11 misconceptions about training for a marathon that you should stop believing

Myth: Running is inherently bad for your knees.

man running jogging stairs exercise

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A 2015 review of injuries in runners found that the knee was the predominant site of leg injuries in runners. 

So you might think knee doctors strongly dislike running, but in reality the sport isn’t all bad for knees. 

In fact, running can be just fine for knees — so long as your training isn’t solely logging miles. 

“Most runners need to cross train, they can’t just run,” Dr. Sabrina Stickland, the co-director of the Patellofemoral Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery and an orthopedic surgeon told Business Insider. 

That could be anything from yoga to weight training. Trading in a run for another form of cardio like swimming or cycling can help as well. 

Myth: You can diet while training.

quinoa squash vegan grain bowl
The week before the marathon might not be a good time to go vegan.
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Because you’re increasing your exercise to train for a marathon, it might seem like a good idea to cut some calories at the same time to lose weight. 

“This isn’t the time to multitask” Leslie Bonci, owner of Active Eating Advice, a sports dietician for the KC Chiefs, and a marathoner herself told Business Insider. 

Because you’re running such long distances, the body needs to stay fueled to prevent you from feeling fatigued. Plan major shifts in your diet for while you’re not training. 

But you also don’t need to eat a ton while training.

Olive Garden Pasta Pass

Irene Jiang / Business Insider

If you go overboard on the carbo-load the day before the race or during your training, you could risk being too full on runs, as well as take in energy your body doesn’t necessarily need, Bonci said. 

Myth: You need to drink a sports drinks after every workout.

Gatorade

Elsa/Getty Images

If you’re only going out for a 30-minute jog, 16 ounces of a sports drink might not make the most sense. 

According to Bonci, electrolyte and carb-heavy sports drinks can come in handy for runs longer than one hour. After that threshold, runners might need anywhere from 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour to replenish what long-distance running is using up in the body. At that point, sports drinks can come in handy. 

But make sure to fuel up before your runs.

breakfast meal food diet nutrition fasting oatmeal fruit
Having something in your stomach is important for long distance running.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

At the same time, runners should be sure to fuel up before training runs and on the day of the race. Running a race on empty could lead runners to getting tired too early in the race. 

Myth: Get adventurous and eat what you want before race day.

chicago deep dish pizza

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If you picked the night before the race to try deep dish pizza for the first time, it might be time to reconsider.

On the day of a race, it’s key to make sure your gut isn’t preoccupied with digesting something it’s not familiar with, Bonci said. You’re going to need every part of the body in race mode. 

Myth: You need caffeine on race day.

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Shutterstock

On race day, runners will be producing endorphins and adrenaline that’ll keep your energy up in a way that they wouldn’t while you’re sitting at a desk early in the morning. The needs for caffeine differ then, too, Bonci said. 

Caffeine on race day can have the undesired effect of making runners’ hearts race, which can be distracting while on the course, she said. 

Myth: You can have an energy gel or chew by itself to get more energy.

Marathon Runners
Be sure to keep drinking water, too.
AP

While a snack, gummy, or tube of gel might seem like a quick way to get those carbs the body’s using up, it’s important that runners don’t forget to hydrate as well.

Drinking water alongside the energy-boosting foods ensures that runners are staying hydrated and can help the body digest and start to use the energy from the snack faster than if the snack was eaten alone, Bonci said. 

Myth: Combining sports drinks with energy gels will give you more energy.

barista

Art_Photo/Shutterstock

That said, there are ways to overdo it. Bonci calls it the “Barista Effect,” of mixing together sports drinks and gummies and other snacks, much like asking for a drink with extra flavor shots and extra foam on the top.

The concentration of that many carbs and liquids during a race can have a detrimental effect. “It’s too many things,” Bonci said.   

Myth: Eat whatever you want after a long run or race.

cheesecake factory kale salad
Pair your kale salad with some protein.
Cheesecake Factory/Facebook.com

While it may be tempting to reach for the nearest snack after a long run, it’s important to be strategic with your refuel.

Protein is key to rebuilding muscles and will go a much longer way than a bowl of pasta alone — or even a plate of leafy greens, which might be filling but won’t have all the replenishing nutrients a runner might need. Runners are using up a lot of energy during the run, it’s important to sustainably get that back. 

After a marathon, Bonci said she likes to recover with a meal at a Middle Eastern restaurant. 

Myth: Go immediately for the post-race beer.

Post-race beer at Chicago Marathon 2018
Turns out I shouldn’t have gone straight for the post-race beer after finishing the Chicago Marathon.
Lydia Ramsey/Business Insider

While it might be so tempting to reach for a beer at the end of a race, it’s important to get something else in your system first to replenish the liquids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates lost in the long run.

There’s evidence to suggest that going right to the alcohol can delay muscle recovery. So drink the orange juice first, then the vodka, Bonci said. 

“People will thank me when able to walk down the stairs the next day,” Bonci said. 

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