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Myths about Running, Runners, and Elites

When it comes to writing in my blog, I have to find the perfect amount of inspiration before a blog post comes to life. If I have too little inspiration, words never get put to paper, and if I have too much, I wind up with an incoherent jumble of words. I have lists and lists of blog ideas that pop in my head, but many of the topics have been ruminated on for at least a few days, if not years (seriously…what else is there to think about when you’ve run consistently for 16 years?)

One topic that I’m always drawn to in my head is the myths that people, and even runners themselves, seem to have about runners and running, especially elites. I lol’d when I first read teammate Steph Bruce’s post for Women’s Running on the common myths she encounters as an elite.

The past couple weeks, the coaching side of my life has taken off, and I have been interacting with tons of interesting potential clients. This has led to some really neat perspective on what other people think it takes to be a good runner.

I also had a great Skype session with two of my teammates over the weekend, Andie Cozzarelli and Erin Osment, and oddly enough, this same idea about the myths that surround our lives came up.

So, I thought I would finally tackle the post that has been lingering in my head for a very long time, since it seems that the universe has been pushing me in that direction lately.

About Running

Myth: Taking time off from running puts you in a fitness hole you can never climb out of. Fact: I encounter this ALL the time, and the attitude seems most prevalent among the demographic of runners who are on the cusp of a BQ or a PR. Runners need down time. The body needs time to absorb training, to fully recover, and to re-energize. I full-body cringe when someone talks about running 3 days after a marathon. If improving your fitness is your main goal, you need complete rest. PERIOD.

Myth: It’s not okay to ever stop during a run. Fact: I used to run with my dog all the time and a person who joined us one day was clearly annoyed and complained that the occasional starting or stopping was ruining the benefit of our run. To me, that is the most ridiculous notion ever. In fact, take every animal in the animal kingdom. Do they run continuously, timing to make sure they get an even number of minutes before they stop running? No. Instead, they speed up, slow down, stop, get distracted, start running again, etc. Somehow, they are still fit! Obviously, if you are training for a marathon, where continuous running is your goal, you should probably do some runs where you don’t stop. Otherwise….lighten up about your training partner needing a bathroom break or having to stop for a few extra red lights than normal. If your fitness isthat fragile, you probably have more problems than you realize.

Myth: More is always better. Fact: If the amount that you are running impedes your recovery or your ability to live a fulfilling life, you are running too much.

Myth: Happiness doesn’t matter when you are training. Fact: Where did this idea come from that we have to suffer endlessly in order to gain? I have never been injured when running for my happiness was my top priority. When do I become hurt? When a goal, a comparison, or a perceived ideal becomes bigger than my happiness.

Myth: There is a right and wrong way to live if you want to be a good runner. Fact: This idea came up when I was chatting with my teammates. Everyone has an opinion on what others need to do in order to be their best, which causes a lot of unnecessary doubt. Some people will say that once you become a mom, your running days are over. Some people say that the only way to improve your running is to have kids. Some will tell you that you must quit your job and focus all of your energy on running if you want to succeed, while others will caution that working 40 hours per week is the best way to ensure that you balance your day and perform your best.

The truth is, when you are living the life that makes you most happy, your running performance (and, more importantly, life performance) will follow suit.

Myth: There is such thing as a runner’s body. Fact: I am SO tired of this. The next time you run a race, look at the people in front of you, and the people behind you. There will be men and women faster than you that have a “worse” body than you do, and people that you beat that have the body you want. If there was a height/weight requirement assigned to certain finishing times, running would be a hell of a lot more cut and dry.

Myth: Only “fast” people need coaches Fact: I actually touched on this in a previous post, and it is one of the biggest myths I think that plague runners. Every single runner can benefit from having a coach. Whether it is to help you train smarter, train more efficiently, or provide the impetus to get out the door, having a coach can make a big difference. For me, reconnecting with my coach meant that I didn’t second guess what I was doing, which took away a huge burden and helped me trust the process.

Myth: Changing our diets, foam rolling, sleeping more, “wanting it” more, doing more yoga, etc. will lead to faster running. Fact: This is a double edge sword. These things can all help you become a better runner, but they are 10% of the equation. There are no short cuts in running that will take you from good to great. Solid, consistent, smart training and a belief in yourself are the majority of the equation.

Now, for the elites:

Myth: Elites never struggle with mental roadblocks. Fact: This has actually come up frequently lately. I would be willing to go out on a limb and state that elites actually deal with MORE mental road blocks than the average runner. Think it’s bad when your office knew you were running a marathon and you didn’t finish the way you had hoped? Multiply that by the entire running community.

Myth: Elites love attention. Fact: This cracks me up. The majority of elites that I know would rather crawl under a rock and die than have any attention brought upon them. While some of us are more comfortable bringing attention upon ourselves than others, the fact of the matter is that visibility as an athlete is really important in order to be a good brand ambassador, to be invited to races, to have support, to engage in the running community, and to be a good role model for younger runners. Trust me, no one has ever said, I’m going to become a runner because that will give me the 15 seconds of fame I have always desired.

Myth: Elites run fast every day. Fact: NOPE. I know that Steph covered this in her article about running myths, but I’m going to cover it too. Sometimes I run 9 - 10 minute pace. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

Myth: Elite love running every single day. Fact: Nope. Sometimes it’s a chore for us, too.

Myth: Elites are at race weight year-round Fact: NOPE. Actually, I think that’s a really important difference between true elites and sub-elites. I’m not saying this is everyone, by any means, but some of the elites that I know who have had super long careers approach their weight via training periodization. There are times in your training where you should eat that second helping of ice cream, and there are times you should abstain. Knowing the difference is key.

Myth: Elites don’t want to run with people slower than them. Fact: I hate when people say, you would never want to run with me because I am much slower than you. NOT true! There are times when we need to do our own thing, but there is plenty of time to run at different paces, too. Again, if your fitness is so fragile that running at a slightly slower pace ruins your training, I’m pretty sure you’re dealing with a larger issue at hand.

Myth: Elites have sold their souls to their sponsors. Fact: I occasionally get messages from well-meaning people who ask me whether Oiselle is holding a gun to my head in order to get me to promote the company in the way that I do. As much as I think a slight minority of people would love for that to be true, the answer is no. I obviously can’t speak for other companies, but for the ones I have been involved with (Oiselle, nuun, Zensah), brand promotion comes from the desire of the athletes to “pay forward” the support we have been shown and represent the brands that speak to our souls.

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