Running is an excellent way to challenge yourself, stay fit, and maintain a healthy weight. It’s simple, too—all you need is a pair of shoes and a road or trail. Unfortunately, several myths and misconceptions prevent many people from becoming runners. Even among current runners, confusion and uncertainty surround everything from stretching to nutrition.
Here are nine of the most common running myths, along with Dumb Runner’s fact checks.
1. If you’re training for a marathon, you can eat anything you want.
FALSE. If you think training for a marathon gives you carte blanche to eat anything, think again. Here is a short list of things that runners cannot eat, no matter how many miles they’re running: Bones, utensils, plastic clamshell packaging, vinyl handbags, wax fruit displays, lithium ion batteries, steering wheels, lightbulbs, Arby’s, wireless keyboards.
I learned this the hard way.
2. If you run, your uterus will fall out.
PROBABLY FALSE. Doctors are highly skeptical of this one. It’s true that in a study of 850 male and female runners, researchers couldn’t detect a uterus in nearly half of them. Was running responsible for all those missing uteruses? Perhaps. More study is needed.
3. Running will ruin your knees.
FALSE. This old canard is perhaps the most stubborn of them all. Far from “ruining” your knees, research has shown, running actually strengthens them. So what explains all of those runners with bad knees? The answer is simple, scientists say: Vaccines.
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4. “Real runners” must run.
FALSE. Today’s runner can choose from a wealth of options, from indoor cycling classes to hot yoga. Even walking is fine. If none of those are to your liking, simply purchase a technical running shirt to wear around the house. Remember: If you call yourself a runner, you’re a runner!
5. Hades, brother of Zeus, kidnapped Persephone, daughter of Demeter, and made her his wife in the underworld. Eventually she was allowed to return to earth, but with a caveat: Because Persephone had eaten four pomegranate seeds in Hades, she was doomed to return there for four months every year. And this is why we have the seasons: When Persephone visits earth, it is spring; when she leaves, it is winter.
SORRY. That’s a Greek myth. Not sure how that got in here.
6. It’s important to stretch before a run.
FALSE. Pre-run stretching used to be the norm. Then things shifted, with experts advising runners to stretch after their run. Today we know that both approaches are wrong, and that runners should stretch during their run. Experts recommend pausing every five to 10 minutes to do so, especially during hard workouts and races.
RELATED: 5 Stretches You Should Never Do
7. Swallowing your race medal will give you good luck for a year.
FALSE. No one is sure how this myth got started, but emergency room doctors wish it would die—every year they treat an estimated 4,500 runners with medals lodged in their throats. There’s nothing lucky about that!
8. You should wait 30 minutes after eating to go for a run.
FALSE. This rule applies to swimming. But even for swimmers, it’s FALSE. According to companies that sell sports nutrition products and publications that run their advertisements, runners should “fuel up” not just before their runs, but during and after, as well. For best results, do it while stretching.
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9. You need new running shoes after a certain specific number of miles.
FALSE. This one is just bullshit.