A common swimming training set most competitive swimmers will be familiar with are "lung busters". You do a 200y free that's 50y breathing every 3 strokes, 50 every 5, 50 every 7, 25 every 9 and then a 25y butterfly without breathing. I had a coach who would have us do 6 of these on 2:45 (meaning about 15-30s of rest for strong distance swimmers). Everyone would be audibly gasping for air by the end of these.
In races, how often you breathe is a critical part of race strategy. In a 50y/m free you generally shouldn't breathe at all; in a 500+ race, there are big debates about whether to breathe every 2 or 3 strokes. Additionally, how much to kick is a key part of strategy since kicking's contribution to speed is not great compared to how much oxygen it depletes.
I really don't think running compares in terms of how stressful the sport is on the lungs. That said, running 400m sprints with small rest intervals is extremely hard on every part of the body and I found the muscle stress from running far greater than from swimming.
The effect of limited breathing in swimming forced the body to adapt. One Thanksgiving, my father (a former international-level rower), my brother (a currently international-level rower), and I found our way into a pack of balloons. We wanted to see who could inflate the largest balloon off of a single breath. Once we had breathed our hardest, got out the measuring tape, and argued about the best way to measure it at length, we found that I had won.
My brother and my dad are both around 8 inches taller and 50 pounds more than myself — much bigger people. But they didn’t have to hold their breath for hours every day :)
Obviously this is a poor man’s proxy to a VO2MAX assessment, which I’m sure they would win. But lung volume is certainly one of a swimmer’s greatest assets.
Do you have a source for this, because it doesn't sound right to me. For one, the packing technique has been shown to add an extra 10-15%. So right off the bat, there's a training technique that can increase lung capacity by more than your figure. Also, my anecdote matches GPs...since I started training freediving, exercising my diaphragm on a regular basis and practicing three-zone breathing with the corresponding stretches, the amount I can exhale into a balloon has increased significantly.
(you can find more by searching PubMed).
Granted I have mostly done research on cyclists. What we tend to see is an increase in the strength of respiratory musculature which leads to an increase in functional lung capacity and this capacity would not vary much between individuals (even between pro cyclists and high-level amateurs). More important than lung capacity for performance is your diffusing capacity (how fast you can move oxygen from lungs to your red blood cells). In sports other than swimming, it's always possible to breathe faster, which benefits from a strong respiratory musculature.
when it comes to freedivers, it's slightly different. They are forcefully stretching their lungs (which doesn't happen with normal aerobic training or breath holding to the same extent)
in this study https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/41/3/760.long they stretched their lungs as much as +800 ml.
Also, the freediving exercises are not just about stretching the lungs, they’re also about opening up the rib cage, since it constrains lung volume, and exercising the diaphragm, since the further down it can flex, the more air is pulled into the lungs. Freedivers also train the ability to stretch the diaphragm up since lung volume decreases significantly under pressure.
Anyway, it’s an interesting topic. And since you mentioned cycling, there’s one other area where apnea training intersects with the world of professional cyclists. You mentioned that the speed at which you can perform gas exchange in the lungs was the most important, and to a certain extent that’s true, but also important is the blood’s ability to hold oxygen and deliver it to organs/muscles. And, as I understand it, increasing the blood’s ability to hold oxygen is the primary effect of the banned substance EPO that cyclists frequently use to cheat. Now what’s interesting is that apnea training has a similar effect to EPO as well as increasing the body’s ability to reduce haemoglobin oxygen affinity. What I gather that to mean is that repeated exposure to hypoxic conditions triggers adaptations that allow freedivers to store more oxygen in the blood and, once reserves are running low, deliver more of that oxygen to the organs where it’s needed. The original study where I read this has since gone paywalled, so I’m not sure I’ve still got the correct link to give you, but one of the conclusions was that the effects of apnea training could likely be beneficial to the performance of endurance athletes like distance runners and cyclists.
Conversely a 20% below average function is what someone with asthma could have or beginning stages of lung disease.
Bottom line if you're lungs are functioning even 5% over "normal" for your age, height, and ethnicity you have extremely efficient lungs
Swimmer also, and at one gym I'd attended I heard I had the lagest lung capacity the trainer had measured.
Sun Yang however mixes it up in the 800-1500, he'll do 2 for the majority of the swim, but there are times where he'll put in 3.
I've been doing every 2/4 for so long that it feels awkward trying to breathe to my strong side. I feel that muscle memory is actually a key component in why swimmers who generally breathe every 2 are faster. It's kind of like that bruce lee quote where you practice 1 thing 1000x is a lot more effective than practicing 2 things 500x each
I did an olympic triathlon a few years back, and while I consider myself a decent runner and a strong cyclist, the swimming absolutely kicked my ass to the point that I'm not sure I'll ever do another triathlon to avoid it. Seems to take another level of strength to be great at it.
Some swim coaching, and subsequent drills in your usual training, would soon get you on your way to enjoying the swim part of a triathlon and stop it being horrendous.
The cheap and less effective method is simply watching/studying this video every time before you go to the pool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3HhNlysFDs and then watching it afterwards and thinking about your own stroke.
Watching him swim with literally no splash on arm entry was amazing. And torso rotation far further than
Most of my previous swimming was for water polo: short, sharp sprints, mostly head-up freestyle, focus on power and claiming space, often jostling with your opponent. Exactly the opposite of Van Hazel and Dan Bullock's focus on perfect technique.
I know this isn’t the topic, but the exact same thing applies to rock-climbing. After a certain point, sheer strength won’t help you if you don’t have sufficiently good technique.
Here are a few random tips that might help, in no particular order. Sign up for an open water swimming clinic to learn from the experts; race organizers and local triathlon clubs put those on in some areas. Triathlon swimming is a contact sport so if you're uncomfortable with others bumping you then start near the back of your wave and stay towards the outside of the course (you won't lose much time). If the water is cold then buy a dedicated swimming wetsuit; suits meant for diving or surfing restrict arm motion too much. When you first enter the water that will cause your heart rate to jump up so get in the water early before your wave start time to acclimate. Practice lifting your head every few strokes to sight on a fixed landmark and stay on course. Practice bilateral breathing so that if the water is choppy you can always turn your head away from the waves to breathe. Buy tinted goggles in case the sun is in your eyes. Use your arms mostly and save your legs for the rest of the race.
First a comment about the debates over how often you should breathe...almost certainly, those who advise breathing less often are right. People who haven’t trained in apnea and haven’t learned to tolerate high levels of CO2 in the blood always assume the urge to breathe has to do with not getting enough oxygen. But in those sessions where you were “audibly gasping for air,” you were mainly satisfying your urge to expel the CO2 that had built up in your body and, after 1-2 breaths, your oxygen levels were mostly back to a point where you could’ve started breathing normally again. Even after 5 minute breath holds, I try to only take 2-3 recovery breaths before I return to my normal breathing cadence. Breathing less often, since it sounds like breathing slows you down to some extent, should just be a matter of dealing with the discomfort of a higher build-up of CO2. If you were to specifically train for CO2 tolerance, that wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I’m actually somewhat surprised that apnea training hasn’t become an important part of training to be a competitive swimmer.
Secondly, there have been a few studies that have looked at the physiological changes that happen to extreme breath hold athletes, so those may be of interest to swimmers because they may experience some of the same changes. One study showed increased basal metabolic rate and ability for the blood to hold oxygen. It seems like the training makes the body want to store more oxygen and use less of it to convert stored energy reserves. It wouldn’t surprise me if swimmers saw some degree of those changes as well.
Lastly, one important difference between freediving and swimming is the effect on the heart. Freedivers are specifically focused on not putting stress on the heart. We try to relax and lower our heart rate to use oxygen as slowly as possible. Even in dynamic disciplines, the focus is on slow, relaxed strokes, even if that results in more time spent underwater. A freediver swimming 200m on a single breath (whether horizontally or vertically) will likely have fewer heartbeats during that swim than that 50m swimmer you described. But what’s interesting about that is that freedivers still experience some of the beneficial changes to the heart that swimmers and runners do. For instance, when I first took up the sport, my resting heart rate dropped to about the level mentioned in the article (below 60 bpm) and my blood pressure dropped to the point where my doctor was somewhat worried (90/56 at one point). I think there’s something to what you mentioned about putting pressure on the lungs. The heart and lungs are really one interconnected system and you can affect one by affecting the other.
It seems to me that debate is less about lung capacity and more about breathing on one side or two (e.g. bilateral breathing.) For me it's always seemed obvious that bilateral swimming should be the desired ideal. Most of my peers favored one side or the other, because in the beginning they had a very slight preference and over time as they used that side only, that preference was reinforced to the point where it became downright awkward to breath on the "wrong" side. If you train against this from the beginning, it seems to me that your times will improve (if only because every three strokes is less breathing, which of course is faster, all else being equal) and you won't have to worry about any physiological asymmetries.
Of course in training, ideally you would breathe to both sides—Michel Phelps alternates every 50.
I also belief (with no scientific evidence) that training bilateral from the beginning is even more advantageous for mediocre to poor swimmers, since the symmetry in breathing will make their form in general more symmetric and consequently more efficient. Obviously bilateral breathing is not necessary to achieve excellent form, as demonstrated by the vast majority of Olympic swimmers, but I believe it should make it easier for the common swimmer.
Does the size of the diaphragm also takes into factor on this scenario? I guess it might be because that would be the muscle that helps compresses the lungs to be able to take in the most amount of air possible.
Personally I have to be blowing air out my nose at a pretty unsustainable rate to prevent water from coming in, so if I'm doing serious swimming I use clips. Not exploring this option when I was a kid made me resent and hate swim classes even though I loved being in the water.
Another tip that comes immediately to mind is try using a swimmer’s snorkel. At first, it’ll be really difficult to keep from water going into your nose but after a few practices, your nose and it’s canals will block out water as a reflex, enabling you to breath through your mouth the entire swim. Hope this helps and sorry for English!
Sounds like words spoken by a person who's never run a competitive 800m race. Maybe if you said swimming just barely edges out running in lung stress... sorry, but this claim is simply comical.
In swimming, everyday training (actually twice daily) is extremely hard because the length to which you can go without injury is further. Same as for say, cycling.
On the lungs? Give me a break.
This surprises me greatly. If you look at the body of a professional runner vs. a professional swimmer the swimmer is much, much more built.
This brings up the interesting topic of anaerobic vs. aerobic exercise which running can be either. Typically one would think of anaerobic exercise as lifting weight or strength training, but sprinting is also anaerobic, meaning you are building muscles.
When you run at a slower pace you are conditioning your lungs and not your muscles as much. This is aerobic exercise, and why marathon runners are so skinny because they are more focus on lung capacity than muscle building.
When you sprint your muscles are actually being broken down and then when you stop they get rebuilt as stronger and larger muscles. This is the reason no one can sprint a marathon.
What is curious to me is that elite marathon runners "jog" at what I would consider being a sprint for myself. So, I wonder if sprinting would be an anaerobic or aerobic exercise for myself?
Everyone has an anaerobic threshold (the level of exertion at which the body transitions from aerobic to anaerobic systems). But your AnT is much, much lower than an elite marathon runner's due to years of training designed to increase running economy.
So what is a sprint to you (e.g. anaerobic exercise) would be a jog to Kipchoge or Bekele (e.g. aerobic exercise). If you are able to run fast enough to make yourself gasp for air, you've just done some aerobic exercise!
As a rule of thumb, if you fail because specific muscles are burning and not working anymore it’s anaerobic (muscle limited), and if it’s because you’re out of breath and it’s more of a generalized pain it’s aerobic (cardio limited)
This comparison puts all swimmers in the same category, but there are sprint swims and distance swims too. Do you mean that most land sprinters are more built than all swimmers — both sprinters and distance?
(Just seeking clarification is all.)
There are notable case of ultra runners dying, and autopsy shows long term heart damage. Some combination of duration and intensity seems to be dangerous, but the risk factors are not well understood yet.
Sounds like overtraining. If you overtrain, you are not exercising optimally and stop developing. You must increase the training volume gradually and take days off if the signs of overstraining appear.
Increasing training often requires increased rest. You can't keep busy as usual and train hard. Pro-athletes sit and rest on a couch a lot.
>Elevated resting heart rate, a persistently high heart rate after adequate rest such as in the morning after sleep, can be an indicator of overtraining
Your training plan should include days off irrespective. And also easy "rest" weeks. When training you essentially do damage (wear and tear in the muscles etc.), and when resting after the body repairs things better than they were before. If you never rest properly, the body is fighting a losing battle and you'll never improve as much as you are trying to, if at all. This is why marathon training plans and similar tend to be in 4-ish week cycles with an easy week every cycle and explicit rest days even in the hardest of weeks. Even ultra-marathon training where you might have back-to-back long runs will have rest days each week and whole rest weeks within the program.
Caveat: I'm not expert so consider my thoughts anecdotal.
Though I'm fairly confident I'm not talking complete rubbish as I've run a few road marathons (best time so far is just shy of 4 hours, I'm not sure I'll try for any faster than that), plenty of road halfs, a number of trail runs of 13 miles or more, one trail "ultra" (30-ana-bit miles so only 4 above base marathon distance, but bugger me there were hills/steps/mud/other!), and a long weekend trail challenge (69 miles over four days), and I'm training for another trail marathon (~28.5 miles this one) next month and another trail challenge weekend (100+ miles over four days this time) later in the year.
I absolutely, do not recommend my training plan for others; it's taken me more than ten years to get where I am, but as an example of what can be done (at least with my body), you can see how I recently trained for the Bataan Memorial Death March and also see a subset of my official ultra results at UltraSignup as well as my self-reported marathon results at Marathon Maniacs.
FWIW, I think my sleep schedule and diet have contributed significantly to the gains I've made over the years, but I'm also well aware of survivor bias. Neither of my parents were athletic though and I absolutely hated running as a kid (although I really enjoyed ultimate frisbee in high school).
Modern preiodization was scientifically discovered by Russians in the 60s and it seems to work in every sport when correctly applied. Do you have have mesocycles (2-5 weeks) or macrocycles (6-12 month) in your training plans?
But yes, I'm probably making mistakes. I've never trained seriously until very recently. I reached my current level of fitness more or less by accident with a few thousand miles of hiking.
Suddenly reduced HRV is another sign of overtrtraining. Good heart rate monitors (some Polar models with a strap) can do Orthostatic Test and give even more accurate information than heart rate.
I really can't recommend "Training For the New Alpinism" enough. It really disabused me of that notion, and after a year or two of conscientious work I can hike the same trails with a smile & easy breathing, faster than I once could dripping sweat & suffering.
A sport heart rate monitor is also extremely valuable.
??? I run ultras and marathons, am 55 years old, have trained 2500 - 3000 miles/year for years. I don't necessarily consider all this as building my health; I assume it helps in some ways and hurts in others.
But I'm fairly plugged in and I've never heard of these "notable" cases of ultra runners dying with heart damage. Do you have links or specific references to any? Sounds to me like typical baseless conjecture (of which there is plenty) that gets thrown around and then accepted as fact by someone down the line.
I did eventually come across some stuff about a "dangerous lung disease" marathon runners are at risk of. The news article seems a little scare-mongery (no surprise), but it appears to be backed by science, from the little I read into it.
For me, I see that I and all my running friends seem healthier and more vibrant than an average person of the same
age. My heart is stronger, running improves bone density, (at least for me) improves strength and reduces pain in joints, improves my balance, helps keep me slim, etc. It gets me out every day, often into beautiful mountains with friends. For as long as I keep running I expect to reap these benefits.
Would I stop or cut down if I were told, with certainty, that running would cause me to die, say, 2 years sooner than I would otherwise if I wasn't running? Not likely, it increases my quality of life in too many important ways. If that number were instead, say, 10 - 20 years, then yeah sure, I might cut down. But there is no science remotely resembling that. I don't think there's anything out there that establishes to any degree of confidence that lots of running reduces life expectancy at all.
Regarding marathons: what would you expect to be leading cause of death in marathons? Surely not cancer. Running a marathon stresses your heart. If you have genetic cardiac issues (which many do) it's more likely that they will appear in a marathon than when you're walking down the street. It's a huge leap to suggest that training for a marathon increases overall risk of heart failure. It could just as easily be that the marathoner has actually extended his/her life by running, that they would have died earlier if they hadn't kept their diseased heart as healthy as it could be by doing lots of running. As far as I'm aware, there's no science out there that establishes that marathoning causes people to die earlier than they otherwise would, and lots of evidence to the contrary.
I'm curious, what is your living elevation? When you climb 5000+ feet in a day are you traveling to a higher elevation? And if so, after the movement are you staying at that higher elevation?
I am not a doctor. But I ascend a minimum of 20K feet per month via the steepest trails I can find. This usually includes a movement of up to 7500 feet of gain in a few hours. I've never seen my resting HR affected and do not recall having seeing that happen to anyone doing the same work unless they lived at lower elevation and were visiting.
If you're coming to an elevation much higher than your living elevation, doing a movement, and then staying at a higher elevation, then your elevated RHR is most likely due to the body's response to the reduced partial pressure of oxygen.
But if you're doing a move and returning to your "home" elevation and your RHR stays up...again I'm not a doctor in any way but I'd really encourage you to talk to one.
Out of curiosity, how do you know your resting HR isn't just always higher?
At 6800 feet (where I live) my resting HR is 55BPM +/- 3 and falling because I've begun to train hard coming off of a really bad injury + surgery. During recovery where I was unable to exercise it drifted up over the months to 62BPM. As I get back into my best condition it'll fall into the low 50s.
At sea level my resting HR will fall by 5-7 beats for a couple weeks and then drift back to stasis over 6ish weeks my body reduces its red blood cell count and all the other acclimatization stuff. I try to avoid this.
I watch it pretty closely because as nabla9's excellent commentary in this subthread highlights, a persistently elevated resting HR is a sign of overtraining, which being a type A obsessive nutjob I am pretty susceptible to. :)
I've also found that an elevated heart rate that can't be explained by overtraining, for me, is indication that I've got an incoming illness that I don't feel yet, usually a sinus infection.
Edit: expanded explanation
But yes, to answer your question, I train at sea level and climb between to 6000-10000 feet on weekends, and sometimes high camp.
If your RHR is still elevated after your return to sea level...huh.
I live at 6800 feet now but like you used to live at low elevation. I'd come out, hike up Pikes Peak (6700 feet start, 14100 foot finish) and then come back down to sleep at 6000ish feet. RHR would be up maybe 10-15BPM until I went home to sea level, then it went back down to normal literally on the drive home.
So the response you're seeing, I mean what do I know I'm not a researcher, doctor or expert but I will say that seems odd.
Check out this 40 minute podcast on altitude physiology. Super dense with really actionable information on the body's responses:
I wonder how much of this is pre-existing heart conditions that went undiagnosed versus running _causing_ heart damage.
> Days like that tend to elevate my resting heart rate for up to a week afterwords
This is surprising to me... I've run almost 5000 miles and 6 marathons so far and this has not been my experience. Maybe it's due to over training? Have you asked a doctor about it?
The sample size might be too small, but I'd love to see a comparison of heart-failure events among ultra runners to other very intense exercise.
Conditions like Marfan Syndrome are obvious candidates for these deaths: it's often undiagnosed, it significantly increases risk for sudden heart failures like aortic dissection (especially in younger people), and it produces a progressive risk with intense exercise (by weakening heart tissues which then stretch under stress). Which, oddly, is both pre-existing and exercise-induced; running wouldn't do the same thing without the condition, but a sufferer who didn't run as hard might never have a problem.
Directly attributing the problem to conditions like that is probably impossible; there are a bunch of them and there's no guarantee they'll be diagnosed or even caught at autopsy. But a cross-sport comparison might turn up interesting data - breath-restricting sports like swimming and scuba diving are higher risk than running.
Do you track your resting heart rate on the days after running a marathon? It's been pretty consistent to me. If I sustain near max exertion for multiple hours, it takes at least a few days to feel normal again, and resting heart rate seems to be a very good indicator of the overall stress of the exertion. Obviously my RHR is dropping over time. These are temporary variations.
I had a friend who was very healthy and fit but, like you, experienced elevated heart rate (and some loss of energy) for a few days after hard exercise days. Turns out, he had a partial blockage in a cardiac blood vessel. It was not blocked enough to be noticeable under normal workloads. But under hard work loads, part of his heart did not get enough oxygen and experienced damage. Eventually he experienced a heart attack, which is when it was caught and stented. Every other vessel was clear... it was just one of those flukes.
Who knows if you have the same issue, but I would suggest it's worth getting checked out.
I just love marathon running and I'd hate for it to be hurting me long term...
"A structural change of the heart muscle by an ultra-marathon could be detected by the use of echocardiography. Echocardiography can detect a reduction of the left (Niemela et al., 1984; Krzeminski et al., 2016; Maufrais et al., 2016) as well as the right ventricular (Oxborough et al., 2011; Lord et al., 2015, 2016b; Maufrais et al., 2016; Rothwell et al., 2018) function after an ultra-marathon. The changes in cardiac troponin I during an ultra-marathon are inversely associated with left ventriculare ejection fraction determined with echokardiography (Christensen et al., 2017).
The length of the ultra-marathon is important whether a change in the left and/or right ventricular function occurs. After the 2-day “Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon,” both a systolic and diastolic dysfunction of the left ventricle could be detected. Humoral markers of myocardial damage were increased and the increase in cardiac troponin was considered to be associated with a minimal myocardial damage (Shave et al., 2002). After a 24-h ultra-marathon, two out of 20 runners showed a slight increase in cardiac troponins and echocardiography showed a decrease in left ventricular ejection fraction in one of the two runners (Passaglia et al., 2013). After an 89-km ultra-marathon, there was a reduced function of the left and right ventricles (Chan-Dewar et al., 2010). In a 4-h run, there was a decrease in the activity of the MIBG (131-J meta-iodo-benzylguanidine) in the myocardium, and the extent of activity decrease correlated with the distance covered during the run (Estorch et al., 1997). In a 160-km ultra-marathon, no correlation between the decrease in left ventricular function and the change in cardiac biomarkers could be demonstrated (Scott et al., 2009). During a 24-h ultra-marathon, the left ventricular function decreased during the last 6 h of the race where the function normalized within a few days after the race (Niemela et al., 1984). Another study showed that echocardiographic changes returned to normal within 1 day after the run (Dávila-Román et al., 1997). In some instances, an ultra-marathon leads to no echocardiographic changes. For runners in the “Western States Endurance Run,” echocardiographic findings were normal (George et al., 2011). Therefore, it is at the moment difficult to conclude that an ultra-marathon leads to substantial heart damage."
One could easily write a list of scary side effects for being sedentary too... but which is worse? I'm just guessing (hoping) that the benefits of marathon running outweigh the costs.
What I can surely say is that I have never been feeling better and healthier than since I started running long distances at 30.
Not an expert, but that seems alarming. Please check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSiS9qkJUU0
Although regular exercise is great, complementing with good diet is a must too, I believe.
There’s no such thing as overtraining, just under-recovering.
Unless you mean proper climbing but rather you hike/scramble, that's not really anything extraordinary. I am a rather active person but by no means any endurance or ultra runner. Doing 1500m+ altitude gain hike (which I sometimes do over weekends, most usual one is 1000 -> 2500m) is a weekend warrior level, next day I go and do something else (usually easier).
If you experience that elevated heart rate a whole week afterwards, that ain't normal IMHO, at least not for somebody who is on verge of starting marathons and planning for some lighter ultras soon. Get your heart/cardio/breathing checked by some experts.
My personal theory is - we are not born equal, and some people can literally grow with almost any challenge, others are easily destroyed by the same. I am rather the latter but it has some positive aspect - I need to train harder than most to get to their levels, which brings good amount of mental fortitude.
The craziest of my running friends, measuring by ultras run, has said that she doesn't run far these days, but that's her knees.
1) Scar tissue formation in heart after repeated episodes of prolonged ischemia (ultra marathon)
2) early joint wear necessitating joint replacements at earlier ages (marathon, lifting)
3) ligament and tendon damage requiring surgical correction (cross fit, power lifting)
4) high regeneration of tissue causes premature aging of tissues (increased cell replication and tendency for DNA damage)
I think society's glorification of extreme exercise does more harm than good.
Which society? What glorification? According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_body_mass..., society has clearly moved in the complete opposite direction, with approximately 30% of the world population considered obese. I am aware that BMI doesn't take into account muscle mass, but really, most people who are obese by BMI standards aren't there due to powerlifting. They are simply obese.
It is possible to work out too much, for sure. Most serious exercise programs have "easy weeks" specifically to give the body time to rebuild and recover. I've done many triathlons and sure, there is glorification of the IronMan distance tri; but it should be something that is glorified. It's an incredibly challenging event and worthy of praise.
If anything, I think society needs to encourage, explicitly and with great zeal:
1. Hard exercise (long runs, swimming, lifting, rugby, cycling, etc.) at a bare minimum of 3 times per week for 1 hour or more.
2. The basic physiological fact of "Calories In, Calories out". A person is fat because they consume more calories than they burn (barring certain medical conditions/medications that cause weight gain). That's it.
3. Quality fuel. Ensuring people eat foods that provide the essential amino acids, necessary vitamins and minerals, and an even macro distribution of carbs, fats, and proteins.
Lastly, I would gladly trade [2, 3, 4] in exchange for living a fulfilling and healthy life spent exercising and accomplishing goals like completing an IronMan Triathlon or breaking into the thousand pound club for lifting. The other option is wasting my life eating chips on my couch and getting fat.
The high-functioning, wealthy society of working age professionals. I think of the United States - and I assume most countries are the same, but perhaps to a lesser degree - as a cluster of societies that sometimes intermingle and share space with each other but are otherwise distinct. Obesity is a disease of the poor.
In certain circles there is a glorification of extreme forms of exercise. Partially as an indicator of status, to demonstrate that you have the both the personal agency and excess resources to pour into a training program to achieve impressive feats. But also as a sacrifice to the gods of success. All the respected leaders in business are doing ultra endurance sports, so it would stand to reason that there is something, some X-factor it's contributing to their ability to achieve.
It's worth asking whether there's any benefit to this kind of thing past a certain point. Are people their wasting time and causing long term damage to their bodies just to impress their friends?
Your last sentence, by the way, gave me a laugh. It could be the dictionary example for false dichotomy. Not sure whether this was intentional.
I think it's a bit presumptuous to categorize extreme exercise as "just to impress their friends". Was Alex Honnold free soloing El Cap just to impress his friends? I doubt it. The same can be said for almost all extreme challenges. Why climb Everest? Why run a marathon? Why go to the moon?
To crib JFK: Because it's hard. Because you can. Because it's there and it's maaaybe, just maybe, possible.
Regarding my last sentence, perhaps I could have phrased it better like this: I would rather destroy my body through hard work by trying to achieve difficult things like an IM triathlon than destroy my body out of apathy and sloth and gluttony. Either way, if all goes to plan, my body is gonna go to shit at a certain point anyway and I can't do anything about it. And then I die. So why not try to have some fun?
Sorry if it comes across as an attack on your lifestyle. It isn't meant to be. If you find extrinsic motivations morally suspect, then let me assure you I believe your motivations are entirely intrinsic and pristine.
But regardless, there are such things as trends. It isn't presumptuous to assume that people do things for the social benefits. That's just being realistic. If it builds their social network, increases their status, widens their career prospects, makes it easier to find a better mate... perhaps they should be doing that thing, whether it's running an ultramarathon or doing a 6-hour headstand in a park. What does it matter?
Except that if 6-hour headstands become the hot new thing that every young professional seems to aspire to, I'm going to ask about whether "society" should be glorifying something that's obviously going to lead to neck damage versus, say, a nice 6-hour foot race. That's all.
People will always go to extremes in everything, though. And naturally, some people will see that extreme and feel a strong desire to push further. I simply see nothing wrong with it, regarding exercise, is all. Have a good one!
Honnold probably does it for himself but I agree that a lot of people exercise mainly for other people. They want to look good or impress them. Not necessarily wrong but it can lead to unhealthy extremes.
I see that a lot. A lot of people do nothing and then they suddenly want to do marathons or they start Crossfit. At some point they get injured and revert to doing nothing.
You definitely get more attention and admiration if you run marathons or climb Mount Everest vs doing some mild exercise every day although the latter is probably much healthier.
I think this because to be even a mediocre marathoner, one needs to exercise with about the same frequency as the control person. But one also needs to work diligently on a large peripheral system like flexibility and mobility, recovery routines, stricter diet controls such as counting calories, macros, ensuring proper vitamin/mineral uptake, strength work with lifting, etc.
Sure, a mild exerciser can be relatively healthy, but the real difference is that the marathoner has challenging goals to accompany the systems for building health; whereas the mild exerciser only has the systems and easily accomplishable or even no goals besides "being healthy".
Or what about training with a bigger lack of oxygen, as in waiting longer between strokes to breathe or holding your breath while running, does it do any good?
This study looked at top competitive athletes, who might be pursuing a different strategy than masters swimmers.
From the paper itself:
"For runners, sprint/power athletes were defined as those who competed in 100–400 m races and high jump, while distance athletes competed in races ≥800 m. Short distance swimmers comprised those competing in 50–200 m races while middle-distance/distance athletes competed in 400–1500 m races. Eleven swimmers swam freestyle, 3 swam breaststroke and 2 swam backstroke."
The phrase "there were interesting if small differences" makes me suspect nothing statistically significant was found. Digging into the paper, I found the sentence I was expecting:
"Further research is required to delineate whether these observations are a product of a superior exercise stimulus, or a necessary adaptation to promote filling during upright exercise."
Any small sample of undergraduates always gives the same scientific result: more grant money required.
The study is nicely apples/apples if those six are well within the track running range (800, 1.5k, 5k, even 10k would be close enough in duration to 1.5k swimming which is the longest subdiscipline there), but if there are road endurance runners in the group, they will likely skew everything from a comparison between running and swimming to a badly made comparison between athletes aiming at multi-hours efforts and athletes aiming at minutes or even seconds.
"For runners, sprint/power athletes were defined as those who competed in 100–400 m races and high jump, while distance athletes competed in races ≥800 m."
"Short distance swimmers comprised those competing in 50–200 m races while middle-distance/distance athletes competed in 400–1500 m races."
(not sure if this is paywalled or not)
I often have doctors tell me that my resting heart rate was too low for the machine to read. The lowest I’ve clocked is 34 bpm.
I assume there’s a safe limit to how low a heart rate can go, which makes me wonder what the limit to cardiovascular performance in running is.
Why heart shouldn't get a signal to beat more frequently if body starts to lack oxygen during sleep? Is it just because the blood is so thick and moving so slow it will clog and may produce a sudden heart attack? Thus you need to "manually" keep up the heart rate?
Or people with good hearts become athletes and their hearts improve with exercise.
That said, I don’t know what happens to the knees of swimmers, weightlifters, cyclists, etc, but inactivity is the worst thing you can do.
Sorry, I just hate this very common misconception that runners are out there destroying their knees.
Runners don't get arthritis in their knees more often than nonrunners.
Those are the facts. Period. If anything, long-term studies have found that runners have less incidence of knee osteoarthritis. One study that followed runners and nonrunners for 18 years found that, while 20% of the runners developed arthritis during that time, 32% of the nonrunners did. A large study that looked at runners and walkers found that regular runners had roughly half the rate of arthritis as regular walkers. In that second study, the runners with the highest regular mileage had the lowest rate of arthritis.
You have to control for all the people who don't do an activity because they're too unhealthy to continue. And there is no obvious way to do that.
1. Seems like they identify someone as runner or walker based on a questionnaire filled. After X years those people fill another questionnaire to indicate whether they had OA or hip replacement. I would think that at the time of the second questionnaire a runner will still be assumed a runner, even if he doesn't run anymore.
2. Exercise other than running increased rates of OA and hip replacement.
Of course, I'm being facetious. Such a study would never be done because it's completely unethical. But the point is that you can't determine an intervention (running) is safe and effective without a proper trial like that. A survey that asks people whether they're a runner or not, before even beginning, has a problem with selection bias.
Unfortunately they didn't break down the km's ran to classify the individuals. Also The runners group was almost more likely to do 'vigorous exercise'.
To answer your question, they did continue to classify as runners even if they stopped (and almost half did stop).
The problem is not that you're being facetious, the problem is that if you insist on a single study proving something with a 100% certainty, we shouldn't be doing any science.
For example, I can find numerous holes in your supposedly perfect study design. It turns out that active runners have less joint issues indeed? How can you be sure that it's due to running and not due to increased exposure to sunlight?
Why aren't you testing different exercises? What if the benefits of running are solely due to improved cardiovascular performance but running specifically is actually bad on the joints bearing the heaviest load?
If you dig deep enough, we can go on and on.
The burden of proof is on running advocates to show that running is safe and to clearly lay out the conditions for safety. As a former runner (who quit after breaking an ankle and speaking to an orthopedic surgeon who saw runners all the time), my strong suspicion is that running is only safe for those who:
a) run with perfect form
b) have perfect-fitting shoes
c) eat a well-balanced athletic diet
d) are already slim and fit before they begin running
I feel like that last one is the real key. If you're massively overweight and someone tells you to just go for a run, you're going to get hurt. To be a runner you need to get in shape first and have someone help you buy proper shoes and teach you proper form. Anything other than that is bad advice.
I'm mystified at why you'd say he was trying to "claim that running is perfectly safe" when his first sentence was, "Like all repetitive activities, runners are prone to overuse injuries and the most common is to the knee." Maybe you should go back and get a grip on precisely what point he was trying to make. It was _not_ that running is perfectly safe.
People who run are prone to overuse injuries, no doubt about it. People who are long-term runners tend to learn how to manage injuries and keep them minor. Some people never learn.
I've discussed with running friends that in a way it seems odd that medical insurance covers treatment for our running injuries, when they are injuries that are in a sense "chosen"; we could certainly have avoided them if we didn't run at all. Yet, still, a runner's visits to physical therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine doctor are covered. The answer we come up with, and it seems correct to me, is that covering runners for their "chosen", "elective" injuries is over the long term still much cheaper than covering non-runners for the much more expensive health problems they will have over the course of their life.
Massively overweight people can't run, even if they wanted to. Their "run" speed is slower than my "walk" speed.
I can run pretty well, currently about 10km with a heart rate monitor to not exceed my limits. I've tried swimming as well but for some reason I get knee pain during swimming, it's probably just bad technique but it feels so stupid to have to get out of the water because of knee pain.
At my max I weighed 115-120kg and I'm pretty sad that I didn't start doing all this stuff earlier.
Also, the article briefly mentioned rowing. I didn't enjoy it as much when I was competing when younger, but it's a brilliant exercise if you have access to even (or can afford) an ergometer (indoor rowing machine).
As long as you study form and adhere to that principally before exerting yourself, it's a great aerobic exercise that also helps build and maintain muscle mass (arms, back, and legs mainly). It's easier on the joints as well—again, and I must stress, as long as you maintain proper form. I see so many "cross-fitters" yanking and janking their arms and back and shooting their butts around it makes me cringe knowing what kind of hell it's going to render to their bodies. With proper form, it's one of the best compound exercises. I wish I had access to an erg these days, but I'm trying to keep my own costs down by using the limited gym in my building.
Also if you're in a town with a rowing club, they often host "learn to row" sessions that will guide you through a lot of it—and get you out on the water as well, if you're not averse.
Get one-on-one classes! A teacher can correct most of your errors in a couple of hours, and will make a decent swimmer out of anyone in ten hours[¹]. It's a very small investment for a very large gain.
[¹] Assuming there's no fear of water involved, you can go from "I can't do one lap without stopping for air at the wall" to "I can swim 1km continuous" with 10h of classes.
As a lifelong soccer player, my knees are in terrible shape. I have multiple meniscus tears in each, and I've also had catastrophic injuries in both ankles. Despite that, I keep playing. The most useful teammates I have are those players who are also running fanatics. They put a lot of effort into gear, technique, and ritual that helps prevent and repair knee and foot damage. I've not encountered this much devotion to bodily integrity in any other sort of athlete.
If you have a recurring running issue it’s one of those. I got shin splints every month. Then I stopped running for six months and started weightlifting. No one who squats is going to get shin splints.
It's fantastic that squats helped you, but if you are primarily looking to improve your running then months of training at a lower intensity, to avoid the shin splints, is much more productive than stop-start training resulting from the need to let your injury heal.
I'm not fully aware of all of the possible long term risks to cycling but I know pollution from cars comes up a lot. I believe the prevailing consensus is that the benefits still outweigh the harm done.
+: May be overstating it. You can hurt your wrists through a bad fit and your knees through using too high a gear. In both cases, your body will probably let you know about it soon though.
I have a bad shoulder (pain) from having it dislocated several times over the years.
When I first started swimming (only breaststroke), I felt tingles of pain pretty quickly. Outside of swimming, I would feel it if I raised my arm over my head in certain angles.
After about 6 months of regular swimming, literally all the pain went away. Clearly my body developed strength around the injury. My shoulders feel better because of swimming.
In a similar vein... I used to have terrible RSI from typing. I randomly started rock climbing. After a while, my hands strengthened and the RSI pain went away. I climbed actively for about 8 years. I stopped climbing years ago (kept typing) and the pain never returned to the same degree as before. When I started swimming more recently, the current hand pain went away again as well.
Also, my opinion... running is one of the first sports sedentary people will attempt. It's cheap (just need shoes), accessible (no special field, no special skill), and high calorie burn for time spent.
Running does pound your leg joints. Especially if you heel strike badly. And do so in inadequate shoes (cheap cross-trainers). And this is exacerbated by being over-weight. All correctable and avoidable (good form, good shoes, slow ramp-up and diet control). But, people don't know what they don't know, and if they get shin splint or knee pain, they're likely to quit and blame it on "running is bad for you".
This is why I hate the "just go minimal" cargo cult. Yes, some people will notice how it highlights their heel-striking ways and will make the necessary adjustments. Others will not, and they'll end up smashing their feet even more than before. For them - and I think they're more numerous - minimal shoes are the exactly wrong answer. Not all runners are lithe twenty-somethings. Some are built differently, and react differently, and need different shoes.
ETA: Yes, it's a shame that heavily padded shoes are the default. They shouldn't be. And minimal shoes are great for some people. All I'm saying is that "go minimal" has become the "do you even lift" of running, and I find it just as unhelpful. It's not a universal prescription.
As far as the study - I don't see any actionable info there.
I had this very issue and changing my shoes resolved it. I had transitioned from off-road running over hilly trails, to very aggressive ascents followed by steep an often technical descents. The Brooks Cascadias that were awesome for the hilly trails weren't working for the steep techy stuff. Moving into Saucony Peregrino Isos that have a stiffer upper and much burlier tread solved the issue almost immediately.
No idea what kind of mileage you're covering or terrain you're running, but footwear can be a real maker/breaker as the mileage gets longer and the terrain gets gnarlier.
Do this now if you can afford it. Try to find one of the smaller stores that really focuses on runners and is staffed by avid runners. A good store will have a treadmill and cameras to be able to look at your stride and make recommendations on both your stride pattern as well as your shoes. It was a running store that helped me find the Saucony shoes that have helped my ankle issues go away. :)
You could maybe also be dealing with an imbalance of strength between your hamstring and quadriceps. When runners have joint issues this can be the culprit or at least a key contributor. Adding in a couple sessions a week of weight training that include movements like deadlifts, good mornings, and back squats can strengthen the posterior chain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posterior_chain) and address those imbalances.
I used to wear ASIC for over 10 years. I notice that the quality has gone down a bit: cheaper material, shorter laces and mostly I cannot find a wider size. I switched to Brooks in 2017 and it seems to be OK (wide size).
I also heard a lot of recommendations for Saucony. Let's hear what the running store's staff suggest.
You're also very on point w.r.t weight training! I quit going to 24-hour fitness in 2015 because of commute change. So now I mostly exercise by running outdoor. I need to sign up for gym again to squat.
Please do always support your local running store. I _never_ go in telling the people who work there what shoe I'm going to buy - like a good sommelier, you should be able to tell them what you're looking for and they should be able to recommend something accordingly. It helps a lot if you know your feet, form, and preferences - I have very high arches, a neutral footstrike, and prefer neutral shoes with less cushion. That'll help them get you in something you like.
FWIW, I am running in Saucony Freedom ISO 2s these days.
My personal rule of thumb is 500 miles minus moving weight. So in my case I'm 225 lbs, I usually have 10 lbs of water/layers/kit, so 235lbs moving. 500 - 235 = 265 miles max per pair of shoes. I replace sooner because technical terrain trashes the lugs on the soles.
Same. I just took a month off, after three months of dealing with that pain. Seems to have gone away, but I just started back a couple of days ago and haven't gone all out just yet.
I also switched to super-cushioned shoes (Hoka Bondi). I figure I'm running for exercise, not performance, so now I'm prioritizing safety over speed. It's no fun if you can't run at all.
BTW, one irony with running form is that it's often the young fast folks who are the worst. I often see some high-school or college kid zipping by with atrocious form, because at that age it's easy to get away with. I cringe when I think of what's going to happen when they get older, their bodies change, and they're still slamming their feet into the pavement. By contrast, older runners tend to be more careful about form. The ones who aren't tend to become non-runners very quickly.
I did parkour for years, and at my peak I could jump from 12 feet up to pavement, everyone told me I was going to wreck my knees, it never happened. at 42 my knees are great but for the fact that I can't run regularly on pavement, and never could.
As a semi-serious runner (sub-20 5k at 42 years old, ~20 miles/week), I've found it best to rotate shoes, not just to minimize wear on a given pair (cushioning can take a day to fully rebound from a long run), but also "horses for courses". Cushioned trainers for long runs. Light-weight racers for speed work and races. Trail shoes for off-road. Etc.
20+ years after finishing my swimming career, I still have to deal with both of those repetitive injuries.
That said, I wouldn't be surprised if other "news" agencies report on the NYT report with headlines like "Runners Have Much Stronger Hearts Than Swimmers, Study Says".
I exercise regularly but always had this doubt about "over-exercise" that could do more harm than good.