After you started running, you probably started learning more and more about running. You read articles and blogs, maybe even some books, and followed lots of fast runners on Instagram. So by now you should be familiar with all the running rules, right? What would you say if I told you that sometimes those running rules are wrong? Don’t be so quick to follow the running advice you find on the internet! Here are 6 running rules that may not actually be helpful and what to consider when deciding what to do instead.
6 Running Rules That May Not Actually Be Helpful
Stretch after all your runs
Almost any article about running will recommend stretching after all your runs, but does it actually help? I wrote abut this a few years ago: Things to consider when deciding if you need to stretch.
More recently, studies have shown that stretching does not provide any significant advantages to distance runners and research has not shown that it can help prevent overuse injuries such as ITB syndrome, stress fractures, or plantar fasciitis.
Stretch if it feels good and is working for you, but don’t expect it to make you faster or prevent all injuries!
Don’t run if something hurts
Ok, this one is definitely a gray area. It’s mostly about really being able to listen to your own body and know the difference between something just feeling tight or a little bit off versus being an actual injury. Some injuries are ok to run through, if running doesn’t make them worse. Many sports medicine providers these days will not make you stop running while you are getting treatment for an injury unless it’s something like a stress fracture.
If you suspect an injury is coming on, reduce your mileage and focus on strength. See a PT or another professional who can help you work through your issue. (And if they tell you to stop running, ask them why so you understand the reasoning. Simply resting alone does not usually resolve an injury without other rehab work.)
Get fitted for running shoes
Sure, getting fitted for running shoes can be helpful, but it’s certainly not necessary. Especially if you have an idea of what kind of shoes work well for you. When I was initially fitted for running shoes I started to believe that I could ONLY run in that exact model of shoes. This isn’t true at all! It can be so fun to try out different models and it’s really helpful to run in different styles of shoes. I have lighter shoes for speedwork, cushioned shoes for recovery runs, and everything in between.
Alternate hard and easy/rest days
Yes, in general you should alternate hard days with easy days or rest days. But as you get more experienced, you can try out different ways to schedule your workouts. Doing a harder run the day before a long run can teach you to run on tired legs. Lifting the day before a hard run can help you feel your muscles activated. You want to look at your week/training cycle as a whole and make sure it’s well balanced. If you are going hard every single day you will burn out or plateau, but as you become more advanced with your training you can experiment with different schedules.
Include at least one 20 mile run when training for a marathon
20 miles seems to be the golden distance for marathon training. They say if you can run 20 miles, you can run a marathon (just add on a 10k!) However, a 20 miler for a 5 hour marathoner will look much different than a 20 miler for a 3 hour marathoner. There are many things to consider, like your weekly mileage, experience as a runner, and what other workouts you are doing throughout the week. Laura shared a great post about this recently! How Far Should You Run Before a Marathon
You must foam roll to avoid injuries
Words like “must” should always be a red flag when it comes to running rules. Foam rolling has benefits. But think about this: if you are doing the right strength training exercises that help your body move correctly and use the right balance of muscles when you are running, will you need to foam roll? If your hamstrings always feel tight after a run due to overuse, but you work on your glute strength through heavy lifting, your hamstrings won’t have to work as hard, won’t feel tight, and they won’t get injured! No foam rolling involved!
Foam rolling can feel good. It can help our bodies relax. There are many benefits to foam rolling! But it’s not a magic pill and more is not always better. I was listening to the Ali on the Run podcast last week with Kate Grace, and she described how she showed up to Emma Coburn’s house for training and was teased for bringing her foam roller. Their team focused on strength and stability and found that with those things in place, a foam roller was no longer needed.
Studies have found that foam rolling is an effective strategy for short-term improvements in flexibility and does not decrease muscle performance. Our perception of how it feels may also be impacted by psychological factors.
Summary of Running Rules That May Not Actually Be Helpful
These running rules may be popular, but it does not mean they always hold true. If something isn’t working for you, take some time to dig a little deeper and find out if there is another explanation or something else you can try! Research is changing all the time, so we don’t want to do the same things we were doing years ago if there is no benefit to doing so.
Which of these running rules do you follow? Or not follow?
Is there anything you used to do that you have found no longer works for you?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs , and Laura Norris Running to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.