You’ve likely heard running will degrade your joints or pregnant runners should cut back on mileage. There are lots of commonly accepted beliefs about running—many of which are pure hokum. From carbo-loading to altitude training to suffering from “runner’s face” (what?!), our panel of experts exposes the fiction to show the truth behind these running myths.
Running will make you look older.
Running makes you feel young, but could it make you look ancient? Believe it or not, some people believe athletes are prone to “runner’s face”—old, saggy skin and elastic jowls as a result of too much bouncing (like the breast rumor below). “If you lose a lot of weight, you will notice some of the weight will come from the face. The loss of weight in your face can make wrinkles and hollows (cheeks, jowls, temples) become more noticeable,” says Cynthia Bartus, physician at the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania. These cosmetic issues were there before running, and being active does not make the skin less elastic. That said, running can be a culprit of premature aging in another way: Training outside without proper sun protection causes wrinkles, fine lines and brown spots to appear.
TRUTH: It’s sun exposure, not movement, that can lead to visible signs of aging. Fortunately, you can do something to prevent this: Bartus suggests wearing sunscreen, a hat or visor, sunglasses and running clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating to protect skin.
Running makes your breasts sag.
All that bouncing can’t be good for the girls, right? “The bouncing movements from running will not make your breasts sag,” says Bartus. “Running will help you tone and tighten your muscles, giving the breasts more support, not less.
TRUTH: Inevitably, breasts will start to droop no matter what you do, due to the natural aging process. However, there is no evidence that the bouncing from running will accelerate this event. Still, Bartus suggests keeping the jiggle at bay by wearing a supportive, well-fitting sports bra—not to prevent sagging, but to give you a more comfortable running experience.
Running is bad for your knees.
We wish this myth would just die a fiery death already. Running gets a bad rap for causing arthritis and cartilage breakdown for absolutely no reason: In a 2013 study of more than 90,000 people, runners were half as likely as walkers to develop osteoarthritis or need a hip replacement.
TRUTH: Running actually strengthens the knees and thickens—not destroys—cartilage. Running also aids in weight loss, which can alleviate many knee problems caused by carrying excess pounds.
All runners must carbo-load before a race.
Should you pile on the spaghetti the night before a 5K? Some people believe loading up on bread, pasta and other carbs will create extra energy reserves on race day. However, pasta (though delicious) is only food, not magic. Carbohydrates are important in a runner’s diet, but so are proteins, fats and micronutrients. You should aim for getting all of those things, all of the time. In fact, eating just one carb-heavy meal likely won’t do much for a runner—and may even hinder race-day performance in the form of stomach distress. After all, many carbohydrate sources are also high in ﬁber, and fiber typically makes you go (and not in the good way!).
TRUTH: Focus on eating a balanced diet every day of the year. Before your race, eat familiar meals and snacks—race day is not the time to try new things!—and you will be set.
You have to be competitive to do races.
Now that’s just crazy talk. Bartus says, “That is the great thing about running: Anyone and everyone can race!” Take the 42,000 runners who lined up for last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half—41,998 didn’t win. Most runners are not shooting for podium finishes. Instead, they’re looking to finish a new distance, better their own personal times or simply complete the race.
TRUTH: Pick a goal, any goal! Whether you’re hoping to win the whole thing or “just” finish the race, remember that your goals and dreams matter. Work hard and have fun!