Incommon parlance, myth is both a mythological tale (precisely) and a belief that is generally never questioned. In short, it has always been known that this is how things are or have been done and no one or few people dare to question it. Checking the goodness of certain beliefs, on the other hand, is incumbent, and in this case we are not talking about how many hours to let pass after eating in order to be able to swim but about things concerning running. Trail Runner magazine took apart five (six actually, but one was very “local” and we omitted it) of the hardest-to-die myths not only of road running but also of trail running. Here they are.
Myth #1: You have to run a lot
The assumption is that since running races are endurance races and therefore involve long mileage, then the best training is to … run a lot. In truth, this approach has very few advantages (perhaps the only one is to prepare the mind for distance) but has many disadvantages for the body: injuries, burnout, overtraining. Instead, it is wiser to practice cross-training (varying the type of training), also because it is not even true that the opposite approach, namely minimizing the distance, is correct. Running little in fact will never adapt to running much.
How then to do it? The advice is to gradually increase the load (or volume, whatever) by adopting a logic of progressive adaptation. Not surprisingly, it is the same kind of training that advises Kilian Jornet: by building endurance through really heavy work sessions-and especially by doing it continuously over long periods of time-you allow the body to adapt, moving its limit further and further but little by little.
Myth #2: always give 110%
The mind is your ally but also plays tricks. While it is true that it is capable of pushing you over certain limits, it is equally true that it can become a terrible mistress, convincing you that if you do not always give more than your best, then you will achieve nothing.
The problem, notes coach Mason Coppi, is that giving always 110 percent both in competition and in training very often has only one consequence: fatigue. The more tired you feel, the more you think it does not depend on a real state of fatigue, so you push even harder, resulting in further fatigue, missing all the goals you had planned.
Coppi explains to his athletes (as well as applying it to himself) that not giving your best every day doesn’t mean beating yourself. To give your best is to give as much as you can on a given day.
His most valuable advice, however, is another: favor continuity over intensity. It is more important to train consistently than to train hard.
Myth #3: fast workouts don’t help
This is a rule that applies especially to ultrarunners and explains that those who run a lot should not neglect speed work. As Kilian again teaches, speed on the flat turns into endurance on the uphill. If you train on the road, in short, you can turn speed into uphill endurance.
Myth #4: You have to run tons of vertical miles
This is a myth that relates more to ultratrailers than the common runner but is interesting because it identifies a wrong method, similar to Myth #1. What is it about? That if you do trail it’s not like you have to run like crazy uphill and only train to do that. Again, specific workouts are much more effective, and those who apply themselves to them often outperform those who only train to run madly uphill. In short, prioritizing speed and running economy pays off more in the race because it teaches how to use your resources better, as well as improving endurance.
Myth #5: Don’t get to the race without perfect training
Another rule that applies to the trail world but as an attitude also applies to road races. The race is the final verification of your physical state, and so facing it only when you think your level is 100 percent may preclude you from the reality check, that is, the race itself.
Instead, coaches recommend starting with easier races (applies in the trail world but can adapt to road races) starting with a 10k or half if you are aiming for a marathon.
Imagine that the level of your training is the theory and the competition is the practice: until you check “in the field” what your physical state really looks like, no training can ever give you an accurate idea but only assumptions.
Thinking you will never be at the optimal level will also prevent you from really experiencing the performance you are capable of.
As in everything in life, theory is one thing, practice is another.