Running is full of do's and don'ts. Stay hydrated? Do. Wear brand new shoes on race day? A definite don't. But there is plenty out there that's not so clear cut. To help you muddle through some of those gray areas and sort fact from fiction, we had Ryan Bolton, a top running coach with Training Bible in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a 2000 Olympian in triathlon, weigh in.
The Claim: You should always stretch before you run.
The Truth: While studies go back and forth on the true benefits of pre-run limbering, it's ultimately a personal choice, says Bolton. "I tell my runners to do what they need to do. If you feel like stretching helps, then do it," says Bolton.
The most important pre-race ritual? A proper warm-up. "Whether or not you stretch is up to you, but you should always take time to do some light jogging, dynamic plyometrics like lunges, high-knees, toy soldiers and some strides."
And if you're going short—say, a 5K or 800-meter repeats on the track—your warm-up should be longer. "In a distance run, you can take the first few miles to warm up," says Bolton. "But you'll want to be ready to go right away for the shorter stuff."
The Claim: The harder and longer you run, the stronger you'll be.
The Truth: Here's a novel idea: Take an easy day—or two. Running long and hard without a break can just run you into the ground, says Bolton. "If there's one thing the Kenyans are really good at, it's resting well," says Bolton of the elite East African athletes he trains in Santa Fe. "And they're not afraid to do it."
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That means running easy, well, easy. "If your tempo pace is a 6-minute mile, then run 9-minute miles," explains Bolton. "That way, you're not breaking your body down when you're supposed to be recovering."