8 Common Myths About Running, Busted

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iStock

June 7 is Global Running Day, and 819,295 people (and counting) from 170 countries around the world will take part. Need a reason to join? How about this: It could be good for your knees. Yes, you read that right—turns out the conventional wisdom about the effect running has on your joints, and many other common beliefs about the sport, are not actually rooted in reality. Read on to learn how recent research has debunked some common misconceptions about your running routine.

MYTH 1. IF YOU RUN LONG DISTANCES, YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE TOENAILS.

Yes, cracking or losing an entire toenail is common when you’re racking up the miles, but it’s not inevitable. People whose second toe is longer than their big toe are more prone to losing nails. Also, “If shoes are too tight, you’re more inclined to lose toenails and get blisters,” says Caitlin Drap, head triathlon coach at Chelsea Piers in Connecticut. Her rule of thumb: “Always have your running shoes be a half size larger than your regular shoes.” (Of course, running in sneaks that are too big can lead to uncomfortable rubbing too, so get a proper fit at a specialty running shop to make sure you buy the right size.) Keeping your toenails trimmed can help as well, says Daniel Viera, a USAT level II triathlon coach at Full Throttle Racing at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

MYTH 2: RUNNING RUINS YOUR KNEES.

It’s a common belief that pounding the pavement is hard on your joints—the knees in particular. But new research shows the opposite might be true: Running might actually make you less likely to have knee problems down the road, according to a recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. Researchers studied recreational runners and found that their knees had less inflammation (a precursor to arthritis) after completing 30 minutes of jogging than after sitting still for 30 minutes.

MYTH 3: IN ORDER TO BE A BETTER RUNNER, YOU NEED TO RUN LONGER DISTANCES.

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It’s easy to look at the sleek physiques of cross country runners or the schedules of people on marathon training forums and conclude that you have to log major weekly miles if you want to be a “real” runner. But more miles do not necessarily make you better. When it comes to training, “quality is more relevant than quantity,” says Viera. Running fewer days a week but adding in a speed workout, rather than sticking to all low-intensity jogs, can help you burn more calories and improve your pace.

MYTH 4: YOU'LL BURN THE SAME NUMBER OF CALORIES WALKING A MILE THAT YOU WOULD RUNNING A MILE.

When you’re trying to rack up 10,000-plus steps a day, every step is a step in the right direction. But contrary to popular opinion, going for a slow stroll does not burn as many calories as you’d blast on a run of the same distance. Part of the reason is that intensity matters: A higher intensity jog leads to a greater afterburn post-workout than you’d experience following a walk. In fact, this afterburn can lead to a 25 percent greater caloric expenditure during and after a run than a walk of the same distance, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. To ramp up the burn even more, throw some short sprints into your regularly paced run.

MYTH 5: RUNNERS CAN EAT WHATEVER THEY WANT.

Ever hear a friend or coworker complain that they gained weight while training for a marathon? It’s common, for a few reasons—including the fact that runners often overestimate how many calories they burn while pounding the pavement. You’ll fry about 90 to 100 calories per mile you run, says Drap. So you’re only entitled to about one extra snack after a 3- or 4-mile outing before the extra calories will start showing up on your waistline.

MYTH 6: RUNNING IS HARD ON YOUR HEART.

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Every now and then, there’s a news story about a runner who collapsed from a heart attack mid-race or at the finish line, despite being in seemingly great shape. The headlines are scary, but those occurrences are extremely rare. One study surveyed marathoners from 2000 to 2009 and found that of the more than 3.7 million participants, only 28 men and women died during or within a 24-hour period after their race (most, but not all, from heart-related issues). That’s less than one person per 100,000 racers. Other recent research found that running can strengthen your ticker, but you can’t outrun hereditary conditions or unhealthy habits like smoking.

MYTH 7: IF YOU'RE TRAINING FOR A MARATHON, YOU HAVE TO DO A 20-MILE-LONG JOG.

Many marathoners, especially newbies adhering closely to a set schedule, think ticking off a 20-miler—no more, no less—a few weeks before race day is crucial to crossing the finish line successfully. But just because that number is common on marathon training plans doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Instead of feeling like you have to hit 18 or 20 miles exactly, Viera and Drap advise running for time—say, going out for three hours. “It's not only about the distance but about the time on your legs and learning to run efficiently on fatigued legs,” says Viera.

MYTH 8: YOU HAVE TO EAT PASTA THE NIGHT BEFORE AN ENDURANCE RACE.

This belief stems from the idea that carbs increase your muscles’ stores of glycogen, their go-to source of energy during an extended run. Yes, a plate of pasta is a perfectly good meal to have the night before a long race or run, but it’s far from the only thing you can eat (and gorging yourself on noodles the night before could actually lead to stomach issues mid-run, says Drap). She sticks to rice and potatoes and advises getting your biggest intake of carbs a full 24 hours ahead of the race. Also important to keep in mind: It’s not all about the day before. Most coaches suggest you slowly add extra carbs to your diet starting a few days before you’ll toe that start line.

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

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stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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Hate Brown Apple Slices? Use This Simple Trick to Keep Them Fresh

Jessica Lewis, Unsplash
Jessica Lewis, Unsplash

Though they're perfectly safe to eat, brown apple slices aren't the most appealing-looking snack. If you love sliced apples but can't stand that fading color, eating them faster isn't your only option. All you need is a bowl of water and a bit of salt to keep your apples looking and tasting fresh and crisp long after you cut into them.

This trick for keeping apple slices from browning comes from Reader's Digest. Before picking up your knife, prepare a bowl of cold water. Stir in roughly half a teaspoon of salt for every cup of water and set the bowl aside until your apple slices are ready. Soak the slices for 10 minutes, drain them, and rinse them off to get rid of any excess salt. You can eat your apples right away or store them in a plastic bag or container for later. Either way, they should keep their appetizing white color for longer than they would without the saltwater soak.

Discoloration on an apple slice doesn't mean it's gone bad. When the enzymes inside an apple are exposed to air, they produce benzoquinone and melanins in a process called oxidation. This chemical reaction is behind your apple's rapid browning. Salt inhibits these enzymes, which slow down the oxidation process.

The saltwater trick is great for keeping apples looking fresh, but it only works if they've been sliced. Here's a tip for stopping your whole apples from going bad after bringing them home from the grocery store (or picking them straight from the tree).

[h/t Reader's Digest]