Now that you are knee-deep into spring race training, you’ve probably read a lot about running and have received a lot of training advice — “Don’t wear anything new on race day - it’s bad luck.” or “Never try any new nutrition during the race that you haven’t tried during training.” Sometimes, the advice can seem contradictory — “Start the race conservatively” versus “Begin the race at your goal pace.”
With so much information floating around, you’re bound to get confused. Below are five running myths along with detailed explanations. Get ready! Here comes some science-of-running trivia.
Myth 1: Missing a few days of consecutive training will set you back.
FALSE. Missing a few consecutive days of running will not derail your training or set you back. It may cause you to experience some schedule disruption or throw you off your mental game, but physically, missing a few days of training will not cause a breakdown in fitness. You’d have to miss weeks before your fitness level begins to decrease.
The truth is that training during the winter means most of us will be forced to take time off due to all those wonderful, seasonal germs — but fear not. A few days off won’t negatively affect your training!
Myth 2: Easy miles are nothing but “junk miles.”
Not true at all. Easy miles may seem monotonous and like they’re “too slow” to make a difference in your training, but they are necessary. Even though it may seem counter-productive to run most of your miles at one to two minutes slower than goal race pace, there are several benefits to running easy miles.
Running at an easy pace decreases your risk of many running injuries that come with over-training (ITBS, Achilles tendonitis, etc.). By taking it easy during scheduled easy runs, you allow your body to recover so you can nail your interval, tempo and other speed workouts. Plus, you don’t burn out quite as fast when you allow yourself to run easy, and that means you can meet your required mileage for the week.
Myth 3: Vo2max capacity is the sole determiner of running performance.
Not so fast (no pun intended). While Vo2max is absolutely a determiner of running performance, don’t forget about running economy.
According to a 1983 study by E.D. Stevens, your clothing may weigh you down more than you realize. Running in cotton versus nylon has the potential to increase your marathon time by 13 seconds, and running in a full cotton tracksuit has the potential to increase an average marathoner’s time by up to four minutes.
Running into the wind and the type of running surface can also factor into running performance. In fact, a 2003 Noakes study determined a tailwind of 12 MPH actually has the potential to increase your speed by up to 1.75 miles.
Myth 4: When you run downhill, you regain the energy that you lost running uphill.
Ah, if only it were true. According to a study by Davies in 1981, the time lost running up a hill cannot be fully regained running downhill. The energy saved running downhill equates to about half of the energy you’d need to run up an identical hill. It’s easy to think “I’ll just bolt up this hill and coast on the way down to regain my energy,” but unfortunately, you’ll never get it all back.
Myth 5: If you don’t run at least one 20-miler during marathon training, you’re doomed and not fully trained.
In truth, your longest run for marathon training depends on you, your goals and your training plan. While a 20-miler is a typical hallmark of marathon training, it’s not a necessity in some training plan. Hanson’s Method, for example, trains runners on no more than a 16-mile maximum long run; this method also requires six days a week of running. Other plans may max out at 18 miles. It truly depends what is best for each individual runner, and a 20-miler may not be what’s best for you.
As you move into the peak weeks of spring training, learn as much as you can about the sport of running. The more knowledge you have, the better you will understand what matters and what doesn’t as well as what’s true and what’s not. Happy training!
Visit the ‘Burgh Blog each month for more training tips and tricks from Courtney Poullas and the other 2019 Official Bloggers! You can also follow along as Courtney trains for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on her blog Courtney Poullas.