9 Running Myths
1. You need strength to run longer or faster. There is some truth in this, but the myth is in the type of strength you need. In ChiRunning® you need “intrinsic” strength to run longer or faster, but not leg strength. Intrinsic strength holds your body stable during the support phase of your stride, when injuries are most likely to happen. If you want more speed you need good core strength to hold more lean for whatever distance you're running. As you increase your speed, you'll also need to practice relaxing your legs during the flight phase of your stride. Any tension held in your hips and legs will restrict the ease of your movement and slow you down.
2. Injury comes from running longer distances. Many people think that running long distance is the “cause” of injury. But, it’s not the distance that injures your body, it’s the increased repetition of incorrect movement. Inefficient movement, multiplied tens of thousands of times, is what over-taxes muscles or increases impact to your joints. When you run as your body was designed to run, the correct muscles are used, impact to joints is minimized and you can run longer distances with much less stress and strain on your body.
3. Running injuries are inevitable…especially if you’re over 50. Age doesn't need to be a limiting factor in your running. If you're willing to practice moving in a new way, you can change old, inefficient habits into good running skills. Studies show that doing T’ai Chi helps improve range of motion, flexibility and strength in people who are over 80. So, yes, you can heal, change and improve your body and learn to improve your running technique at almost any age. Our oldest student was 85!
Running injuries are not inevitable if you constantly practice mindful movement; if you're always working to improve your efficiency and the smoothness of your stride. If you can learn to run in a way that does no harm to your body, why would any harm come?
5. There’s value in pushing through pain. This harkens back to that old saying, “No pain, no gain.” One of the basic tenets of ChiRunning is to practice pain-free running. So, we're all about not having to experience pain, to get value from your running. There is, however, value in pushing through discomfort. It's the path of growth and transformation. The “heat” of discomfort is your body telling you that your limits are close by. It's a time to closely monitor your body sense of whether you're putting yourself through productive discomfort or nonproductive discomfort. Pushing through productive discomfort can elevate you beyond your limits. Nonproductive discomfort can usually be felt as discomfort that progresses to pain if no adjustments are made.
6. Running shoes prevent injury. Running shoes have never been proven to prevent injuries. In fact, too much thickness in the heels of your running shoes. For example, if the heels of your shoes are too thick, you can actually increase your odds of getting injured because you hit the ground sooner (and with more impact) than if you're in a shoe with less of a heel. The only injuries, that running shoes can protect against, are cuts from sharp objects on the ground, and from bruising on very rugged terrain. In another example, if your shoes are too stiff, they make your lower legs work harder and can cause injuries to the tendons and muscles.
Shoes play only a small part in preventing running injuries, and, in many cases are the cause of injury. Find a comfortable shoe, that has the least amount of structure built into it that you can comfortably run in; that is wide and flexible enough so your toes can spread move comfortably. Get new shoes often enough that compacted midsoles don’t create more impact. Basically, the best shoe is one that allows your foot the freedom to move in the most natural way. Beyond that, the most important criteria in shoes is that you enjoy the great colors and fashions that make you feel good.
7. Running shoes provide stability. Running shoes can provide some stability… but at what cost? Most stability shoes prevent your foot from flexing and bending in a natural way. This has the effect of dumbing down your proprioception and rigidifying the muscles and joints in your foot. As a result, the rest of your legs have to work all the harder to compensate for having restricted motion in your feet.
If you need stability in your stride, ask a physical therapist which exercises would help you gain the stability you're looking for. Most stability issues can be corrected, over time, with regular core-strengthening exercise.
8. You need to do lots of speed work to run faster. The best way to run faster is to “create the conditions for speed to happen” which means holding more of a lean, relaxing your legs and hips more, practicing nose breathing in all your runs, and relaxing your shoulders. If you focus only on speed, per se, you'll always use more strength than you need to and you'll never learn to gain speed the easy way… by improving your efficiency. For most people “speed work” is seen as tempo training or intervals at the track. Speed workouts are much more productive when your technique doesn't fall apart s you run faster. Wasted motion is the bane of anyone looking for more speed, so always working toward economy in your movement is the best thing you can do for yourself, if you want to gain speed without increasing your effort level.
9. You need lots of time to recover from a marathon. The more efficiently you run (any distance) the less toll it takes on your body. The more time you allow for your body to get used to running the marathon distance, the easier the marathon will become. The human body is unbelievably resilient and adaptable. If you give it a slowly increasing workload over a period of time, it will adapt to the workload. There are many, many ultra marathoners who regularly run 26+ miles on their weekly long runs. Their bodies are used to the volume.
The only time you should need lots of time to recover from a marathon, is after the one you are not well-prepared for. Eliminating, or shortening, your recovery time means paying attention to: gradual and realistic increases in your weekly mileage, efficient running technique, proper pacing and fueling, adequate rest during training, your ability to relax at longer distances, and your ability to body sense and respond correctly to everything that comes your way during your marathon.