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Running myths debunked

In theory, running is one of the simplest exercises to do. All you really need are trainers, some space and a dose of motivation – everything else is optional. So what’s stopping you from adding a run to your routine? It might well be running myths.

We’re talking about the kind of myths that make beginners feel like running is somehow out of their reach. Or the sort of myths that overcomplicate the process, giving the impression that going for a run requires the same level of kit and preparation as an attempt at scaling the Eiger.

We’ve examined the most popular misconceptions about running. Read on to learn the truth behind the myths, and hopefully feel more confident and positive about your next run.

If you run, you are a runner… There’s no test to pass, no licence to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.

John Bingham, marathon runner & writer

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Myth 1: It only counts if you run fast

Myth 2: Running will destroy your knees

Myth 3: You have to take a water bottle on every run

Myth 4: You’re not a ‘real’ runner unless you track your times/take part in races

Myth 5: Running is an outdoor activity

Myth 6: If you take any time off, you’ll lose running fitness

Myth 7: The only way to improve your running? More running

Myth 8: You need to stop running when you get older

Myth 9: You need expensive trainers to run

Myth 10: Developing running fitness is a linear process

Myth 11: “I’m not a runner”

Myth 1: It only counts if you run fast

When you’re out and about, you’ll probably spot some runners hurtling along at full pelt. Maybe they’re sprint training, perhaps they’re simply built for speed. Whatever the reason, it’s a myth that ‘real’ running involves going fast.

It’s all about finding what works for your individual mind and body. If you find it more enjoyable to go at a slower pace, you’re more likely to show up regularly for your runs.

What’s more, in recent years there has been a huge rise in awareness of the benefits of slow running, from reduced frequency of injury to improving oxygen capacity. One study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the optimal pace of running to reduce mortality was ‘slow to average’.

In fact, you don’t even have to run the whole time. Run-walks, where, as the name suggests, you alternate between walking and running, are a perfectly valid way to get your cardio fix.

Run-walks are particularly good if you’re tacking a new distance for the first time – for example, check out our 5k training plan.

In short: you choose the pace.

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Myth 2: Running will destroy your knees

There’s a lot of controversy about this one. Any form of high-impact exercise can put stress on your joints, and running is often cited as one of the chief culprits of knee pain, particularly later in life.

However, recent studies have shown that running can actually strengthen the knee joints, reducing the prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis.

If you’re concerned about potential knee damage while running, make sure you’re wearing well-fitting trainers, and warm up before and after your run to maximise recovery. Most importantly, listen to your body – take plenty of rest days, and if you’re experiencing soreness, consider switching from the pavement to a treadmill or grass for a softer surface.

You could also check in with a Personal Trainer to make sure your running form is correct, as incorrect form is one of the main reasons for injury.

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Myth 3: You have to take a water bottle on every run

You’ll work this out for yourself through trial and error. If you find that you never think to swig from your bottle on an average run, you should consider leaving it at home. As a general rule, if you’re going on a short run – sub-5k – and it’s not scorching hot, you should be fine to head out without water. Just make sure you hydrate beforehand.

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Myth 4: You’re not a ‘real’ runner unless you track your times/take part in races

The Cambridge Dictionary defines running as “the act of going somewhere quickly on foot, as a sport or for pleasure”. And that’s all there is to it.

Some people enjoy tracking their times and taking part in races, for the social and motivational boost. That might be you, or it might not. If anyone asks what your 5k time is and you answer truthfully, “No idea”, it doesn’t make you less of a runner. You might prefer measuring your progress through other metrics, such as how you feel during and after a run, or how easily you can increase the frequency of your runs.

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Myth 5: Running is an outdoor activity

Are you an indoor or an outdoor runner? People who run tend to develop strong opinions about this, but in truth there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Running indoors can allay any safety concerns you have, particularly on the dark mornings and evenings in winter. On a treadmill, you can control the pace and set the incline.

It’s also possible to combine both – outdoor runs in spring and summer, say, while taking it indoors when it’s icy.

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Myth 6: If you take any time off, you’ll lose running fitness

Worried that a holiday will derail all your running progress? Studies vary, and it also depends on factors such as age and your fitness routine, but it’s unlikely you’ll lose much in the way of aerobic fitness from a couple of weeks away.

Ease back into your routine, and don’t push too hard or you could find yourself on an enforced break due to injury. You should be back to your running best soon.

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Myth 7: The only way to improve your running? More running

Studies show that strength training is hugely important to runners, both in terms of injury prevention and improving your performance. Accordingly, try to incorporate strength training into your routine, whether that’s lifting weights, plyometrics or isometrics.

And don’t just focus on the legs. Building a strong core can help with balance and posture while you’re running. Classes such as yoga and Pilates can help with this, as well as giving you a full-body workout.

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Myth 8: You need to stop running when you get older

There’s plenty of research to show that our speed will reduce as we age. But studies also show that there are health benefits of running as you move into later years, improving quality of life and reducing the risk of injury.

Muscle mass starts declining in our 30s or 40s, and this decline increases in our 60s. That’s why strength training, along with mobility training, is key to keeping us on track as we age – and continue to run, if that’s what we love.

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Myth 9: You need expensive trainers to run

It’s a good idea to invest time in finding your running shoes, but you don’t necessarily have to invest a lot of money.

Do some online research and you’ll doubtless find plenty of pairs at the £200+ price point. But it could well be that these shoes don’t suit your feet or stride, and a sub-£100 pair will do a better job for you.

Try to buy during the sales, always shop around and check out outlet stores. It’s also worth looking out for the launch of a new version of a popular running shoe – you’ll often find that the older versions go down in price.

If you can, try on as many pairs as possible to get a sense of what you need. If you can get a fitting in a specialist store and test them out on a treadmill, all the better.

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Myth 10: Developing running fitness is a linear process

It would be lovely if every run saw you get fitter and faster. Sadly, the likelihood is that there will be setbacks along the way, such as an inexplicable bad run or hitting a plateau.

And that’s ok. Everyone experiences the ups and downs of a regular running practice. If you didn’t have the lows, you wouldn’t have the highs.

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Myth 11: “I’m not a runner”

Nobody is, until they start running.

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A David Lloyd Clubs membership can enhance your running routine, whether that’s hitting the treadmills, improving your strength through our gym facilities and variety of exercise classes, or enjoying post-run recovery in our spas. Find your nearest club.

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