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by
Helen Smith

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April 24, 2014 - 10:00 am

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I thought about this as I read Mark Rippetoe’s fascinating discussion of why running is not the panacea that so many people think it is:

This highly informative discussion is intended for those people who have taken seriously the advice of doctors, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, and the popular media’s dutiful reporting on these sources of common misinformation about what kind of physical activity is best for your long-term health and continued ability to participate in the business of living well.

Rippetoe goes on to make the case against running and for strength training. Okay, fair enough. I get that we need to be strong, especially as we get older; and strength training helps with this. But I can’t help that feel that a balanced approach is also good if you want to address Rippetoe’s concern that “the more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong.”

I have a number of training goals and they change all the time. For example, right now, I want to run a 13 minute mile which I know is not good, but is about the best I can do. It’s important to me. Why? Because running is a skill that can help in situations such as running fast away from something or someone, or running to catch a subway or bus, or running after a kid or adult who needs help, etc.

Do I need to run long, slow distance? No, probably not. I also want to know self-defense because it is important to me and I would like to take more Krav Maga lessons. I suppose these goals take away from strength building but I don’t have time for all of it. So what do you focus on? If being good at strength building builds strength, that’s good, but will it help me to run faster or be better at self-defense? Wouldn’t practice of these “sports” or exercise be the most helpful? Or maybe a balanced approach that focused on strength and practicing running and Krav Maga would be best. If we only strength train, is that enough or does it depend on one’s goals?

*****
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image via shutterstock / Maridav

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

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All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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This doesn't directly address the question, but i think it relevant.
A couple of years ago, when i run for a block to catch the bus, i'd gasp for air.
Now i can keep up with a bus for 2 blocks and still feel comfortable when i get on board. I also run across the street for a pedestrian light without even opening my mouth. And i haven't run for exercise in a couple of decades!

How did i do it? i stopped eating wheat pasta, stopped eating bread (except for a little rye flatbread), cut down drastically on desserts and mayonnaise, and switched to low calorie beer.
Correlation does not imply causation, but this correlation is highly suggestive.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Can I train with you? That's about where I am.

I've been reading his posts as well, and while he's got interesting theories I get sick of his strawmen. As I pointed out in his comments: a running coach isn't going to recommend just running and strength training CAN be cardio if done correctly (in fact there are entire subsets of exercise aimed at doing exactly that).

If someone is running the long distances he discourages they are a) running for the sake of running because they like it and b) already in a fitness zone beyond most people (hence my comments about him fighting strawmen). It almost seems like some of his articles aren't as much about advice as getting the couch potatoes to admire weight lifters more than runners.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
"now, I want to run a 13 minute mile which I know is not good, but is about the best I can do."

Y'know, doc, a thirteen minute mile ain't bad for some lady who'd been dead. (For those unfamiliar with her story, see http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2005/10/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-my.html ) I've been in a similar circumstance, but I got off lucky: I had a quintuple coronary bypass. No portable defibber added. I can't cover a mile as fast as I used to, but at least I can still cover a mile.

And I took up weight training. I honestly think cardio training helped the weight training. Not so sure about vice versa. I lifted every other day, so I had time off to work on cardio.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The answer is simple. Use a program that incorporates all ten components of fitness.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Look at it this way running (or walking) is better than sitting in front of a TV set.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Balance. Balance balance balance.

Any martial art is going to be training first, then speed, then strength, but if you want it to really work you need all three.

In commenting on Rippetoe's post I didn't ask him what he thinks about the difference between slow-twitch and fast-twitch training. Each is a different *kind* of strength and calls for a different kind of training.

Ask your Krav Maga instructor what he/she recommends. In general there should be some strength work that will help but of course (!) it never replaces training and practice. What kind also depends on where you're starting from and just what your goals really are, and on how your particular genetics respond, on diet, and on the time you can dedicate to the whole package. Lots of stuff to consider in the balance, and no easy answers.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Got to believe that a person should do exercises 1) that they enjoy, 2) that stress their physical systems without threatening their health while performing them, and 3) provide enough of a challenge that they up the workouts in a systematic and moderate way over time. For me, I enjoy tennis and sprinting. Always have been quick. When I was younger, it was baseball and basketball and swimming. Personally, I think long-distance running is torture, but doing the mile is a pretty nice thing. I was a big fan of Jim Ryan as a kid.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I posted this on Dave's discussion on FB, but I wanted to comment here as well to say I agree with you. I'm trying to incorporate more strength training into my regimen for all the reasons Mark lists, but I'm not going to give up cardio, because I find it boosts my stamina. The ability to maintain moderate effort activities over a long period of time is actually relevant in lots of parts of my life. It makes my walk to work more pleasant. It means I can enjoy myself and get less exhausted at music festivals and other events that keep my on my feet all day. I use that stamina when I do things like help set up a family party. It very tangibly improves my quality of life to have the ability to sustain moderate physical effort over a long period of time.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Keep doing what you enjoy and give this article a read:
https://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/conditioning_is_a_sham

30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The whole point of strength-training (for the general public) is to build a foundation of strength because of all the physical adaptations, strength is the most general and useful, the one upon which other adaptations depend. In the weak novice trainee who undertakes a proper novice strength program, as strength goes up so do all the other physical dimensions. Physical strength is the cornerstone of fitness.

"If we only strength train, is that enough or does it depend on one’s goals?"

It does depend on one's goals. But for a person who is far-removed from their best possible ability to perform a physical task, one of the fastest ways to improve that ability is to get stronger. As a bonus, because strength is a general physical adaptation, you improve your ability to perform not just one specific task, but many physical tasks hence strength being the most useful physical quality to train. For many in the public seeking better health/fitness, a period of proper strength-training (meaning a novice program with functional barbell exercises and a rapid linear increase with weights) eventually coupled with a bout or two of conditioning work are all that is needed.

"If being good at strength building builds strength, that’s good, but will it help me to run faster or be better at self-defense?"

The answer to this is yes.




30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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