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Extreme Training Proves to be Harmful, Who Knew?

I just came across an interesting article highlighted through the power of facebook. This isn’t an unusual occurrence, quite often I open facebook, scroll through the home page and within a few minutes I have a dozen windows open each one featuring a new article on fitness or strength & conditioning.

But this one caught me, I figured it was worth, not only sharing, but actually discussing.

If you click on the image below you can read the article, for those who can’t be bothered I’ll highlight the key points below:

Click the image to read the full article

  1. Running can take a toll on the heart that essentially eliminates the benefits of exercise.

  2. But among the running cohort, those who ran a lot—more than 20 to 25 miles a week—lost that mortality advantage.

  3. no mortality benefit for those who ran faster than 8 miles per hour, while those who ran slower reaped significant mortality benefits.

  4. “Chronic extreme exercise appears to cause excessive ‘wear-and-tear’ on the heart,”

  5. “If you are running more than 15 miles a week, you are doing it for some reason other than health,” said Dr. Kenneth Cooper (the blokey who kickstarted the whole aerobics thing)

So what can we take from this?

The key point as I see it is the word “extreme” Anything taken to the extreme will be detrimental, maybe not immediately, but certainly over time. Look at any high level sports meet and you’ll see broken people all over the place. Hell, I’m one of the broken people, I took body to the limit far too many times over the years to be anything other than broken!

Perhaps this is why I choose to train my guys the way I train them. I’m all for extreme challenges, I’ve a rake of endurance athletes training under me, I’ve high level martial artists and generally a generally nuts population who all attend WG-Fit on a regular basis, most of whom would happily train themselves into an early grave and do so with a smile. But my job, as coach, is to moderate them.

And this is the key factor for anyone training for health and longevity. Yes, if you’re a professional athlete, health is secondary to performance. You know that you push and push and eventually you won’t be able to push any further, but that’s the nature of the beast. The best know to retire before the sport eats them up entirely.

If you’re not a pro, then why? Why not take a more moderate approach, build up, back off, build up again, back off again. Some call this periodisation, I call it common sense. If you’re an endurance athlete, such as those I used to admire back when I lived in the English Lake District, mix up your training. The guys in the Lakes would simply go out and run, it’s a lesson that took a while for me to understand, but eventually I got it. Running isn’t exercise, it’s a natural function of being alive, so enjoy it. Take the time to look around, enjoy the scenery (this why I no longer run much, if I returned to the mountains I’d definitely be lacing up once more), enjoy the experience of flowing with the terrain.

I do find that many involved in more tactical sports, and by that I don’t mean these pseudo military crap that are all over the inter web right now, I mean sports that have tactics involved, skills. Sports that are about more than just all out effort. These guys spend about half their time just practising and the other half training.

What’s the difference?

Lets talk about a fighter as an example.

pic courtesy of Ce’s The Day Photography

I watch our Muay Thai lads training every day. They work for 2 hours, 4-6 days per week. That will easily equate to the training volume undertaken by a fairly serious endurance athlete. But here’s the difference. Most of the training is done at a relatively leisurely pace. They are practicing skills, and for practice to be effective it must be perfect. So fatigue must be avoided. Now a couple of times a week they push harder, but most of the time it is practice practice practice. The training really escalates as a fight approaches, then when it’s over, rest.

How many gym goers or endurance athletes take this same approach? How many take the time to simply practice running, to perfect their technique?

Very few I’ll bet. And it’s a safe bet, because I was the same. It took spending time with some older runners, men who were in their 50’s and were awesome, for me to learn that you don’t always need to push. Sometimes you just go out and enjoy the process. And you know what? Like the thai boxer perfecting his kick on the bag for an hour, half pace, no power, then getting into the ring and delivering a bone jarring kick. Your running or whatever sport you’re into, will improve.

Sometimes playing is more important than training.



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