You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t

It seems no matter where we turn nowadays, we get mixed signals, and the only thing people can agree on is to disagree. For example:

*The war in Iraq

*Global warming

*Stem cell research


*Health & fitness

Yes, health & fitness. I’ve included the last bullet because, as I prepare to run an 18-mile race over the Columbus Day weekend, I’ve been doing research on training for a marathon. And, guess what? No one seems to agree on whether weight training helps or hurts long distance runners. The current issues of Runners World and Running Times, for example, contain completely different information. One says weight training will help. The other says it will hurt. So, what’s a poor boy to do?

Pondering the weight training debate got me to thinking about other notable disagreements and contradictions in the general health & fitness realm. To wit:

1. is caffeine good or bad for you?

2. are vitamin supplements important or are the natural vitamins contained in food enough to get us by?

3. is drinking a lot of water during exercise a wise thing or, as some have suggested, can it actually be detrimental in large amounts?

4. is a glass of red wine a day really good for your heart and health, or should alcohol be avoided entirely?

5. what about eggs? Conventional wisdom used to dictate that eggs were bad for you. Now we hear otherwise. Ditto for red meat. Ditto for fish.

6. how about a low fat vs. high carb vs. high protein diet? Which is best?

7. how about estrogen replacements for women? Doctors used to strongly recommend menopausal women ingest estrogen on a daily basis to alleviate such severe symptoms as hot flashes. Then, we found out such supplements could cause heart attacks, breast and uterine cancer. Yet, some physicians still prescribe the synthetic hormones, believing the benefits outweigh the risks.

8. and, how about all those pharma commercials announcing breakthrough drugs that always end with a litany of severe side effects up to, and including, death?

So, what’s up with all of the so-called experts disagreeing with one another or changing their minds? What does it say about the image and reputation of the healthcare, fitness and pharmaceutical industries when leading experts in each are constantly disagreeing with one another or overturning recommendations made by a previous generation of experts?

Is there any other field in which so many professionals totally disagree with one another or overturn what had been seen as the conventional wisdom? Could you imagine, for example, consulting with two different contractors to build your dream house, and having them categorically disagree on everything from nails and drywalls to sump pumps and siding?

I understand that much of the debate is based upon newly-released research that may either contradict or add insight to previous work. But, still, why can’t doctors agree on something as basic as the benefits of weight training for runners? It’s enough to drive me to drink. But, wait, that may or may not be healthy for me.

Hat tip to Angie Cody for this idea.

4 thoughts on “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t

  1. Thanks so much GD. That’s very helpful. Re: the hill climbing, be assured that I’m already doing that on a weekly basis via an intense trail course I do near home. I will definitely check the site you suggest.

  2. RepMan,
    A couple of absolute basic philosophies nearly all knowledgable runners will suggest when training for distance running in general:
    The importance of the Long Run — Especially true for the marathon distance, the weekly long run (generally between 1/4 to 1/3 of your total weekly mileage for that week) is possibly the single most effective method for building your aerobic threshold — in layman terms, your ability to run longer and faster.
    The importance of Hill Running — Ignore your son’s prodding. Weight lifting is not for the endurance athlete. True, you’ll likely read that high reps, low weight is a nice supplemental exercise to endurance training but why do that when you can build leg strength AND run at the same time? Begin to incorporate hills into each of your runs. Also, in the middle or end of the runs, throw in a set of 5 30-60 second accelerated strides on an incline. Your recovery is a jog down the hill and head back up. This is the perfect way to build strength for those Harlem Hills at the butt-end of the NYC Marathon.
    Beyond that, you’ll begin to hear all sorts of different training methods, all and none of which may work. This may relate to your post in large, but this is due to the vareity of runners. They are different sizes, have different VO2 max’, different genetic makeups; some runners are more injury prone. For running its easy to simplify though — Just listen to your body. That might not be so effective when deciding if egg-whites or eggs with yoke is best for your health, but for such a natural activity like running, its surprisingly easy.
    Also, have you followed your own advice and embraced social media? As you can tell by this lengthy response, running enthusiasts are a passionate, if kind of dorky, group. The Internet is an absolute haven for runners interested in sharing their experiences.
    A suggestion: Check out and the accompanying world-famous message board. There’s a lot to digest at first, but a few refined searches and you should be able to target what you’re looking for. Enjoy!

  3. Everything that I’ve heard and read would suggest weight lifting along with the marathon training would be most beneficial. Otherwise, you would lose too much muscle mass and face the possibility of having your son smack you around.