This article was included in Rachel Cosgrove’s newsletter today. I thought I’d share it here since I believe she makes some valid points.
Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
(If you missed -Why Women Shouldn’t Run, Part 1 and 2 Click Here)
Response to Mike Boyle’s article, “Why (most) Women Shouldn’t Run”
When I first read Mike Boyle’s article, “Most Women Shouldn’t run,” it immediately made sense to me and I absolutely agree with what he is saying. Now this is coming from someone who is currently training for an Ironman endurance event in which I will run a marathon. I am also a coach for the triathlon team for Team in Training. So, yes I am an endurance athlete and I coach endurance athletes yet I agree 100% with what Mike is saying.
Besides being an endurance athlete and coaching endurance athletes, I have also worked with thousands of women in the gym whose number one goal is to lose weight and get in shape. These were all average women who were not active and were not runners. With this type of clientele, average women, I would never ever start them off workout one, day one with 1500 reps of a one legged plyometric exercise. In all of my education of exercise prescriptions I was always taught that plyometrics are an advanced exercise that shouldn’t be used until a client had a base strength built up. This is Mike’s point- the average woman starting a fitness program has no business running. He is not talking about runners. Running is a very advanced exercise. Yet, most people who decide to start an exercise program start with running on day one. Most people think running is a good starting point. It drives me crazy when I hear someone say, “I want to come to your gym but first I am going to start running to lose some weight on my own.” I just want to shake them and say, “Don’t you realize, running is very hard and very advanced. And running is extremely ineffective as a weight loss modality. You’ll end up coming to me weighing the same but with an injury from your running.”
I pride myself on being one of the few endurance I athletes I know who doesn’t have or hasn’t had a chronic injury throughout my training so far at least. I absolutely attribute this to the fact that I came to endurance training after I had been strength training for years. I started endurance training as a strong, balanced athlete who was ready for an advanced exercise such as running. As Mike said in his article, I got fit so I could run, I didn’t get fit from running. I have also continued to use strength training as part of my program. I believe this along with stretching and foam rolling regularly as part of my schedule and proper progression are my secrets to keeping my body strong and able to handle endurance training without any injuries.
To train my body to do an Ironman I am pounding the pavement week after week running a lot of miles. I am aware that running all of the miles I am is damaging to my tissues and actually causes trauma so I take the time to stretch, foam roll and get ART regularly. Bill Hartman, an ART specialist, was visiting once and I had to run 15 miles that morning. He worked on me after I ran the 15 miles and explained that running that kind of distance causes “trauma to the tissues” and is not healthy for my body so I need to really pay attention to my recovery throughout my training. “Trauma” sounded so scary, like a car accident but it made sense because that was how my body felt after running for 2 hours straight, traumatized. One of the endurance athletes I train saw me at my weekly ART appointment and asked, “Why do you go see him? Do you have an injury?” No, I am just aware that training for an Ironman and running as much as I am running will create an injury if I don?t take care of my body and get ART to keep the adhesions from building up from the “trauma” running causes. I believe that running is damaging and very hard on your body and the only reason I run as much as I do is because I have a goal of completing an Ironman. Otherwise, I would not run for my fitness or health. There are so much more effective exercises to do to lose weight and get in shape.
That brings me to my next point- What is your goal? If your goal is to complete an endurance event in which you have to run then by all means your training needs to include running and you better make sure you have done some strength training and are fit enough to start running. But I think most people who run have a goal of losing weight, or getting that “runner’s body” and running will not give you a “runners body” it will just get you injured so you’ll have to sit on the couch with your injury and get farther away from your runner’s body.
I have been doing my long mileage running days with a group of runners who are all training for the LA Marathon. Over a thousand dedicated people meet at 7am every Saturday morning for 28 weeks committed to training to complete the LA Marathon. In the past 10 weeks the group has run the following mileage on this long mileage day-12,15,16,17,18,19,13,20,15,20. Now this is a lot of mileage and if someone could run this much you’d think they’d look like a runner. Well, let me tell you out of the over a thousand people that show up every Saturday morning the people who looked like runners when we started still look like runners and are in the fast pace groups. And the people who didn’t look like runners, of those who haven’t dropped out from an injury, still don’t look like runners and now they are all wearing knee braces, etc. Nobody’s body has changed at all but many of them have accumulated injuries. I see the same people week after week and they look exactly the same. Running does not work to give you a “runner’s body.”
Everyone has different experiences and comes to different conclusions from their background, education and experience. I have seen what Mike talks about in this article to be absolutely true in my experience. I think many of the people reading it took it personally and didn’t think about the average woman. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that “elite runners look like men” but instead that they look more athletic. That would have been the only comment I could see taking personally if you are an elite runner you don’t look like a man, you just have an athletic build with smaller hips and less up top.
I do not use any form of endurance training with my weight loss clients. I do not feel it is appropriate for the average female. When I am coaching for team in training, I am faced with a group of average people who want to complete a triathlon. First of all, I chose triathlon because I feel it is safer than training for a marathon because you are not doing the volume of running you do to train for a marathon. The races I coach include 5 miles or 10 miles of running at most. The first thing I did when I started coaching for team in training was put together an injury prevention strength training program for them to all get started on.
I also love Diane Lee’s quote, “You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run.” I absolutely believe this is true. This quote resonates with me as well and I will start to use it as Mike does as a regular part of my coaching and articles.