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Mark Christensen (author of Supe ...

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:02am

Mark Christensen (author of Supercar) asked if his daughter should continue to run 10Ks. She finished high among 1500 runners in her first race with only light training.

You might be able to guess my answer. I would say No, she should not continue to run them. Some reasons:

1. She did not collapse and, so, may not have a heart issue that will kill her. But, you may not know for sure. She ought to be screened.

2. Light training is OK, but her next step will be to increase training to do better. If it works, she will do better and then come back and train harder. This positive feedback loop is a non-linear path to ill health and much wasted time.

3. Why would she drop tennis, a beautiful and more healthful sport, for the drudgery and risk of long distance running? I don’t get it at all. Any bragging rights she might earn are worthless.

4. It is a highly destructive activity. Ankles, knees, hips, and lower back all take a pounding. She will develop poor posture and progressively grow shorter as her spinal disks compress. Her vascular system will become inflamed and she may develop asthma from the LA basin air and high volume breathing. She will age more rapidly and compromise her immune system. Her stress hormones will elevate and her good hormones will decline.

5. She will become slower unless she adds sprinting into her mix. And she is likely to develop a higher level of body fat, particularly if she begins eating the pitiful foods runners eat.

6. The free radicals produced by running and the glucose heavy foods runners eat will expose her to high oxidative stress. Her mitochondria will take a beating and may eventually go into premature decline (though years later).

7. Her muscle mass will decline as the cells go into their suicide program from the heavy inflammation induced by excessive running.

8. The pretty, happy, and athletic young woman that is your daughter will become a fat, skinny, compulsive, overtrained and prematurely aged woman with a slight scowl on her face in place of that smile if she becomes a chronic runner.

9. Her risks of brain cancer will rise as will the likelihood she may be injured in traffic. Or accosted out on a run.

10. It takes too much time and is no fun.

What ever possessed people to do this? As I said in my Charles Staley interview, I believe jogging and running were encouraged by lab research that was seriously incomplete. Researchers were able only to do the lab testing on runners and cyclists because the methods were available for this and the models are far simpler than what is required to do anarobic research. Running is steady state work, power activities are non-steady state and far harder to model. Only now are tools for non-linear modeling of human activity becoming available.

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