The Truth About Running

This is the first of a three-part series on Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh’s journey to completing her first marathon. This instalment focuses on debunking running myths and strength training.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
This is the first of a three-part series on Shape editor Zarelda Marie Goh’s journey to completing her first marathon. This instalment focuses on debunking running myths and strength training.

Come March 19, I’ll be tackling my first full marathon, the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

Running was my go-to exercise for years, and I have a half-marathon to my name, which I did seven years ago without training properly. I remember taking days to recover from the fatigue. Shortly after that, a back injury unrelated to running and a wonky right knee threw a spanner in the works, and I was forced to focus on low-impact workouts like yoga and barre. I did the 5km route at the Shape Run 2016 in July, but only began training regularly when I accepted the challenge of a marathon.

So I’m literally starting from ground zero – at age 36, no less – since there’s been a long hiatus. Throw in the fact that I wasn’t doing much cardio and you’ve got a beginner.

I feel apprehensive about this journey, but I honestly believe that overcoming fears are necessary for growth as a person. Thankfully, I have help. Andrew Cheong, a running coach with, is dedicated to training runners of any ability. He is certified by the Road Running Clubs of America, a qualified FISAF personal trainer, and has completed the IAAF Track and Field coaching course.

To set off on the right foot in the training programme, I got Andrew to set the record straight on running myths that I’ve heard of. Here, he debunks six myths.

“Running is only for the young and fit.” Andrew says: “Young is a state of mind, and fitness is something everyone of all ages can achieve. In fact, many who run feel younger as they get fitter. Unlike other sports where youth has an advantage, such as gymnastics and swimming, running is a sport that anyone can do. As we age, our cardiovascular system, muscles and bones will not perform as well as those of someone younger. But age should not be a barrier to running.”

“Running is bad for the knees.” Andrew says: “Too much running is bad for the knees. That said, too much of anything is probably bad. Studies have shown that our bones and ligaments actually respond positively to load bearing exercise – like running – by getting stronger and denser. “If you are not predisposed to osteoarthritis, have normal knees, and are of healthy weight, then running will not affect your knees.”

“You have to run every single day to see results.” Andrew says: “Rest is part of your training, so rest days are essential. Novices to intermediate runners will see optimum results if they run three times a week or on alternate days. Elite runners may train everyday, or even twice a day on some days. It all depends on how much rest you need based on your work load.”

“Running barefoot is the best way to run.” Andrew says: “Barefoot running has been popularised by the book Born to Run, but it is not something for everybody. Those who have tried it report that they have better running gait, and even fewer injuries, but mainstream runners prefer the comfort and protection that a good pair of running shoe provides. If you still want to try barefoot running, it’s best to start slowly and build up the mileage and intensity.”

“You must always stretch before you run.”Andrew says: “There are various types of stretching, broadly divided into static and dynamic stretching. Before a run, it’s best to be warmed up, and dynamic stretching is recommended as part of a warm-up routine. However, for slower runs, a simple jog could be enough to warm up, and sometimes skipping the stretching is okay.”

“Runners don’t need to build strength.” Andrew says: “Like any sport, a certain level of strength is beneficial. Strength training is an essential part of a runner’s training. Strong muscles help maintain good posture when running and reduce the risk of injury. Did you know the impact to your leg could be up to three times your body weight when you run? Running is a one-legged activity – you land one leg at a time – so it’s best to have strong muscles to keep yourself balanced.” 


Since strength training is essential, here are five exercises that running coach Andrew Cheong recommends runners do daily. They can be done at any time of the day. Conditioning your body from top to toe will reduce the risk of injury and ensure good posture and form. Because of this, runners will be able to run faster. Here’s how to do them:


This exercise strengthens the back muscle. A strong back will result in good posture and a more efficient running gait.

● Face the ground, extend your arms and support yourself with palms and toes.

● Transition to rest on elbows, but continue to support yourself on your toes.

● Keep the back straight.

● Hold this position for 30 seconds and work towards up to three minutes.


This exercise targets the abductor muscles of the hip flexor muscle group, especially the tensor fasciae latae. It stabilises the hip when running and during daily activities.

● Lie on your side, legs extended. Lift the upper leg, away from the ground. Keep the leg straight, knee locked. At the top of the range of motion, hold it for five seconds and lower it back to the start position.

● Repeat at least 10 times; aim to do up to 20.

● For comfort, you can keep the leg nearest to the floor slightly bent.

● Repeat with the other leg.


This is another isometric (no movement) exercise, which is safer than exercises that involve movement. It builds strength in the thighs.

● Stand with your back touching a wall.

● Squat to a half-sitting position, where your knees are bent at 90 degrees and directly over your toes.

● Ensure your toes are parallel.

● Hold this position for 30 seconds and work towards up to three minutes.


These build overall upper-body strength, especially in the chest and shoulders. Most runners neglect their upper body. If you just want to do one exercise for the upper body, push-ups are it. Strong deltoids ensure that you don’t get fatigued from arm swings.

●  Adopt the plank position, with your palms on the floor.

● Keeping the body straight, bend the elbows and lower the chest towards the floor.

● At the lowest point, straighten the elbows and return to the start position.

● Repeat at least 10 times; aim to do up to 20.


This move strengthens the buttocks, hamstrings, back and stomach. Strong hamstrings are essential for runners to counterbalance their strong thigh muscles. The buttocks are the largest muscle in the body and are often underused when running.

● Lie on your back, face upwards. Bend the knees to 90 degrees, and keep the feet flat on the floor.

● Raise the hips and lift the buttocks off the floor.

● Hold that position for 10 to 30 seconds, ensuring that the knees, hip and shoulders are in a flat plane (no sagging of the hips). 

● Lower the hips back to the start position.

● Repeat 10 times.

See your doctor for advice before embarking on any new physical activity programme.