by Colin Jackson, sports director for the Wings for Life World Run
The world of running can be quite confusing. Lots of questions might pop up, especially when you’re a beginner: Is barefoot running really the best? Should I focus on strength training, too? And is it necessary to carbo-load before a race? Colin Jackson, two-time 110m hurdle world champion, debunks the 5 most common running myths.
1. “Always stretch before and after a run”
While there is some evidence that stretching before a run might not necessarily prevent injury(1), this is something you should very much be in favor of: stretching enables the body to prepare for exercise, plus it’s a great way to increase the body’s flexibility, which will make all movement easier and more efficient. This means you’ll save energy when it comes to running, and possibly run further. When it comes to after exercise, a cool-down stretch can make the muscles relax and recover quicker from strenuous workouts.
2. “Carbo-loading is key”
Many people believe that a high carb diet is the best way to prepare yourself(2)but, with the introduction of sports gels that are a ready source of energy and easy to carry on runs, carbo-loading doesn’t necessarily need to be the nutritional key to running.
Many athletes like to stick to their normal diet and just use gels to give them a boost when needed, but you always have to remember that diet is down to you as an individual. Think about what would make you feel great and energized. You have to find your own personal balance.
3. “Barefoot running is best”
This seems to be a fad but one that many people believe in.(3)Obviously, humans were running barefoot for many years before the invention of training shoes.
But there’re so many sports brands that spend lots of money on footwear technology to make running less stressful on the feet and body in general, so shoes that fit well can potentially enhance your performance and reduce impact on the body.
4. “Runners don’t need any strength training”
Strength training is good for everyone, so being physically strong as well as having great cardio fitness is important for a truly healthy body.(4)Running’s great but it shouldn’t be the only thing in your training program. So, in a nutshell, don’t forget to hit the gym and see the resulting gains!
5. “The more miles, the better”
“The more miles, the better” may be a general rule,(5)but you also have to gauge exactly what this means for you. No two runners are the same, so creating the right balance between workload and rest is the ultimate goal. Besides, to improve your running performance, it is important to vary your training with intervals, and also alternate between short and long runs.
Build your training around a general healthy lifestyle, which includes diet, sleep, stretching, and strength training. All of those will allow you to get a little more out of training. And don’t forget that rest, which is an often-overlooked part of training, is a vital part of preparation.
About Colin Jackson:
Colin is the former world record holder for the 110 meters hurdles, a record which stood for over a decade. The two-time world champion is the sports director for the Wings for Life World Run, which takes place at 11 a.m. UTC on May 5, 2019, and aims to raise funds to find a cure for spinal cord injury.