hit the wall and then found theycan’t run another step. A far better strategy is to walk long before you need to, as the early walk breaks help to combat fatigue and the ones later in a race help to reduce the amount of damage your muscles suffer. Surprisingly, if you ‘legitimise’ walk breaks, far from slowing you down, they can actually help you achieve a significantly faster time, according to fitness expert and author Jeff Galloway (www.jeff galloway.com), who’s coached over 200,000 marathoners using his walk/run training schedules.
7 SPEED TRAINING IS ONLY FOR ELITE ATHLETES
While it’s not recommended for novice exercisers, because it can contribute to injuries if you aren’t prepared for the physical demands of this type of intense workout, anyone can benefit from it, provided you follow a few simple pointers. Speed (or interval) training involves alternating brief periods of eyeballs-out sprinting with periods of less taxing activity, such as jogging or walking. Performing high-intensity intervals regularly will mean you can run faster for longer before fatigue slows you down. Just remember that you shouldn’t do it every day, as your body needs time to recover. It’s also vital to start slowly: initially do just a few faster sections and have longer recoveries.
8 YOU TO RUN FOR HOURS TO SEE ANY WEIGHT-LOSS BENEFITS
Not so! According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high-intensity exercise than long, slow endurance exercise. And in a study published in Metabolism, when scientists compared those doing high-intensity interval training with those doing moderate-intensity cardio, they found that those doing the former lost an incredible nine times more subcutaneous (under-the-skin) fat than the other group. So if you’re strapped for time, try this amazing 17-minute fat-blaster for size – it’ll take you less time to do than your make-up: warm up with five minutes of brisk walking or jogging. Then do seven intervals comprising 15 seconds of sprinting followed by 45 seconds of walking or jogging. Then cool down with five minutes of brisk walking or jogging, plus stretches.
9 YOU HAVE TO BE TEETOTAL
Granted, many runners are, but if you go for your long runs on Saturdays rather than Sundays, you can still fit in an active social life. And nothing tastes nicer after a long run than a (guilt-free) ice cold beer!
10 YOU HAVE TO BE SUPER FIT AND SUPER FAST TO DO AN ULTRAMARATHON
With ultras (any distance longer than a marathon), it’s expected that you’ll walk some of the way, so they’re perfect for us slower runners who already excel at mental endurance, as we always spend longer on our feet than speedy ones!