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How well do you know about running?

Myth: Running is bad for your knees.

People assume that running must be impacting your joints. Why would an activity humans evolve to be bad for our bodies? If the activity were harmful to your knees, evolution would have eliminated the ability to run a long time ago because only traits that confer an advantage survive.

Research doesn’t support that running is bad for your knees. People who run have no greater incidence of joint problems or osteoarthritis than people who don’t run. If you have a family history of joint degeneration, running can bring that genetic predisposition or those latent issues to the forefront. However, running isn’t the underlying cause of your joint problems. As long as you have healthy knees, running isn’t bad for them.

Myth: Lactic acid causes fatigue, muscle burning, and muscle soreness.

There has never been a cause-and-effect relationship between lactate and fatigue. Although lactate increases when running fast, so do other metabolites, including potassium ions, hydrogen ions, ADP, and phosphate, all of which cause fatigue in different ways. Because of lactate’s concomitant increase with these other metabolites and the simple method of measuring its concentration in the blood, scientists use lactate as an indirect measure of acidosis.

Lactate also doesn’t cause muscle burning, which may be related to acidosis and the increase in muscle temperature that occurs when you run fast. Finally, muscle and blood lactate return to pre-exercise levels within 30 to 60 minutes after you run, so lactate is long gone by the time you feel sore. Muscle soreness occurs from microscopic tears in the muscle fibers from training and the subsequent inflammation. 

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Myth: Your lungs limit your ability to run.

Lung capacity is primarily influenced by body size, with bigger people having larger lung capacities. The best runners in the world are quite small people, with characteristically small lungs. There is no relationship between lung capacity and how fast someone runs a 5K. While many runners take deeper breaths in an attempt to get in more oxygen, the blood is already nearly maximally saturated with oxygen, even while running a race.

Myth: You race faster by training faster.

Runners do not work out to practice running faster. Runners increase the volume by running at specific speeds to improve the physiological characteristics that will enable you to run faster in the future. That’s why, slow but aerobic running makes you faster, because of the many physiological characteristics it enhances.

Myth: Strength training will make you a better distance runner.

There is little evidence that strength training improves distance running performance. Distance running is primarily limited by the delivery and use of oxygen. There are no studies showing that strength training increases the supply of oxygen and use by muscles, which is largely dictated by cardiac output, the amount of red blood cell and hemoglobin, and muscles’ capillary and mitochondrial densities. However, when it is done to increase power, strength training can improve the running economy.


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