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Endurance vs. Intensity

Here is an interesting article from, Why Too Much Running is Bad for Your Health.

Phidippides ran too much, then died.

Phidippides ran too much, then died.

According to the article, the hearts of “chronic runners,” have more coronary plaque build up than sedentary people.  Based on a 30 year study 52,000 people, they found that runners have a lower risk of death overall, but that the benefits of running decrease after a certain amount; more is not better.  The “sweet spot” seems to be five - 19 miles per week, at six to seven miles per hour, spread over three to four sessions per week.

The article goes on to explain that much of the ill effects of long distance running has to do with the way the body processes free radicals released during strenuous exercise.  It seems that the body can naturally deal with a certain amount of oxidative stress, but too much will cause problems.  The fact that the problems seen in chronic runners are similar to the problems related to obesity is not surprising since both promote systemic inflammation.  The article expands on this a little by suggesting that people don’t run for more than about an hour per session, and suggests performing shorter, higher intensity exercise like sprints.

Of course, if you asked a CrossFitter, we could have told you that short, high intensity exercise is both more healthy for you and provides better results than running for hours at a time.  It’s nice to see a similar view coming from outside the CrossFit community, though.

I know we have quite a few distance runners in The Cave.  What do you think about this article?

4 Responses to “Endurance vs. Intensity”

  1. Branko says:

    I realized, luckily, early in my training for my PCT thru hike that there is nothing other than “roadwork” that could get me ready for grueling 33 miles/day for 100 days straight. I was surprised how little the interval work, praised by Crossfit, translated over. In my experience intervals got me to a good level of endurance, but there is where the progress stopped. I plateaued and couldn’t make any progress. As much as i hated I had to switch to long distance training to make any progress. Eventually i end up doing long slow >10% uphill runs under a load. 1.5 hours of that would work just as good as the whole day of trail running/hiking.

    It all depends what you’re training for. If you’re training for longevity then the sprints and one longish run per week is all you need. If you’re specializing in any kind of endurance sport, including MMA, than leaving out the roadwork is a mistake. You can see fighters paying for it every time you watch a MMA event.

    There was an article on the subject published a year ago, search for “Roadwork 2.0″. 1.5 mile run under 8 minutes for a pro. Wow.

  2. Branko says:

    BTW, Pheidippides death after 26 miles is a myth. ;)

  3. Nick says:

    Branko, I’m not necessarily surprised that you had to do a lot of long roadwork to train for the PCT. But the point of the article is simply that people who are “chronic” runners have similar inflammatory responses to people who are obese.
    I’m just trying to point out that excessive cardio is not the boon of health that many people think it is. That is not to say that it is not useful for specific sports, just that some sports might not be as good for your health as you might think. Everybody knows that football is dangerous, but people still play it because it’s fun. Many people run because it’s fun, and that’s okay, so long as they understand the dangers of overdoing it.

  4. Branko says:

    Totally agreed.

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