Women Should Run if They Like it: My Response

 

http://wildopenheart.com/2013/04/19/why-women-should-run-they-just-need-to-have-more-fun-doing-it/

 

http://www.dangerouslyhardcore.com/5343/why-women-should-not-run/

 

It started with a link I saw on my Facebook feed.  “Why Women Should Not Run.”  This title certainly necessitated my undivided attention!  How can anyone ignore such a bold title?  However, I read the article and moved on, giving it very little thought afterward, because like most of them, it said some stuff I agreed with as well as a bunch of stuff I didn’t agree with.  I read dozens of articles like it every day.  No big deal.  But then, the link popped up on my feed again and again.  Someone tagged me in it.  Someone else sent me a link via private message.  Several times, I started to comment but then decided against it.  After all, I don’t want to be “that person” who disagrees with everything.  So I kept my opinion to myself, resolving neither to approve nor disapprove of the opinions stated in the article.

But then, I started receiving concerned messages from clients, friends, and general acquaintances asking me for advice.  Can I not run? Should I stop?  How much is “too much?”  Someone heard five miles or less was ok, but someone else heard anything over two was bad.  People wanted to me to give them a number!  Oh dear.  After putting out several small fires, I began to realize that we now have a much larger fire on our hands.  It seems that, in an attempt to clear up some myths and point out some very destructive habits that we see often in women who are trying to lose weight, the message may not have been received as intended.  I believe the writer had a good intention, but with full respect for the author I believe it was miscommunicated slightly.

Surely, no one would mean tell women not to run.  Surely, no one would mean to suggest that no woman should ever run a marathon, under any condition?

And then the second article came out, I’m sure among many responses to the original.  So now my friends are more confused than ever.  One says women shouldn’t run, the other says they should.  Now what?  I feel the need to respond on my own blog, for my own clients and readers, because both of these articles contradict what many of my clients know to be my own belief regarding fitness.  And because there should always be a compromise.  One-size-fits-all fitness is not my style.  I’ll be the Iceland of fitness advice.

Here goes: The problem is not running.  The problem, if we should refer to it in the singular, is the combination of calorie restriction, running for the sake of burning calories, and the belief that the simple “calories in/calories out” equation will result in the lean bodies that so many are striving for.

For some, running is entirely counterintuitive to fitness goals, especially if the goals include a lean, muscular physique.  As the original article pointed out, excessive cardio is catabolic—meaning, essentially, you burn your own muscle for fuel.  And, as the article pointed out, it can lean to imbalances in cortisol and thyroid function.  Hello skinnyfat.

For others, running is a release.  I know many women who run for the love of running.  Guess what?  I’m one of them.  I love a good run.  That’s my mediation time, my release.  In fact (and I have no research to back this claim I am about to make…), I find that running really helps me loosen up through my shoulders, which are chronically tight from heavy lifting.  I’m no marathoner, nor do I care to necessarily become competitive with it, but I certainly love it.

However, I have many friends who are very healthy marathon runners—and I feel that the original article failed to discuss the ways in which running could be approached healthfully.   For instance, my runner friends eat to support their runs, cross train with some pretty heavy lifting to maintain their strength and muscle, and are not even concerned with weight loss.  I’m pretty sure they don’t even care if they are skinnyfat, just like many powerlifters don’t care about being perceived as “too big.”  As hard as we work to fight articles that claim lifting makes women “bulky,” how could we be so quick to embrace an article that claims the opposite?  One size and shape does not fit all.

To summarize, in case you do what I do and skip to the end of the blog to catch the bullet points:

  • If you like running, keep doing it.  If you don’t like running, don’t force yourself through it just to lose weight—there are more effective methods!
  • If you are going to run, your nutrition needs to support it
  • Don’t skip the crosstraining  days (included in most smart running programs)—it’s critical to your success in terms of physical health and in terms of running!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 New-Kid Gym Tips

Face it: gyms are really strange spaces of pride, masculinity, and ritual.  Gyms can be intimidating, confusing, and even embarrassing.  Starting a membership at a gym is a very vulnerable time, like being the new kid at school.  Yes, the whole class is going to look at you, trying to decide if you have anything good to trade at lunch.   They will take in your backpack, your lunchbox, and your shoes, sizing you up to  decide whether your mom will bring cupcakes on your birthday.  It’s true.  But, like on the first day of school, you have some sizing up to do as well.  Who is the stinky kid?  Do you really need an elevator pass?  Who sits with whom at lunch?

My best advice is to just bite the bullet and go—once there you’ll find that you’re not the only one who is new.  But I am not going to lie to you—there is some weird stuff that goes on,  and some unspoken rules you need to be prepared for.  I could write about this topic all day long (and I just might, in a dissertation…), but for now I’ll keep it short with just ten tips.  For those of you who are gym regulars, take it easy on the new people, and feel free to laugh at the funny stuff we do.  Add to the list by leaving a comment!

  1. Monday is Universal Bench Press Day.  I know, this isn’t listed anywhere in the rules, and there is no way you could have known.  But now you do.  So if you’re new to a gym and don’t want to have to figure out when it’s your turn to use a bench, just take my advice and don’t EVER try to work chest on a Monday.
  2. There is no such thing as So-and-So’s [fill in the blank].   If you need a bench, and no one is using it, it’s yours.  Same goes for dumbbells, cables, or any other piece of equipment.
  3. Just because there are no other women in the weight room does NOT mean that women are not welcome.  Claim your space!
  4. There IS an alpha somewhere in the room—but do not be intimidated.  Identify this person; he or she will help you out.
  5. Be very careful about accepting advice from the loudest person in the room—this is the wanna be Alpha, and the noise is meant to confuse and distract you from his or her insecurities.
  6. It’s totally ok to look at yourself in the mirror—but if you’re going to do it, don’t try to hide it.  We see you.
  7. When a random person cheers you on or tries to encourage you, this is a sign of acceptance.  Just in case you were wondering, this is generally a good thing.
  8. Don’t try to talk to someone while they are in the middle of a set.
  9. When someone is about to lift something heavy, do not walk in front of the person, make any loud noises, or cause a distraction of any kind.
  10. Every gym has a Creepy Bastard.  He’s annoying, creepy, and…well, kind of a bastard, but generally harmless.

Bonus tip: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, wash your hands after you use the restroom!!!! People will notice, and they will tell others.  Then you’ll become the Stinky Kid and your life will be over and you’ll basically have to switch gyms