The Obsessed Fortysomething Runner: Lifters who trash running

I’ve blogged before about how much I like the running ethos — that is, the general attitude that runners exhibit toward other runners, cheering them on, applauding their running achievements for their own sake, and so on. On the flip side, runners have been accused of being self-absorbed and narcissistic (as co-runblogger Anne Milligan notes). We love running, and we love talking about running, but strangely enough, not everyone shares our love. Indeed, there are people who hate running. And there are others who maybe would like to run but can’t.

That’s fine; people should do what they like to do. In my case, that’s running, though it sometimes feels like this:


What’s baffling to me, though, is why a good number of non-runners — particularly weightlifters — go out of their way to trash running (and other endurance sports). For example, here is a “best-selling author” who writes:

Are you interested in gaining weight? If you are, perform cardiovascular exercise, and a lot of it.

Are you interested in losing weight? Then you should cut back on classic cardiovascular exercise. Shun it, even. Abolish it. Throw out your treadmill or better yet, give it to someone you don’t like as cardio doesn’t work if your goal is long-term weight loss.

Here’s an especially obnoxious take, titled “Why Women Should Not Run“:

There’s a Jessica in every gym. Spotting them is easy. They’re the women who run for an hour or more every day on the treadmill, setting new distance and/or time goals every week and month. Maybe they’re just interested in their treadmill workouts, maybe they’re training for their fifth fund-raising marathon, or maybe they’re even competing against runners in Finland via some Nike device. Doesn’t matter to me, because years of seeing my friend on the treadmill has exposed the results, which I’m not going to sugarcoat:

She’s still fat. Actually, she’s gotten fatter.

Recently, I posted a link on Fitocracy (kind of like Facebook for exercise junkies) to a news article reporting the results of a scientific study finding that swimming was a good non-impact alternative to running but that it had one “notable drawback,” which was that it increased appetite more than running or cycling did; “As a result, swimming is not particularly effective at promoting weight loss or maintenance.”

Soon after, someone commented, “Weight/resistance training is still the best option for weight loss, if that’s why you are training.”

It’s like these people think of all runners like this:

mocking running

Hmm, why don’t they try pictures of Kara Goucher, Shalene Flanigan, Galen Rupp, Ryan Hall, or other distance runners who don’t look like they’re going to keel over?

I should quickly note here that while I am definitely in the runners’ camp, I do in fact engage in resistance training once or twice a week. I don’t particularly like it; I find weightlifting kind of boring and tedious, but I force myself to do it for a variety of reasons, not least among them that I think it makes me a better runner.

The key point, however, is that I don’t trash weightlifting as an exercise regime for those who enjoy it. I can’t say that I’ve checked all over the Internet, but I can’t remember ever seeing any running-related website, or any article or column in Runner’s World or Running Times Magazine telling people to avoid weightlifting. In other words, runners seem to have a live and let live attitude about other forms of exercise; some (obviously not all) lifters, on the other hand, can’t seem to resist the urge to tell us runners that we’re going to get fat from running, our knees are going to get destroyed, we’re just burning muscle mass, etc.

(Actually, according to Duke University research, aerobic exercise or aerobic + resistance is more effective than resistance training alone for weight loss/maintenance & fat loss. And research from Austrian scientists and from Stanford professors found that non-runners were more likely than runners to develop osteoarthritis in the knees.)

Personal anecdotal stories are of little significance with one important exception: for that individual. The fact that I managed to lose 20+ pounds in about six months, thereby getting down to what I weighed when I was in college (and lean), and improved my blood lipid profile across the board to optimal levels, doesn’t prove that running will do the same thing for anyone else. But it does strongly suggest that running works for me. I don’t presume to tell weightlifters what they should do, because for all I know, what they’re doing works for them. I just don’t quite understand why there are so many of these “running is bad for you/running makes you fat” articles/columns out there.

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