Quiz by Nancy Howard, Certified Running Coach
Because running is such a popular sport among both casual exercisers and competitive athletes, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding it. Take this quiz to separate the truths from the tales and expand your running knowledge!
1. Tall people make better runners. FALSE
Height has nothing to do with how well or fast you run. The world’s current fastest male marathon runner, Haile Gebrselassie, is only 5’3″. What determines your speed is your composition of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, leg turnover, fitness level and musculoskeletal system. While we cannot change genetics, training will allow for better leg turnover, fitness gains and better development of energy levels and musculoskeletal system. Over time, this translates to greater speed.
2. To become a runner or a better runner, you should run every day. FALSE
Running every day is not a good idea. Without proper rest and recovery, your muscles will not repair adequately and you will increase your risk of injury, which could sideline you for days, weeks or even years. It is during the rest and recovery phase that your body adapts to running. This does not mean you can’t do other cross-training activities on your non-running days, however.
3. Your musculoskeletal system takes longer to adapt to running than your cardiorespiratory system does. TRUE
When you take up running, the body’s cardiorespiratory system is quick to adapt and change after starting a running program. Unfortunately your musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles and connective tissue) needs more time to develop. For many, that process can take up to one full year. Remember: You should not increase your mileage by more than 10% of your previous week’s total mileage to your long, slow distance run.
4. A runner’s diet should be 40% carbohydrates or less. FALSE
Carbohydrates are a runner’s friend. These macronutrients supply the muscles with the much needed glycogen in order to help the mitochondria (the power house and energy makers of the cells) make the ATP needed to fuel your run. Following a low-carb diet will not provide the energy your body needs to run. A runner’s diet should consist of at least 50% carbohydrates.
5. You don’t need special shoes to run, especially if you are just starting out. FALSE
Shoes are one of the most important pieces of equipment a runner needs. This is why being fitted at your local running specialty store is essential. The store personnel is trained to fit runners and walkers with shoes designed for your particular foot strike, anatomical arch and degree of pronation.
6. There is an ideal temperature for running. TRUE
While many runners prefer warmer or cooler temps, 55 degrees is considered to be the ideal running temperature. For every 20 degrees the temperature rises or falls from 55 degrees, a runner will see a 7% degradation in their running ability. In other words, weather conditions (temps, wind, humidity) will affect your speed. This is why you should not compare one race time to another.
7. If you run consistently, you will lose weight. FALSE
While running is a great calorie burner that can help with weight management, it’s only one piece of the weight-loss puzzle. Tracking your food and eating fewer calories than you burn is the other half of the equation. In fact, many runners experience increases in their appetites, which can encourage the consumption of extra calories. Others may overcompensate for running, assuming they’ve burned enough calories to earn extra treats, even if that is not the case. And still, runners training for longer distances may not lose any weight because they need to eat enough calories and carbohydrates to properly fuel their training. This is not to discourage you from running, but it is a reminder that burning calories is just one component of weight loss.
8. Running increases your risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knee. FALSE
Studies have actually shown runners are at no greater risk of developing OA of the knee. So if you have always desired to run but were afraid to because of knee injuries, do not let this be a deterrent.
9. The only purpose for speed work is to become a faster runner. FALSE
While one of the purposes of speed training is to improve your pace, it is not the only purpose. Speed training also helps a runner raise her anaerobic threshold, the point at which the body produces more lactic acid than it can get rid of. By increasing your anaerobic threshold, you’ll be able to utilize fat longer into your run, run faster and harder for longer before reaching exhaustion, and develop better form such as a faster arm drive and faster leg turnover.
10. Cardiac creep is the obnoxious runner next to you who insists he’s going to finish first in his age division. FALSE
Cardiac creep, also called cardiac drift, is a rise in heart rate even though your pace remains the same. This is often caused by dehydration in response to rising temperatures and humidity. This causes the heart to pump faster in order to deliver the same amount of oxygen to your muscles. This is one reason heart rate monitor-based training during the summer can be difficult and misleading, while using the rate of perceived exertion may be best in hot, humid weather.
11. Piriformis syndrome is a literally a pain in the back.
It’s a pain in your butt, to be exact. The piriformis muscle lies deep within the bum and is responsible for the external rotation of the hip and leg. When it becomes aggravated, it can lead to issues such as sciatica, as well as pain running down the back of the leg. This condition makes it difficult to sit for prolonged periods of time. Find piriformis stretches here.
12. You should always run against the flow of traffic. TRUE
Running against the flow of traffic allows the runner to see the cars, even if the driver doesn’t see the runner. Doing so will allow the runner to have the opportunity to jump out of the way just in case.