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Hardcore admission

Comments (25)
By Peter Hadzipetros

All right, I'll admit it. When it comes to exercise, I lean towards the hardcore. I'm one of those people who tend to get a little grumpy when I miss a planned workout.

"Can I run later?" I remember asking the nurse just before they ran what seemed like 25 metres of hose through my innards.

"Runners," she snorted, "you're all nuts."

Those hardcore tendencies were driven home again on Monday, after an e-mail exchange between a few of the regulars who come out for our long Sunday runs. One member of our group apologized to another for changing her mind about joining one of the options for that day: eight to 10 times around a two-kilometre loop at marathon goal pace, plus a few Ks of warm-up and cool-down.

It's considered a pretty hard workout.

"I'm sorry for baling out on the loop run yesterday," she wrote. "My hamstring has been giving me grief. I didn't want to push it too much, so I did a 34K [run] — nice and easy."

Now for the vast majority of even the fittest people, there's nothing easy about staying on your feet for 34 K. I felt like a bit of a slacker for only putting in 32.

I suppose it's all relative. But while it may be hardcore, it's a long way from being something to be worried about. At least I hope so.

There's a big difference between being hardcore and being addicted to exercise. Exercise addiction is usually a sign that something else is seriously wrong and can be coupled with an eating disorder, like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating.

Exercise addiction — sometimes called anorexia athletica is cause for concern. You might have it if you:

  • Get out and exercise even if you're sick or injured.
  • Are never satisfied with your athletic performance.
  • Work out a lot harder than you have to in order to maintain your level of fitness.
  • Are preoccupied with your workout, your diet and body fat.
  • Take time from your relationships, work and other obligations in order to fit in your workouts.
  • Exercise because you have to, not because you enjoy it.

Yeah, I exercise more than I need to just to maintain fitness and a healthy weight. It's probably why some mornings I feel like the Tin Man on the Wizard of Oz, before Dorothy applies oil to his seized-up joints. Makes that first trip down the stairs a very tentative act.

But you don't have to be hardcore to reap the benefits. Half an hour a day, three or four times a week and those benefits could very well go beyond better fitting clothes.

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Comments (25)

Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg

Personally, I think anyone who can run more than a kilometer is insane! I cycle up to 2 hours a day (not training...transportation!) and I swim up to 9 hours a week. Can't run though...I've got weird arches on my feet and need orthotics and running causes me pain even though I think at this stage i must be fit enough...I can totally agree with the addiction thing do. I need my 2 or 3 hours a day or i get really hyper and start saying random stupid things. I think swimming is easier on the body than running, and the pace i like to swim for my distance races and stuff is more a walking pace anyway...but i wouldn't know, not being a runner or anything.

Posted September 23, 2007 06:03 PM

sandy

toronto

All:

Thanks for the info. I've already ditched my running friends and have switched to the rather solitary activity of resistance training. I actually have a good training buddy, but I've learned that only I can motivate myself. But, unfortunately, running by myself bores me to tears. My ankles also feel loads better now that I'm not running anymore, actually.

Posted September 18, 2007 02:29 PM

Ryan

Halifax

Jim,

I agree. Sorry I can't comment any more or give you more info as per your request. It seems my posts are being blocked without reason.

Ryan

Posted September 18, 2007 01:32 PM

Jim

Timmins

Time for L'agent de provocateur...Sandy-get new friends or learn how to enjoy running by yourself. Alone does not equate to lonely. Anyone who would taunt, tease, or in any way derise your effort based on their ability is one step below poking you with a pointy stick to make you go faster. Real friends applaud effort rather than gun times.
Mike B and Ryan-You make yourselves targets when you apply specific advice based on large population studies. I'd rather you infer a generality that may or may not apply than insist that numbers imply an eventuality. I'm sure that one-on-one your advice could be specific, but informally you're asking for arguments.
To all those who are vigilant about their health-the more we learn the more we should inquire-especially because we are a generation in flux. But always remember the one and only expert you should listen to in the end is your own body. It will inform you loud and clear of your limitations.

Posted September 14, 2007 08:59 AM

Sandra

Mississauga

Mike,

I completely agree with you about Sandy.

Sandy, you need to find a new group to run with. If there is anything I can say about those I run with, they are a very supportive and positive group of people. They never taunt anyone to continue or to run faster if someone is injured or in pain. I've seen the exact opposite. A gentleman in my running group actually extended his run to make sure another member finished his run (he was fading fast and had little energy to finish). This is the type of support you need. Ditch your so-called running friends...

Posted September 12, 2007 08:15 PM

Michelle

canada

Sandy...i think you need new friends. No one I've ever run with has ever taunted me for speed or being winded or injury (and I've dealt with all 3). Yes sometimes our judgment gets clouded and we run through pain but we quickly learn what pain we can run through...and when we get destructive we usually have other runners who tell us to smarten up! Any running friends or people i know are super positive, encouraging and cheer just as loud for the person to cross first as they do for the person to cross last. I think your group is the anomolie, not the rule.

Posted September 12, 2007 10:57 AM

Mike B

Toronto

Note that I did not tell anyone to 'slow down' because they are old. I stated that activity must be managed to maximize benefits while minimizing the risks. We start losing resiliancy, the ability to quickly recover from soft tissue injuries around 25 years old. Our collogen starts drying out. That's a hard limit. A three month fix for a 20 year old may be a one year fix for a 50 year old. Any physio can confirm this fact. What would you rather do? Break the envelope one day and spend the next 365 healing, or ease up an eyelash and continue for the other 364?


Henry J. Montoye [et al.]. Measuring Physical Activity and Energy Expenditure. Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics, c1996, is groups of tables with activities measured as METs or Metabolic Equivalent that measures the amount of O2/kg/minute burned. Vigorous Dance is rated at 9-11 METS or around 600 calories per hour. The intensity comes from engaging the quads and getting the arms above the level of the heart for the turns and spins. That ranks with cross country skiing or swimming the butterfly stroke. I do personal training and encourage my people to get out and dance if they don't like the 'usual' exercises such as running or playing games with a stick, ball or bat.

Posted September 11, 2007 08:33 PM

sandy

toronto

Sandra:

I didn't mean to offend you with my comment. There was no need to become defensive! I didn't make this up and I didn't "hear it from someone". This was totally from observation: I have several friends who are runners and have encouraged me to run with them. I don't join them anymore because they didn't believe in slowing down for injury or illness, nor did they seem to believe in personal limitations.

If they were sick, they'd pop an Advil and keep going. If they had an injury, they'd either "run through the pain" or take an aspirin. If someone was tired and couldn't do a full run (getting winded, whatever), they would taunt them and expect them to keep up.

It was not fun. And as someone with a bum ankle, it was not something I could deal with, so I stopped joining them.

They are very smug about the fact that they run and use it as some meter for fitness, one that I can never live up to on account that I can't run 1K without stopping to rest my ankle.

Posted September 10, 2007 11:24 AM

Jim

Timmins


The one thing i know about running is that it is the one thing i can count on in my day that is wholly mine. For that reason, I look forward to it every day. I (and I would think most are the same) compromise control to co-workers, spouse, friends, children, co-commuters, etc, etc etc. When I run it is just me and the road. Is that an addiction? I will do it even when i have to drive myself to do it, because i know the payoff will be there at the end. But if there is only pain, I am smart enough to put it off to another day. When I run with my partner (once a week), we confer before we go out so that our goals are the same. I am much faster than she, but she drives me to do some lap intervals or hills. Even then the run is mine, mostly because we dont talk much-we socialize after.
As for anyone that thinks that age=death...I ran a 10K race in Sudbury in April - I finished 30th/236. And yet 12th in my age group (40-49). Not to mention the 2-50yr, and 70yr old that beat me. Come grow old with me-your best times are yet to be.

Ryan:
I've been following your posts closely as; #1 your comments on sarcopenia interest me as 50 is fast approaching. #2 you state you are a professional, and you sound like you take it seriously....but 24min/week?? I stretch more than that. What is the regiemen - F, I, and T? I cant find any sources that agree on motor-unit loss/remodeling or preventitive course. I've read many studies on the subject, and most disagree on rate/level of loss and preventitive action (all agree resistance exercise is the best measure).

Posted September 10, 2007 08:37 AM

Ryan

Halifax

"Cardio" is a mis-used word. When most people use the word, they are meaning conditioning. I need to improve my conditioning. If I run, it will make me a better runner. If I am a better runner, than I must have a healthier heart. Which is not true. Fitness vs. Health. A diseased heart is a diseased heart, influenced by genetics more than anything.

When I think of cardio, I think of improving the functions of my heart and vascular system. For this purpose, strength training more than adequately fits this role. From my 24 (to 40) minutes of strength training per week, I have lowered my BP, and my resting HR is down to 44 from low 60's. A number of my clients are finally off BP meds after 20 yrs from 40 min strength training per week. Cardio.
No type of exercise improves the function of the heart or lungs per se. Your heart does not beat any stronger, and your lung capacity does not significantly change. (I think only ~4% is trainable)
Exercise primarily conditions your muscles! Whether you run, skip, climb or strength train. This muscle conditioning leads to the hemodynamic changes that most will chalk up to "better cardio"

Furthermore, yes, we will all die. But ST retains functional capacity better than all other forms of activity.

Have all the fun and variety with movement that you want but ST so you can do it for longer at the end your days.



Posted September 9, 2007 07:54 PM

Sandra

Mississauga

First, I would like to comment to Sandy. Whoever told you runners and running partners don't tell each other to slow down or take a day off is completely off their rocker...and if it was you who thought of this completely false comment, I would like to say that we do...all the time!

I happen to be the running partner of the woman who ran the "easy" 34K run and I have to tell you we encourage each other to run slower, take a day off, whatever we feel might be needed at the time. We also encourage each other to work harder in order to reach our ultimate goal.

As for the comment Mike made below about age and slowing down in order to preserve the body, you should be aware that Peter H. is an "elite" runner. Just because someone's photo shows an older individual does not mean that he/she is not of "elite athletic caliber". You should be careful what you say...and perhaps do your homework before sticking your foot in your mouth.


Posted September 9, 2007 02:57 PM

Michelle

canada

Ryan...of course nothing takes the place of strength training but nothing you can say can ever convince me that anything can take the place of cardio. They work hand in hand and I can't imagine only exercising 24 minutes a week. That's absolutely ludicrous to consider that healthful living. God made us to move. We were designed to be active including taking stairs. Your opinion is simply your opinion and there are millions of other opinions that make sense. REgardless of the form of exercise we engage in, the object is we engage, enjoy it and have fun. Last time I checked we all end up dead whether we run, strength train, both or none.

Posted September 7, 2007 05:43 PM

Ryan

Halifax

Michelle,

It's not that I'm addicted to strength training. It's that I believe that strength is the absolute most important aspect of a person's functional longevity. I strength train a total of 24 min/week. Strength training should be dosed in the minimum required amount to stimulate the maximum adaptive response, rather than the maximum that one can tolerate.

What's different between our thinking is our definition of exercise. We have been lead to believe that any kind of movement is deemed exercise. (like taking more stairs, or doing your housework) But if a definition means everything, than it means nothing at all.

Having said that, I believe that strength training is a much more accurate definition or exercise, because of the profound effect it has on ALL systems of the body, with very negligible possibility for injury. It should not take the place of other activities, but should compliment them with better performance and less chances of injury.(properly performed and supervised) When you lose strength it has major impact on not only functional abilities, but on metabolism, cardiovascular capacity, insulin sensitivity, bone density, etc.

While recreational activities can be an individual fit, (running, swimming, hiking, tai chi) none of these replace the need for ST, because none of these address Type II muscle fibers. (which we lose with age)

Think of ST as flossing, and everything else as brushing. It has been shown that brushing has a positive impact on ones dental health, but no comparison to flossing, no matter how mush you hate doing it.


Posted September 7, 2007 03:15 PM

sandy

toronto

Runners seem to be the workout fanatics most likely to go overboard! My friends who are runners will not change their routine (except to run longer, harder, faster) even after they have obviously plateaued. They also insist on running when injured or ill.

I circuit (strength) train with aerobic intervals that sometimes include running (but usually include skipping rope, the unsung hero of all aerobic exercise!). It's tough and it needs to be modified every 6 weeks. It can be addictive, but when I first started out, my trainer very earnestly told me that there was no use training while injured or sick; I would do more harm than good. She even advised me not to work out when excessively tired!

While strength training with a partner can push you further, most of the time, if you choose your partner wisely (and don't team up with the 'roidy, grunting dudes), s/he will be able to tell when you're getting tired or struggling and will stop things there. But it seems that runners rarely tell each other to slow down and be careful.

If you really look at it, it seems that runners really get addicted to the activity. How else would one explain their need to keep going even when under the weather?

Posted September 7, 2007 03:14 PM

Michelle

Canada

You know I will admit I'm "addicted" to running. It makes me feel good so I do it and I do it over and over and over. There are so many other things that are worse to be addicted to. Obsession and addiction are 2 different things. I strength train too, but really only to support running and I like how defined muscles look and I'm protecting hopefully against osteoprosis.

Ryan...sounds to me like you're addicted to strength training. Or is it just that's your preferred form of exercising? And I could find an obsucre quote to support my side too from many different sources. It comes down to what motivates each person. If it's running, biking, strength training or tai chi...do it if you like it. Then do it some more ;-)

Posted September 7, 2007 12:02 PM

Jim

Timmins

There are way to many people who read too much and understand too little. Every time a new study, book, or website promotes one point of view, people just love to lose their objectivity and jump aboard. If you read something you agree with, you should automatically try to disprove it. If you can't, that belief becomes stronger. Dont forget-people with many letters after their names claimed cigarette smoking was benificial for "nerves" back in the 50's.
The one expert you should always listen to is your own body! You might be surprised what it can tell you. I hate this new love affair we have with "extreme". It usually results in extreme problems. If you hurt when you exercise, there's a good chance you're doing something wrong. Injury, intensity, conditioning, or style can all cause this. Maybe you aren't as athletic as you think. Take a day off, slow down, ease up frequency. You might even have to diversify, and take up a new activity that will give overused muscles a break. Notice i didn't say stop? Addictions are a product of a weak mind-so dont forget to exercise it too.
I hope I don't stop running until my addiction to breathing is cured, but my body tells me how much to run, and some times a 15K run turns into a 10K trot, or a 5K jog. Sometimes it tells me to go take a 4 mile hike only stopping occasionally to hit a golfball.

Posted September 7, 2007 08:42 AM

Ryan

Halifax

I tend to agree with Mike on this one. In addition to the arguments on injury (which I agree with), obsession tends to cloud objectivity. I think that for most people, especially in the aging population, health and longevity is a major goal that we are striving for with exercise. But the fact remains that there is a significant different between health and fitness. Being fit does not guarantee health, and being unfit does not guarantee disease.

"People do not need to be aerobically fit to be healthy."

-Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Cooper Institute of Aerobics.


As I have stated on this site before, I believe strength to be the most important factor to train for. (ie. strength training) While no type of exercise guarantees health, strength does guarantee our functionality for much longer, than any other aspect of health and fitness.


Mike B: The one thing I can't agree with is burning 600 calories per hour. This is absurd. Can you provide a reference for this? I would say that if someone told you this, they either have no idea what they are talking about or they are flat out lying to you.

Even assuming you could burn energy this quickly, it would surely produce a catabolic effect on muscle tissue, and connective tissue, along with body fat, which is not desirable in the least. This is what happens when people lose a lot of weight very quickly like in eating disorders, and why they look so gaunt.

Posted September 6, 2007 03:30 PM

Mike B

Toronto

You are not a spring chicken based on your photo. If you are not careful, you will break.

Collagen starts losing its resiliency after 25 years of age. While older people may have strength and endurance, recovery time from an injury is longer than a 20 year old. Older people need to manage their physical activities and challenges to maximize the benefits while minimizing the injury risks.

A fine fuzzy line separates commitment and obsession/addiction. Obsession appears to be very strong in runners who will 'train' through injuries or physical setbacks. Going for that 'runner's high' while enduring pain and injury is counter-productive and indeed is self-destructive.

That chat with your doctor about wanting to run right after that procedure is a wake-up call. You are not an Olympic level or professional athlete. The withdrawal symptoms that hyper exercisers display when deprived of their highs can point to other challenges in their lives that need mending.

No benefit comes from exercising through injury or pain, the body's early warning system that damage is happening. Your running mate who did that 34k run on an injured hamstring is setting herself up for a chronic injury she will never recover from. A cane could be her new running mate.

I used to run 9 miles a day in my early thirties until I woke up one morning barely able to walk. Six weeks of rest sorted the hip joints out, but I learned a valuable lesson. Too much of a good thing is worse than a little of any bad thing.

I do the odd 10 K and have balanced my fitness program to include strength, flexibility and cardio activities such as running and cycling. I throw in salsa dancing for fun as it can burn off 600 calories per hour. Oh yes, I'm in my early 50s. I want to enjoy these activities a generation from now when I'm in my 70s, so I'm taking care not to break my body.

If I hurt, I take that day or two off. I feel refreshed going back and performance blips up. Your gang should consider the same.

Posted September 6, 2007 11:31 AM

Gord

In the past I have had several years where I was weight training every day, doing martial arts three to four times a week and biking three or four miles a day.
Those people around me didnt see anything wrong with what I was doing, but I had segmented relationships, where nobody saw every workout I was doing.
This led me to a hip injury that left me unable to walk, which led to an appointment with a orthopedic surgeon. Of course, the surgeon recommended cutting me open, which wasnt going to happen. This led me to alternate healing modalities and thank god.
I found that the alternate healing modes, which were having great effects on my hip, were also uncovering a lot of somatic issues that I didnt want to deal with and in some cases, didnt even know where present.
I can see now why I felt I had to keep moving, keep working out.
I was dealing with other addiction issues when I was having my workout frenzies. It seems addictive tendencies can be transplanted in regards to their outward manifestations.

Posted September 4, 2007 04:32 PM

Marc

BC

I find it interesting how it's runners who are responding and confirming what everyone is saying. Training for a marathon is great, I have done it myself. But one must question his or her habits when you're having trouble doing basic physical things, like going down stairs... The biggest problem with "hardcore" trainers is that they tend to move that fine line between themselves and the addicted.

Posted September 4, 2007 02:50 PM

Elissa Beitschat

Admissions are a relief to disorders....good for all of you...keep up the good work.
E

Posted September 4, 2007 12:30 PM

Melanie

Toronto

Having just returned from a 32K run (not yet ready for a nap) I felt I just had to comment.

With my first marathon just over a month away, I'm into the long distances and harder workouts. This is just part of the normal training for a marathon.

But when I tell my friends about what I'm doing, how I eat, how I have to adjust my schedule, etc I might seem hardcore or "addicted" but compared with my runner friends, I'm taking things fairly conservatively. I know I'm doing things right and not being excessive. Unfortunately, my non-runner friends don't understand the difference because they have zero knowledge of running or training.

I don't mind people who actually know something about sports medicine or coaching defining what's pathological. But everybody else should make sure they know what they're talking about (i.e., how much training is too much for any particular goal) before misapplying label of "addiction." I'm saying this because I've reached my limit of hearing non-runners opine about how bad running is based on zero experience, knowledge or engagement with running or sports medicine.

Though I've certainly met some runners who appear to be pathological about their sport, I've also come to recognise that different goals require different levels of commitment. Is somebody who is trying to qualify for Boston "insane" because they're out more times a week than I am? At one time, I would have thought so. Now I'm educated about the sport and varying levels of commitment from amateur to elite.

Posted September 2, 2007 12:23 PM

Brenda

Sudbury

I can relate to 'needing' a 5 mile run (fix) to get my day 'right'. I didn't have eating problems and everything was great until I injured myself. The withdrawals were devestating though. I was depressed and I had difficulty working through my injury because I couldn't build up my run just a 1/4 km at a time as the physio recommended without overdoing it and re injuring myself and causing permanent damage. I still miss running and the euphoria and strength it gave me.

Posted September 2, 2007 10:19 AM

Chris Jones

thanks to CBC and yourself for the constant encouragement of this blog..., this straw man is inspired by your daily work online that makes me think more of the iron men and the iron I once had in my own nature ...

Posted September 1, 2007 03:17 PM

johnny longsleeves

Mississauga

I think it's all relative.

While I am running 5 days a week logging 70-80 Km's a week, I don't consider this excessive. I run late at night after the kids go to sleep. I'm training for my first full marathon.

Contrast that with a triathelete who endures 3 sporting diciplines (Swimming, cycling and running) in the same day. Their time commitment to training is longer, the intensity (on their body) is a lot harder and their race times can span upwards of 9+ hours, depending on the race.

Now that's hardcore.

Posted August 31, 2007 10:20 AM

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Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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Moving On NHL playoffs: 4 stories from Sunday video
Carey Price once again proved his worth to the Montreal Canadiens in their series-clinching victory over the Ottawa Senators, while the Minnesota Wild took full advantage of the comforts of home to eliminate the St. Louis Blues. Here are four stories from Sunday's NHL playoff action.
#NHLPlayoffs: Habs defeat Sens in 21 tweets or less video
You could have watched Game 6 between the Canadiens and Senators on television, or streamed it on your computer. But the untold story of Sunday night's contest was through the hockey fans on Twitter.
Super Pest Habs' Brendan Gallagher taunts Mark Stone's wrist injury
Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher took the opportunity to poke fun at Senators rookie Mark Stone, while also scoring the goal that knocked out Ottawa from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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