5 Myths About Distance Running
by Jason Fitzgerald
Art of Manliness
looks like itís time for some push-ups!
So, you live on pasta and bagels right?
Running isnít a real sport!
than 14 years of running experience Ė in high school, college, and
ever since Ė Iíve heard every insult and misconception that exists
about the sport of distance running. Some are true (yes, our shorts
are short), but most are false.
a bad reputation that seems to be exaggerated by some fitness circles
that donít understand the right way to train for road races like
the 5k, 10k, or even the marathon. Indeed, running is a one-dimensional
form of exercise that has the potential to create specific weaknesses
about 40 years and youíll see that runners ran a lot of miles at
a slower pace Ė and did little else in the general fitness and strength
departments. The conventional wisdom insists that marathoners are
doing the same today.
If we look
even further back in history Ė back to the 1950s when Roger Bannister
became the first man in history to run a sub-4:00 mile Ė training
looked wildly different. Instead of high mileage and sparse speed
workouts, runners favored low mileage and high intensity. Track
intervals were so common that they comprised almost every training
session! This training style resembled the popular HIIT (High Intensity
Interval Training) or Tabata workouts of today.
As our understanding
of training theory, physiology, and exercise science has matured
over the decades, the training of today now takes a more balanced
approach than both the 1950s and 1970s. And in turn, modern runners
are more well-rounded and athletic than their predecessors. The
dramatic improvement in world records as varied as the mile and
the marathon is a testament to todayís state-of-the-art training.
just jog slow miles and eat platefuls of spaghetti. Nor do we shy
away from lifting weights, sprinting, and working on coordination.
In fact, these are skills necessary to successful distance running.
These skills allowed me to (somewhat surprisingly) win the 2012
Dash, beating nearly 17,000 other CrossFitters, Parkour athletes,
dispel the popular misconceptions about runners, running, and the
sportís effect on your health. By the end of this article I hope
youíll be lacing up your running shoes and pulling on your short
shorts (well, one step at a time).
Running Decreases Muscle Mass
This myth is
actually partly true Ė but for the majority of men thereís no need
to worry. If youíre particularly bulky and donít practice any aerobic
exercises like swimming, cycling, or even hiking, then starting
to run can slim you down.
doesnít ďeat muscleĒ or break it down as fuel. To get to that level
of catabolic activity, youíll need to combine a diet almost entirely
void of protein with a high mileage, high intensity running schedule.
Like any extreme form of exercise, that combination will certainly
reduce your overall muscle mass.
A more realistic
running program Ė say an introductory marathon training plan Ė will
instead just prevent additional muscle gain. Your weight
will stay about the same and muscle mass can easily be maintained
by most men who are doing complementary strength
in the room, of course, is the image of an elite distance runner
who weighs 120 pounds when heís soaking wet. With thin legs and
even thinner arms, how can I say that their running doesnít make
them so scrawny? Simple: running doesnít make them look that way,
their genetics do. Elite runners are often natural ectomorphs with
a slight build, an incredibly low body fat percentage, and a tendency
of staying skinny. This body type is one of the pieces that make
them so damn fast.
running will only reduce your muscle size if you stop lifting and
start running significant mileage. Most men will find it rather
easy to train for a road race without sacrificing their biceps.
Plus, running is only going to help define those washboard abs.
Running Requires No Skill
Just put one
foot in front of the other, right? Wrong.
a skill-sport. Thereís no question about it. Training
consistently over weeks and months without injury takes coordination,
strength, and athleticism. Indeed, this
study shows that running economy (i.e., efficiency Ė or skill)
improves as beginner runners naturally refine their gait.
When you consider
that running is actually a highly coordinated series of one-legged
hops, the importance of learning the proper way to run is underscored.
Without a basic understanding of good running form, youíll not only
be slower but your risk of an injury caused by overuse will skyrocket.
So what are
the fundamental aspects of running form that will help you be a
more skilled runner? Stick to the basics:
your cadence to roughly 170-180 steps per minute.
- Land with
your foot underneath your body, as opposed to ďreachingĒ out with
your foot and over-striding (this strategy will also reduce heel-striking).
- Keep your
back tall with a slight forward lean from the ankles. No slouching
or leaning from the waist!
- Try to land
on your midfoot, though a slight heel strike isnít necessarily
- Keep your
arms at roughly a 90-degree angle (though this will vary) and
donít swing them across your chest.
Those are the
basics. Of course, there are some additional improvements that you
can make, but most runners donít need to get lost in the weeds of
excessively tweaking their running form.
In fact, research
has shown that consciously trying to change your running form can
decrease your running economy Ė or in other words, when you try
to alter your form, you become less efficient.
A better way
to improve your form is to follow the first two bullets above and
just run consistently. Your body will naturally develop the
skills necessary to become a more efficient runner.
Runners Are Weak
who only run are certainly weak! Just like weight lifters
who only spend time at the gym arenít very fast.
But a well-rounded
training plan will include a lot more than just running. Most plans
will involve warm-up drills, strength exercises, dynamic stretches,
mobility exercises, and preventive exercises if youíre predisposed
avoid the weight room and skip their core work are bound to get
injured. You canít let your engine outpace your chassis. This analogy
refers to your metabolic or aerobic fitness (endurance) vs.
your structural fitness (bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles).
You donít want a Lamborghini engine in the frame of a Geo Prizm.
That engine is going to tear the car apart.
to build a strong body is something thatís critical for runners.
A great example is that of elite runners: some spend more time doing
strength exercises and preventative work than they actually do running!
Most of us arenít elite athletes and canít spend 2-3 hours working
out every day, so instead thereís a solution for the rest of us.
run, do a thorough dynamic
warm-up. Most only take 5-10 minutes and are critical to increasing
blood flow and range of motion, developing your coordination, and
helping you gain flexibility.
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© 2013 The Art of Manliness