So this post is a little late, lets just say it was a busy weekend!
Hope all my lovely readers had a great mothers day weekend! Whether you spent it with your kids, your puppies, your own mom or other women you look up to, Mother’s Day is definitely a reason to celebrate. Being my first mother’s day I wanted to do something awesome, so when my friend invited me to train for, and run a half marathon with her I thought, hey…why not?! I am not a runner, and I don’t think I will ever call myself a runner. As much as I want to LOVE it, I have a hard time saying that I even like it sometimes. Running sucks, it hurts, it’s tiring, and the recovery can be awful! BUT…running is so awesome at the same time!! There are so many pros to running that I am now starting to see why people get addicted.
The half marathon on Saturday was unreal! We did the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon and finished in 2 hours and 28 minutes, which is 17 minutes under my goal! The feeling while crossing the finish line was truly amazing and made all the training so worth it. I decided to compile a list of my PROS and CONS of running and did some research to try to debunk some of my beliefs about why running isn’t for me.
- Lose weight, burn calories
- Little to no equipment
- It is easy to be good at
- Can run anytime of day, even with a fussy baby
- Feel calm and relaxed afterwards
- Get to explore new areas of the city
- Feeling of accomplishment
- Great community of other runners
- Can run with friends, social interaction
- Get to compete in races, which is exhilarating
- Don’t feel bad about eating carbs
- Hard on your joints, will cause permanent damage and injuries
- Can cause heart problems
- Affects immune system
- Pain, lots of pain.
- Weather dependent (unless you run on a treadmill)
- Lose muscle mass, ‘too skinny’
Okay, so lets break it down…
1. Calories Burned
Running 6mph – 600 calories/hour
Crossfit (50 min) – 615 calories/hour (source)
Bicycling (moderate effort) – 400 calories/hour
Dancing (moderate effort) 250 calories/hour
Swimming (light/moderate freestyle) – 445 calories/hour
Walking (3mph moderate) -346 calories/hour (source)
Okay, so it burns a lot of calories. Does this mean you can eat whatever you want? No, Maybe you can splurge more often…but eating crap will make you feel like crap so probably best to stick to a healthy diet.
2. Exercise improves your mood
I feel like in order to prove that exercise improves mood all you need to do is go for a quick workout! It has been shown that even just 5 minutes of moderate exercise causes a mood enhancing effect.
There have been quite a few studies on the link between exercise and depression. Obviously there are some limitations to the validity of these studies because most of them are based on self-report, but overall, exercise correlates to fewer incidences and severity of depression, decreased anxiety, and decreased stress. Blumenthal et al. (2007) explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials. Sedentary adults with major depressive disorder were assigned to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise achieved comparable results to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007). (Weir, K, 2011)
Smits et al. (2008) hypothesized that regular exercise may decrease anxiety by reproducing the sensations experienced during an anxiety attack (sweating, racing heart, etc.). Subjects who participated in a two-week exercise program showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity compared with a control group (Depression and Anxiety, 2008) (Weir, K, 2011)
Exercise definitely has more immediate tangible effects on mood then it does on weight and body composition (which is the main reason why people generally start exercising in the first place). So maybe exercise should start being prescribed by psychiatrists as well as MDs!
3. Running can be Social or a Solo event
Running solo allows you to have time to yourself, perhaps clear your head of what happened during the day, or allow some thinking or brainstorming to be done about a big project or future goals. I’m convinced some of my best ideas have come about while I was running, its just too bad I didn’t write them down!
Being part of a team or running group is an awesome way to maintain accountability. You are much more likely to go out for a morning run if you know someone is there waiting for you. Running with friends also pushes you to be the best you can be. It’s human nature that we want to keep up with and please those around us, so you bet you’re going to finish that run if someone else is running beside you!
So while writing this post I realized there is a lot less information out there on the negative effects of running than I anticipated! We all know exercise is good for us, but is running better or worse?! I read that part of the problem with studying this group of athletes is there aren’t many of them. “Less than 1 percent of all Americans have ever run a marathon, and very few of those people run more than one marathon in their lives, or regularly run more than 30 or 40 miles a week. The group of runners who would be considered most at-risk for negative health effects – assuming such negative effects exist – would be very small indeed” (Source).
We always hear the horror stories, yet another person had a heart attack and died at the last big marathon. So is this true? Is it really bad for your heart while all this time we have been thinking that it’s good for your cardiovascular fitness? No, that is a myth. Running does not cause heart problems in a normal healthy individual. If there are 20,000 people running a marathon there is bound to be someone who had preexisting heart problems that perhaps had gone undetected.
In a recent study by Lee et al (2014) they found that “compared with non-runners, runners had 30% and 45% lower adjusted risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, with a 3-year life expectancy benefit. In dose-response analyses, the mortality benefits in runners were similar across quintiles of running time, distance, frequency, amount, and speed, compared with non-runners. Weekly running even <51 min, <6 miles, 1 to 2 times, <506 metabolic equivalent-minutes, or <6 miles/h was sufficient to reduce risk of mortality, compared with not running. In the analyses of change in running behaviors and mortality, persistent runners had the most significant benefits, with 29% and 50% lower risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, compared with never-runners”
So what does this mean? Running, even 5 to 10 min/day and at slow speeds <6 miles/h, is associated with greatly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease. Awesome! That is easy to maintain!
4. Injuries and Problems Later in Life
So running is hard on your joints…if you run now you will regret it later (how many times have I heard this?) Is this true?
Once again, unfortunately there is not much research on the correlation between Osteoarthritis (OA) and running, but the general consensus is that moderate running does not cause knee or hip OA. It is suggested that running can even help protect your joints (while I don’t know if I buy this, it’s a nice thought). However, secondary arthritis, that usually occurs later in life, is directly associated with a history of joint injuries. These injuries can vary from acute to chronic with varying degrees of pain. It is quite possible that you had suffered an injury at some point and the pain wasn’t severe enough to raise concern. Also, regularly loading injured joints creates trauma which over time, may “deplete the joint of the lubricating glycoproteins, disrupt the collagen network, slowly wear away the cartilage, and cause numerous micro fractures in the underlying bones” (Childs Cymet & Sinkov, 2006). Be aware postpartum running post you at an increased risk of injury due to the hormone relaxin still in your body! Listen to your body and back off if you are having pain.
Running while injured can also result in poor form and body mechanics, which can cause chronic injury. Populations such as women, people who are heavier, those with flat feet or those with preexisting injuries should be most careful about running with proper form, especially when fatigue sets in. (Childs Cymet & Sinkov, 2006)
There are also others injuries common to long distance runners. These include blisters, muscle strain, muscle cramps, skin abrasions, exhaustion, and lightheadedness. It has been reported that 29 to 43 percent of marathon runners develop injuries during training. (Just What Does Running a Marathon Do to Your Body? by Jake Emmett, Ph.D.). This was my biggest fear while training! I did NOT want to hurt myself and not be able to run the race! What a waste!
When looking at the correlation between running and overall health, like all other exercise it definitely helps prevent disease and increase quality of life. It decreases the risk of diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and depression while improving bone density and supporting a healthy weight. There are risks to running, and those with preexisting health conditions or joint issues should take the risks into consideration before starting a running program (source)
5. Weakens the Immune System
I think I mentioned this in another article, but it has been shown that the relationship between health and exercise is a U shaped curve. Those who don’t workout have a weaker immune system, as well as those who workout to the extreme. Running a marathon will temporarily put the immune system into overdrive. As cortisol is released to reduce swelling, the immune system then becomes compromised. Marathoners are encouraged to supplement with vitamin C, reduce outside stressors and get plenty of sleep to support the immune system (Emmett, J, 2007). In order to reach this point you would have to be running 30-50 miles per week, which honestly just wont be happening for me so I don’t need to worry about that !
What does this mean for other postpartum moms? Running is an awesome exercise to do after baby. Between warding off postpartum depression and decreasing stress and anxiety it is a great activity to help you be a better mother and person in the rough months following the birth. As with everything, TAKE IT SLOW. Even if you were running up until the day you give birth your body still needs to recover after delivery. Running requires substantial core strength as well as puts stress on your joints, which are already lax and compromised. In order to prevent injury be sure to strengthen your core and be aware of your body as you start back, even if it’s just for a jog around the block. Check out this article for a great re-entry plan to get back to running again
Overall, my list of CONS keeps getting smaller and smaller. Maybe it will grow on me? Maybe running will be my new thing. Or maybe not.
In fitness & good health,
Blumenthal JA1, Babyak MA, Doraiswamy PM, Watkins L, Hoffman BM, Barbour KA, Herman S, Craighead WE, Brosse AL, Waugh R, Hinderliter A, Sherwood A.(2007). Exercise and pharmacotherapy in the treatment of major depressive disorder. Psychosomatic Medicine Sep-Oct;69(7):587-96. Epub 2007 Sep 10.