So, you’ve been running for a few months now and you take it fairly seriously, which means you’ve no doubt done a lot of reading on the subject and have heard of certain “widely known” caveats and pitfalls. Are they all true, though, or just myths? Sure, some of the stuff you may have read online is true, but it seems a lot of the most popular warnings are, in fact, myths.
1. Running is Bad for Your Knees
This is easily the most popular myth about running. Even people who don’t run, never have and never plan to, will say “you know, running is bad for your knees.” People will also tell you it’s bad for other joints in your body, like your hip joints. The fact is there is no hard evidence to support the theory that running is bad for your knees and there are actually some studies that suggest it is good for strengthening the ligaments around your knee joints.
2. “Hitting the Wall”
Ah, yes, the proverbial “wall” that all runners will inevitably hit unless they take all sorts of esoteric strides to condition themselves properly. The myth goes like this: Eventually, say if you’re running a marathon, you can reach this point know as the “wall” where you will simply not be able to run anymore; you will just slow to a crawl and have to walk to the end of the finish line. The myth is supported by all sorts of claims about how once you run out of glycogen stores in your muscles and you don’t have enough fat to burn, or you’re body’s not efficient enough at burning, you just won’t have enough energy to finish.
Well, it’s not really like that. Yes, if you try to run a 26 mile marathon and you haven’t trained for it, you’re not going to do very well and you’ll probably give up long before the finish line. You can always, however, simply push yourself to do it. Your body will hate you for it the next day, but you won’t be stopped in your tracks by some magic force. Bottom line, if you want to avoid “the wall,” just run more frequently and run farther. If you can’t finish 10 miles, start running 20+ miles a week until you can, and so on.
3. Lactic Acid
This is a myth that really applies to all sports and activities, not just running. But it does circulate throughout the running world quite a bit. The myth is simply that when your muscles become fatigued, lactic acid builds up inside of them, rendering them useless and causing them to burn like hell. The truth is, there isn’t any lactic acid in your body. Your body simulates lactic acid by creating synthetic lactate. So, the next time someone starts talking about lactic acid buildup, if you feel like being snarky, you can lay this tidbit of info on them.
4. Your Lungs Can Freeze
This myth is just plain silly, but for some reason there are people who buy it. It goes like this: When you run in below freezing weather, you suck in more cold air into your lungs and because your lungs are moist, the air freezes them and it hurts, or you die, or something like that. While it is true that running in very cold weather can exacerbate a respiratory problem, it’s not going to freeze your lungs like a Popsicle. If this were true, there would be accounts of this happening all over the world, all the time, for a number of reasons other than, “I went for a run.”