Three Common Misunderstandings About Running
Running should be simple, but sorting through priorities and training methods can be a challenge. The three common misunderstandings about running that I’m unpacking in this post share a common theme: finding balance between training volume, life, and health goals.
1. "I need to run 100% of the workouts planned."
Training plans are detailed, and it’s easy to assume you have to do it all. That sounds nice, but it isn’t always practical or necessary. Even at a competitive level, runners may only hit 90% of the planned workouts, modifying for a mild illness or minor injury. With that in mind, give yourself permission not to stress over fitting in every last workout.
What are some reasons to skip a run?
- Feeling sick and/or run down: Listen to your body and take a rest day if you're feeling ill or overly fatigued.
- Overflowing stress - When your work or family schedule falls apart and fitting in a run just feels like too much, you can either pivot to run another day, or skip the day. Consider adding a few minutes of a restorative activity like meditation or breath work to pour some stress out of your cup.
You may need to adjust your training plan and goals if you frequently miss runs, so you can set yourself up for success on race day. If it happens just a few times a month, don’t sweat it.
2. "A marathon training plan has to include a 20-mile run."
While the mental boost from completing that traditional 20-miler feels great, there is also an increased risk of injury with runs that last over three hours. It is best to keep your long run to no more than 30% of your total weekly mileage on a regular basis. With a little easy math, that means the majority of recreational marathoners running 40-50 miles / week should use caution before planning a 20-mile run.
If you tolerate long runs well and have a long history in the sport, your 20-miler may be a safe choice. Runners who are injury prone or new to long distance running should consider capping their longest run at three hours, adding a mid-week run of up to two hours to spread out the training load.
3."Training for a marathon is a great way to lose weight."
Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, and runners often gain newfound confidence that extends to other areas of their life. Training can help with creating healthy habits and aerobic fitness. It may also lead to weight loss, but the demands of training for 26.2 miles require a lot of fueling and can increase hunger dramatically.
It’s better to tackle your goals one at a time - focus on weight loss with a combined nutrition + exercise approach during more moderate training periods. If running a marathon is on your bucket list, I recommend setting aside 16 weeks for training where you’re not actively trying to lose weight, but rather are nourishing your body well to support your training and recovery.
With these tips in mind, your training journey can be a little more flexible, and more in line with balancing stress and recovery needs along the way.