Myth: You Should Always Do a "Cool Down" After Your Run
The Truth: Have you ever finished a long run and all you want to do is sit down but your running buddy insists on a cool down? Good news! It’s actually OK to sit and catch your breath after a run, Olson says. The idea behind 'cooling down' (an active way to recover) is that you’ll enhance your body’s ability to return to its normal, pre-exercise state, but it isn’t mandatory. Your increased breathing rate will do the job just fine, Olson says. "Your body is engineered to return its functions back to a normal resting state anyway—and that post-exercise heavy breathing is your body's natural way of restoring oxygen levels, removing heat, and moving out waste products whether you are actively recovering or passively recovering."
Myth: For Runners, the More Flexible You Are, the Better
The Truth: "Actually, runners with the most lower-extremity problems such as shin splints and lateral ankle pain and weakness are the most flexible in the ankle joint and more prone to injury," Olson says. So does that mean you should stop stretching? No, Olson says. "Overly flexible joints have less stability and are more vulnerable to being overstretched or moved out of normal, joint-friendly positions, but there needs to be a balance between flexibility and stability to prevent injuries. Stable joints that have strong muscles surrounding them don’t allow the joint to move into ranges that can over stress the tendons and ligaments. The lesson here is that the more stable your joints are, the better."
Myth: Barefoot Shoes are the Best Footwear for All Runners
The Truth: In the U.S. we grow up wearing shoes and our bodies adapt to footwear, Olson says. But the barefoot runners from Kenya, for example, never wear shoes, so their bodies are more adapted to barefoot running. If you aren’t used to running sans shoes, immediately switching from cushiony kicks to barefoot runners may not be the best idea. “If you want to try the newer barefoot shoes, be sure to ease into them. Go for short distances and build up slowly,” Olson recommends. And while they can offer some benefits for runners, they aren’t the best choice for everyone. “If you wear orthotics or have joint problems that require the cushion of a typical running shoe, you may not do well with barefoot shoes,” Olson says.