Running Myths

Thanks to ongoing research, some beliefs about running that have been accepted as fact in the past are now considered to be myths. I thought it would be interesting to collect these myths. If you know of other myths, please send me the links so I can investigate them and add them to this page.


Calories, Running and Walking

I've been telling people that running and walking both consume about the same number of calories. Wrong! The net calories burned or NCB is higher for running. NCB is the actual calories burned minus the calories that would be burned if one were just sitting.
Thanks to the Syracuse researchers, we now know the relative NCB of running a mile in 9:30 versus walking the same mile in 19:00. Their male subjects burned 105 calories running, 52 walking; the women, 91 and 43. That is, running burns twice as many net calories per mile as walking. And since you can run two miles in the time it takes to walk one mile, running burns four times as many net calories per hour as walking. Runner's World, 7/18/2005

Lactic Acid

I learned as a new runner reading the literature that stiffness after a run was caused by a build-up of lactic acid in ones body. Recent research has shown that the stiffness is caused by damage to muscle tissue not by lactic acid. "Lactic acid does not exist as an acid in the body: it exists in another form called 'lactate', and it is this that is actually measured in the blood". Research has also shown that lactate can be used by the body as fuel. The following pages discuss this in more detail.
  • Lactic acid and running: myths, legends and reality - the ABC
  • Lactic Acid Is Not Muscles' Foe, It's Fuel
  • Lactic Acid Will Be Sorely Missed

Marathon Running Prevents Heart Attacks

Back in the 1970s, when I first started running, it was commonly believed that if a person ran a marathon, the person would never suffer heart attacks. Some running books and articles made that claim. The subsequent deaths of marathoners shook up the running world. Medical researchers are now learning that persons who run marathons but were improperly trained may suffer damage to heart muscle. An article in the Boston Globe gives the details. In addition, this article discusses the physiology of marathon running.


Races should always have a Sprint or "Kick" at the End

Up until recently I advocated that a race end with a sprint (kick) to the end. I recently read a comment from Jeff Galloway that kicks that are sprints have a relatively high risk of injury, and I've changed my attitude about kicks. I still recommend that the pace be increased for the last 200 feet (61 meters) or so, but I recommend that the pace during the kick not be greater than the fastest pace you're accustomed to. That is, don't sprint or go "all out" during a kick.

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