I'm not a big fan of long cardio, especially extreme bouts of cardio - i.e. running marathons.
Just this past weekend a 41-year old man died running one of the Toronto marathons. Last year, same thing. These are not the first, nor will they be the last men to die running a marathon.
And for what?
To run an irrelevant distance for no reason at all. I don't see any logical reason for most people to run a marathon. Particularly when you are a 40-year old father of a young family. You can be fit and healthy with far less exercise time, as long as you train with far better exercise choices.
Sure, you can say you are pushing the boundaries of your human performance...but I doubt that is any consolation for the family of thes two men.
No matter how "type A" someone is, or how driven they are to perform in a marathon, simply being able to run a marathon proves nothing. And it can have disastrous consequences. Not too mention the many smaller negative consequences of:
a) A waste of hours of your life spent away from your loved ones while you pound the pavement
b) Sore knees, chronic back pain, and blistered feet
c) Money and time wasted in the physiotherapist's office
d) An improperly trained body (i.e. weak back of the body, no upper body strength, overuse injuries)
e) A level of fitness that has limited carryover to real world needs (carrying groceries & other objects, outsprinting an attacker, manual labor, etc.)
So please, if you insist on running marathons, do yourself and your family a favor and:
1) Get a full physical from your doctor. This goes without saying for anyone on an exercise program over the age of 30, but running marathons is another reason not to neglect your physical exams.
2) Pay close attention to your body during the race. Wear a heart rate monitor, and exercise conservatively, drink the right amount of fluids (but not too much as that can be the cause of death in long runs), and just plain be careful. A marathon is hardly a reason to risk your life.
Now, here's more bad news.
Cardio has been killing fat loss programs for decades.
Because almost all of the exercise science studies performed in the 70's through the early 90's were done on distance running.
From there we got the messages that:
i) To lose fat, you had to do long, slow endurance training. Clearly, we know this is false. Nutrition is the most important aspect of fat loss.
ii) That we should eat a high-carbohydrate diet. This message, while generally true for endurance athletes, was broadly applied to fat loss. So we were subjected to that hideous low-fat, high-carb phase in the 90's where we were urged to eat Snackwell low-fat cookies with no regard to the sugar and calorie content.
iii) Beginners should get out on high-volume, walk-run programs. Now while it is important to get people out and exercising, high-volume activities for underprepared beginner muscles are going to cause injury fast. And that's what happened to most people that tried to take up running.
iv) Too many cardio enthusiasts had the wrong mentality of, "If I go for a 5 mile run, I can have some juice and cookies as a reward". Needless to say, that didn't help anyone lose fat.
The end result?
This high-cardio, high-carb approach to fitness and fat loss left many men and women with thunder thighs, saddle bags, and chronic running injuries.
Fast-forward to this decade, and the mainstream media is finally starting to see the benefits of strength training and interval training for both fat loss and the cardiovascular system.
Not too mention people are finally getting their nutrition right. And it's so simple:
- lots of fruits and vegetables (rarely does anyone get enough)
- lean protein
- healthy fats
- fiber-rich low-glycemic carbohydrates
Dr. Chris Mohr gives dozens of options for each in the TT Fat Loss Nutrition Guidelines.
So eat right, train right, and be safe.
P.S. Okay, so you don't want to give up running?
At least train your body correctly with Turbulence Training. It trains the muscles that running neglects, and promises to put more power into your hill running.