Debunking The Myths
Contrary to what Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell in Anchorman, believes, jogging (or ‘yogging’, it might be a soft J) isn’t a fad that developed only in the 1970s. Running for pleasure, or just for exercise, became popular in Britain in the late 19th century but in reality the pastime has been around for centuries. It’s also interesting to note that as long as running has been around, so have the myths that accompany it.
That’s what I’m here for. Your regular running cynic, the Kurt Vonnegut of parkrun, the one rain cloud on a sunny Sunday morning. I’m here to Edward Snowdonise everything you ever thought you knew, and everything you thought you thought you knew, about running. I present to you 5 running myths that are simply begging to be debunked.
** Disclaimer – as with anything in life, I generally don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not a sports scientist or a physiotherapist. Anything I discuss below is purely my opinion based on personal experience. Basically, feel free to ignore it. **
Oh man, I’ve read and heard a great deal about stretching. Sometimes it dominates an entire 10km run discussion on the Thursday night club run. And nobody really seems to have a definitive answer on it? Ditch static stretching, bring in dynamic stretches before and after running, introduce warm-down runs, introduce warm-up runs, bring back static stretching. The different methods go on and on. This is a particularly pertinent subject for me. If you’ve read any of my other scintillating articles, you’ll know that I’ve suffered from injuries a fair bit in the last few years, so stretching has become paramount for me. And do you know what I found? That the first bit of advice I’d heard since taking up proper long-distance running was actually quite detrimental for me. The dynamic stretches didn’t work and, in fact, only aggravated my sciatica. I’ve gone back to careful static stretching recommended by my physio and it’s been much more manageable ever since.
My conclusion: Find the stretching that works for you, not what some bod in Runners World has recommended.
You need some form of gel to get through a marathon. At around twenty miles, your body has used up all of the available nutrients and begins to burn fat stores and muscle mass. This is when you hit ‘The Wall’ and a great way of avoiding that is replacing some of the lost fat and sugar. Gels are the best way to do this and those magazines, experts and fellow runners will recommend the same. Do you know what gels did for me? Nothing, other than giving me crippling stomach cramps and forcing me to make an unscheduled pit-stop at the Portaloos around the seventeen mile mark. On my third marathon, I discovered that a little foil wrap of 6 Jelly Babies worked for me much better. Still now, when I see people lining up for a race with a belt stashed fully of a dozen gel packs, it makes my gut gurgle in panicked anticipation.
My conclusion: When building your distances in training, experiment with which forms of hydration and nourishment are suitable for you. This can make or break your race, don’t just load up with fruit-flavoured caffeine gels.
FAIR WEATHER RUNNERS
You’ll sometimes heard this expression uttered scathingly by some of the faster runners at the better clubs. As if people who can’t get out as often have less right to be on that pavement or in that race than they do. Conveniently ignoring the fact that many people’s lives are dictated by their children or their jobs or other hobbies. Just because you don’t do sixty plus miles a week doesn’t mean that you should feel any less entitled to be called a runner. You do one mile once a week, you’re a runner. You do ten miles five times a week, you’re a runner. Nobody can take that away from you. Sure, it’s always nicer to get out in the daylight during the summer but that’s just common sense. Besides, that doesn’t stop me seeing dozens of people out on the roads on a grim December evening.
My conclusion: Feel proud about your running, not insecure that other runners go longer or more often than you. You’re doing a good thing and your enthusiasm may well be encouraging other people to do the same.
Hills are an essential part of training. They add strength, power and stamina into your legs. They can help you, in a shorter training session, experience the kind of fatigue that will hit you and your body towards the back end of a longer race. Besides all of this, you need to know how to run hills should you encounter them in a race. There’s no point just turning up and thinking you can deal with it. Believe me, it hurts. So, hills are essential right? Wrong. Look, everyone hates hills. They are helpful but they can also really, really put you off running. If you live in a hilly area like I do, when you get back from work and its pitch black and freezing cold, the thought of an undulating nine miler can put you off ever running again. I pick a flatter route and actually try and enjoy it.
My conclusion: If you really have a phobia of hills, to the point where you don’t even feel like lacing up your trainers, then don’t do them! Spend a bit more time on route-planning and find the runs that avoid those bleeding ascents. Believe me, they are there…
This is totally just me but I really struggle with rest days. I know that they are essential but I have this horrible nagging guilt complex that just won’t leave me alone whenever I have a day off. This nasty little gremlin that sits on my shoulder and tells me that I’ll lose my fitness, that I’ll gain weight, I won’t sleep as well, I’ll feel worse for it… These are the myths and pretty much everyone knows that they’re completely bogus but that doesn’t stop you feeling the way you do. I feel better if I force myself to have a rest day. Any niggles that might have emerged tend not to resurface. I don’t lose fitness and I certainly don’t put on any weight. If I run six days a week then I’ll feel it in my body and not in a good way.
My conclusion: If you’re struggling to take rest days then maybe start planning your sessions like a training plan – even if you’re not training for anything. This will force you to stick to a routine, you won’t feel guilty and your body will definitely thank you for it.
Running begins with you and ends with you, so listen to your body. Don’t force yourself out of your comfort zone too regularly or you could find yourself resenting the activity and giving it up. It would be a huge shame if you gave up yogging…