Whether you’re new to running or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s always something to learn and somewhere you can improve. There’s also no shortage of well-meaning advice-givers out there who are more than happy to share their tips with you, whether you asked for them or not . Some of this advice is good, and some of it is just downright wrong. Here’s some of the “wisdom” that you can feel free to ignore.
No pain, no gain
Yes, running is hard, and sometimes it’s painful in that legs-and-lungs-burning kind of way, but it shouldn’t be painful. If something is hurting, you should stop running, take a few days off and go see a sports medicine expert for help if it doesn’t go away. Pushing through an injury will only make it worse and prolong your recovery.
Lighter and leaner makes you faster
Many runners have fallen into the trap of believing that they have to lose weight to improve, and this is a slippery slope into disordered eating and underfuelling. If you want to run well, you need to give your body the nutrition (a.k.a. calories) it needs to support your training and recovery. Restricting your food and calories to lose a few pounds will likely lead to injury and burnout.
Go big or go home
Big mileage, that is. When you look at the training volume of many elite runners, you’ll likely notice their huge mileage totals every week. It may seem logical to think that you need to copy the elites in order to run well, but remember that for those individuals, running is their job. This affords them hours of time each week for training and recovery that the average recreational runner, who has a full-time job outside of running, simply can’t sustain.
Slow running will make you slow
This is one area where you absolutely can follow the training methodology of the elites. When you look at the vast majority of elite runners’ training plans, you’ll notice that 80 per cent of their training is done at a slow, easy pace. This applies to recreational runners as well, even if you’re running less than half the mileage of an elite runner. Taking most of your runs at an easy pace will allow you to recover so you’re ready to perform at your best during your hard workouts, and will get you to the start line of your goal race healthy and injury-free. (Other benefits include training your aerobic system and slow-twitch muscle fibres, which are necessary for endurance, and training your body to burn fat instead of glycogen – also important for endurance training.)
You gain fitness during your workouts
This is false. You actually gain fitness during your recovery between runs and workouts, which is why you should put just as much effort into your recovery as you do your training — if not more. This means getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night (for adults – teenagers need more), eating a healthy diet that supports your training, drinking lots of water and resting when your body needs it.