Yup. I’m done running long distances. Well not really. But after the Nashville half this spring, I am not planning to run a half marathon or marathon again due to some medical journals and doctors advice. I’m NOT done running, just changing up my routine all in the name of health. I know, I know…most of you are probably saying, “Running is good for you though!” YES! I promise I’m not quitting running. I could never! Just keep reading…
I run for health. But, I also run for many other reasons like setting a good example for my daughter, race bling (ha!), stress relief, the challenge, the clothes (again, ha!), the feeling of accomplishment, it makes me happy, for the memories made with other runners in my family, etc.
After my dad unexpectedly had a heart attack in February, his doctor said that if he didn’t have his healthy eating and exercising habits he could have had a heart attack 15 years earlier (family history). I immediately started reading about the link between exercise and health. Of course we all know regular exercise is good for you, but how much is too much? After some research, I found excessive exercise doesn’t decrease risk of death and can actually be counterproductive.
A 15-year observational study of 52,000 adults found that runners had a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with nonrunners, with U-shaped mortality curves for distance, speed, and frequency. Running distances of about 1 to 20 miles per week, speeds of 6 to 7 miles per hour (10:00 – 8:34 minutes per mile), and frequencies of 2 to 5 days per week were associated with lower all-cause mortality, whereas higher mileage, faster paces, and more frequent runs were not associated with better survival. Runners who followed these guidelines reaped the greatest health benefits: their risk of death dropped by 25 percent, according to results published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1
There are other things to consider in this, but if we took it at face value (as I am) it does impact the way I view running. So, reducing my mileage is going to begin post Nashville half. Running lesser distance still brings me joy, so continuing to run but at lesser distances to reap the cardiovascular benefits seems like a win-win to me.
“Your body is designed to deal with oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour,” says cardiologist James O’Keefe, MD, Director of Preventative Cardiology at the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, and author of the Heart editorial. “But prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems.” The bottom line: if you work out to promote your long-term health and well-being, doing vigorous exercise for longer than an hour isn’t necessary, and is actually counterproductive, says O’Keefe. 2 <– This finding is what really sealed the deal for me.
One current issue for me is proper fueling for a long run. I shouldn’t be eating dates due to the high sugar content and sugar (even natural like that found in dates) can increase Candida growth. I’ve been experimenting with eating the startchy vegetables on the list like carrots and sweet potatoes and the natural sugar fruits and I haven’t been sleeping well.😬 Obviously not running more than an hour would cut my need for consuming sugar on a run.
So as an example:
- Sunday – Rest day
- Monday – Run 5 miles
- Tuesday – Bike 40 minutes of intervals or other cross training
- Wednesday – Run 4 miles
- Thursday – Bike 30 minutes of intervals or other cross training
- Friday – Run 6 miles
- Saturday – Run 3 miles
I like the idea of this sort of schedule. I also think it will open my eyes to group exercise classes. I’d love to not feel like I’m constantly following a training plan and have time to explore other healthy options.
Running long distances is hard on the body, there’s no doubt about it. After the Grand Rapids Marathon last year, I suffered from bursitis in my left knee (which I’m still battling!) and an odd pinched nerve feeling in my toes that didn’t go away for nearly 4 months (yep, I just started to be able to do one of the stretches I used to do regularly because the toe pain is finally better)!
Does this mean I’m done racing more than 10k’s? For the most part, yes. We do the 8 mile on Mackinac yearly but that would only involve maybe 10-20 minutes over that hour marker in training runs for the 7 and 8 mile runs. So those plus race day is 3 runs over that hour marker each year. That’s not much, and for the joy that weekend brings to my family and I, I’d take the risk. I just wouldn’t want to be running over an hour every single time I laced up (which is what happens most of the time if I’m half or full marathon training). This is purely a personal decision…I am not trying to tell anyone they should be avoiding exercise that’s over an hour in duration. I’m just doing what I think is best for my body and my family.
If you’re interested in reading more, I encourage you to check out the resources below. As with anything, there are probably studies that debunk these. I’m simply siding with the more conservative route and planning on regular exercise, but not excessive in time or pace, to increase longevity (and hopefully decrease injury and the pressure I put on myself from distance racing). Live healthy and joyfully is my new mantra!
I think that if you have never experienced a half or full marathon and want to do so, you absolutely should! But continuing that sort of training year after year is something I personally have decided to shy away from.
This is not goodbye, it’s just the beginning of a new health and fitness journey! I will continue blogging, Instagramming, and probably racing some 5-10k’s. I can’t wait to see how the changes in my routine are going to affect how I feel. I’m hoping for less stress, which is of course better for your heart. I tend to get wound tight when I’m amidst long-distance race training…ironically, running relieves stress. So, I’m just stressed when I’m not running haha!
I hope you’ll continue to follow my health and fitness journey. I’m excited to see where these changes take me! And as they say, never say never. If I get the uncontrollable urge to run a half marathon and I’m sad because I ‘can’t’ anymore…well that’s no way to live either. But for now, I’m content in exercising for health.
1 Lee DC, Pate RR, Lavie CJ, Blair SN. Running and all-cause mortality risk—is more better? Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(5):S699. Here’s a link that also states those findings: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538475/?report=reader#!po=29.7101
2 Quotes from Dr. O’Keefe http://www.active.com/health/articles/why-too-much-running-is-bad-for-your-health