Fitness Myths

MYTH #1:  Stretching Prevents Injuries and Improves Performance.

TRUTH: It could negatively impact your running times.

Research indicates that static stretching should be avoided before endurance events. When you elongate muscle fibers you cause  a” neuromuscular inhibitory response” – this protective counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, leaves you less powerful. Static stretching in fact does not reduce incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis and knee issues. Instead try doing a dynamic warmup which incorporates body movements that mimic the actual sport that you are preparing for. For example:

1. Jumping jacks  (set of 20)

2. Multi-directional lunges ( front, lateral, back   3 x 8)

3. High -leg marches ( 60 seconds)

4. Butt kicks ( hop on one leg while kicking the other leg backward , touching buttocks ( 10 x per leg)

MYTH #2: Barefoot Running is Better for Everyone

TRUTH: It all  depends on body type and discipline.

Barefoot running requires that you are biomechanically sound and land lightly on your forefoot. Most people’s bodies, and more specifically, their muscular structure have developed over the years with shoes and our feet have become accustomed to their support. Most people are heel strikers and need some cushioning to dissipate the impact stresses. Landing near the forefoot, as adept barefoot runners do, can be beneficial but is no guarantee against injury.

Biomechanics research shows that forefoot striking sends shock waves up your leg, too, but in a different pattern than when you heel-strike. These forces move mostly through the leg’s soft tissue instead of the bone, meaning a lower probability of a stress fracture – but higher risk for an Achilles injury. Either way, your body sustains quite a pounding barefoot or not!

Going barefoot can be right for you, but depends on your susceptibility to specific injuries and how you make the transition. Experts suggest if you are going to give it try to start slowly  and gradually increase the barefoot running. Start with shoes on and preferably find a softer surface ( grass) to test the experience. Concentrate on form: land lightly, don’t overstride and avoid heel-striking.

Sore knees: Worth a try.

Achilles tendon problems: Probably not a good idea – forefoot striking increases stress on the Achilles.

Heel pain or Plantar Fasciitis: No

Sprained ankle: After the ankle heels. Going barefoot can improve the body’s proprioception, or spatial awareness, reducing risk of further ankle sprains

MYTH#3:  Focusing on Core Strength Makes You a Better Athlete.

TRUTH: Core strength is overrated and you risk injury by focusing too specifically on it.

Several studies indicate that a supercharged core does not translate into better sports performance. Proper core strength does help the body to stabilize and  help maintain balance when fatigue sets in.  Common routines like squats, deadlifts, kettlebells, planks, side planks and TRX add plenty of core strength.  Some new studies indicate that running does in fact activate the core. Most experts believe that if you train your sport correctly, core strength will develop.

MYTH#4: Consuming Water and Electrolytes Before a Race Prevents Cramps:

TRUTH:  Water and electrolytes have little to do with cramping.

For years we have been urged to load up on bananas or consume electrolyte loaded sports drinks before or during workouts.  Research indicates that cramping is not caused by dehydration, rather muscle cramps are due to  exertion, fatigue, and a cascade of accompanying biochemical processes.  Stretching tight muscles ( after you train) , strengthening muscle imbalances and reducing your speed might be the best antidote.

MYTH#5: Taking Ibuprofen Before a Hard Workout Prevents Post Workout Soreness.

TRUTH: It actually does more harm than good.

Research indicates that athletes competing in endurance events that consume ibuprofen before racing were just as sore as those who hadn’t. They also displayed more blood markers of inflammation than other competitors, even though ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. Other studies indicate that frequent use of painkillers can blunt the ability of muscles to adapt to exercise.

Take away: Don’t use ibuprofen unless you have a  legitimate injury. Muscle pain and soreness is a natural part of the body’s training response.

MYTH#6: Dehydration Hurts Race Performance:

TRUTH: Overhydrating is potentially more harmful.

Hydrating to excess can cause hyponatremia – intoxication caused by consuming too much water ( without adequate electrolyte balance), a potentially fatal condition in which cells swell with excess fluid. Research indicates that marathon runners who’s weight loss was measured against their finishing times – the runners who lost the most water weight were actually the fastest. The top times correlated to an average 3 percent loss in body weight due to sweating.

Take away: Drink when you feel thirsty. The experts suggest that: ” Thirst is an exquisitely fine tuned indicator of your body’s actual hydration status.” Listen to it.

MYTH#7: Ice Baths Speed Recovery

TRUTH: The benefits are purely psychological.

Many elite athletes from distance runners to baseball pitchers use ice as a way to promote healing. Studies looking at runners post workout creatine kinase levels ( a hallmark of muscle damage) after they iced were no different than those who had not iced. Other studies examining post-strength training muscle soreness after performing leg extension exercises indicated no difference between one group that iced and a control group that did not. One use for ice treatments are immediately after a joint injury such as a sprained ankle. The ice can promote faster healing

Take away: The benefits for recovery after a workout ( minus injury) are purely psychological.

MYTH#8: Long and Slow is The Best Way to Burn Calories.

TRUTH: Pump up the intensity.

For years it had been assumed that optimal fat burning was best accomplished while training in low heart rate zones – exercising between 65 and 80 % of your maximum heart rate. It was believed that low intensity exercise allowed the body to fuel itself from abdominal fat rather than from readily available food calories. More recent research shows that strenuous exercise burns more calories per minute than lower intensity bouts. Furthermore, these studies determined that intense exercise increases your metabolism for up to 14 hours afterward.

Take away:  Start adding in interval training ( faster efforts ) into you running, swimming, cycling training. If you can access a testing lab find out your heart rate zones, VO2 max and lactate threshold. Make certain that you are well warmed up and can monitor your efforts. Allow for adequate recovery time between and after doing the intervals. interval training should be done 1-2 times per week after you have built up a good aerobic base first.

MYTH#9: Fructose is a Performance Killer

TRUTH: Fructose can be a performance superfuel.

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit. High- fructose corn syrup should be avoided – especially if you are inactive. Athletes on the other hand can benefit from this carbohydrate when competing or training for 45 -60 minutes. Fructose and glucose ( a simple sugar such as maltodextrin) are taken up in the intestine by different transport proteins.  According to experts – ” This allows for a more rapid uptake of carbohydrates from the gut.” This increases the availability of calories if you eat or drink carbohydrates containing fructose.

The concerns regarding high-fructose corn syrup have more to do the highly processed foods they often show up in rather than the intrinsic characteristics of the sugar. The ideal ratio of glucose to fructose for athletes is 2:1 ( not 1:1 found in corn syrups).  Unfortunately, there are few sports drinks on the market that provide that perfect mix. One example available is Powerbar’s Ironman Performance drink .

MYTH#10: Supplements Take Performance to the Next Level.

TRUTH: No magic pill exits.


Conventional Wisdom- They destroy free radicals, molecules created during exercise that are believed to cause cell damage.

Science Says- Some free radicals appear to trigger chemical reactions that actually help strengthen muscles after exercise and improve health.  So , taking antioxidants in “excess” may curb the benefits of exercise.


Conventional Wisdom- A very popular supplement that athletes insist helps build muscle strength and size

Science Says – It does help football players build strength and helps sprinter ran faster. The endurance athlete’s performance, however,  is actually hindered since creatine draws extra water into cells leading to dehydration and cramping.


Conventional Wisdom- DHEA raises testosterone levels and helps build muscle and increase power.

Science Says- Yes and No. DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that affects the body’s ability to produce testosterone. However, a study proved that ” daily doses in men with normal levels did not increase muscle strength.”