When is a fitness myth not a fitness myth?

I’m frustrated with the deluge of information that is channeling into my  computer and phone. Even with my ability to filter out “disinformation” , plenty of stuff slips by to leave me scratching my head, wondering how to make sense of it all.

For example, I am now down to three print magazine subscriptions  and Outside is one of them. I also follow Outside Online’s Twitter feed. Outside’s Twitter feeds draw upon current articles and reruns of past published snippets and longer pieces.

Here’s a Tweet from Outside Online them that came through this morning:

screenshotI’m not a runner anymore, but I do like to walk fast, and I’m a backpacker, so I expected to gain some tips from checking this out.
Here’s The New Injury-Proofing Rules for Runners-By: Erin Beresini. Published ( in the print magazine) on Oct 15, 2014.
From the article:  “Renowned physical therapist Kelly Starrett lays out movement standards for runners. Meet them, and you’ll stay out of his office. Don’t meet them, and you shouldn’t be running.  The problem, he believes, is nobody’s set movement standards for runners—the stretches and simple moves runners should be able to do before they ever lace up their shoes. If you run when you can’t perform certain baseline movements, it shouldn’t be surprising when you get hurt. …And don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t log long miles. Running works its way into so many things we do.”

Just what are these rules?  They come from fitness’ old pal Stretch!  The article details two stretching moves, plus the use of an obscure mechanical roller device that “massages” your calves.

And then I started thinking, “Wait, didn’t Outside recently debunk stretching?

Outside magazine promoted a very successful article that had originally published in their magazine and subsequently Tweeted on entitled The 10 Biggest Fitness Myths of All Time ?

Fitness myths

Fitness myths

Guess where static stretching fits into all of this?

It’s the headliner!
Myth #1: Stretching Prevents Injuries
“Truth: It could ruin your 10K time.  Chances are some bogus training advice has wormed its way into your fitness regimen. Time to root it out. Most physiologists now believe that when you elongate muscle ­fibers, you cause a “neuromuscular inhibitory ­response,” says Malachy McHugh, director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on flexibility. By triggering this protective  counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, you render yourself less ­powerful……But stretching prevents injuries, right? Actually, in several large-scale studies of athletes and military recruits, static stretching did not reduce the incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendino­pathy and knee pain.”  This online article was shared 5896 times.

What’s the takeaway?
I was talking to my wife this morning about this. She pointed out that what is going on here may be just the perennial difference between research-based primary sources and popular press media. Magazines exist to get people to read them, turn the pages, and support their advertising clients. They hold to lower standard than do peer-reviewed journals.

Are we being hijacked by the sheer volume of data that is supposed to make our lives more informed and thereby better, but in reality is putting a choke hold on our ability to understand just about everything?

I am going to head out for a fast walk this afternoon.  No static stretching is required, or is it?

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About tjamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2013 . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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4 Responses to When is a fitness myth not a fitness myth?

  1. Lock Kiermaier says:

    It seems like we get contradictory information all the time. It’s up to us to discern the veracity and usefulness of what is being said. Lots of time, the truth appears to be somewhere in the middle. So, my guess is that some degree of stretching is probably useful; we do it reflexively all the time and my dog certainly seems to believe that!

  2. Tim Smith says:

    I like your point comparing magazines to journals. Welcome to the information age, where more information is better (for magazines, media, etc.) even if it’s contradictory, because it gets your attention.

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