Friday, October 4, 2013

Women: Running into Trouble

By John Kieferarticles.elitefts.com


When I look at the fat guy in the gym wasting his time on forearm curls to lose weight, I don’t feel sympathy. The big tough guy getting stapled to the bench by 365 pounds, when just a second ago he couldn’t even handle 315 pounds — nope, no sympathy there either. The girl who spends thirty minutes bouncing between the yes-no machines (abductor and adductor machines), who is going to have trouble walking the next day — I can’t muster even an iota of pathos. Nobody told them to do these things. But then I watch my friend, Jessica, running on the treadmill, day after day, year after year, running like a madwoman and going nowhere. Her body seems to get softer with every mile and the softer she gets the more she runs. I do feel pity for her because everybody, everywhere has convinced her that running is the way to stay slim and toned.
There’s a Jessica in every gym and spotting one is easy. The woman that runs for an hour or more every day on the treadmill, who every month or so sets a new distance or time goal. Maybe the goal encompasses the treadmill workouts; maybe it will be her fifth fund-raising marathon; or maybe she’s competing with runners in Finland via Nike®. The goal doesn’t matter, because years of seeing her on the treadmill exposes the results: she’s still — I’m not going to sugar coat this — fat. Or worse, she’s fatter.
I tried to rescue my Jessica from the clutches of the cardio contingent, but to no avail until a month ago when she called to tell me that a blood test had confirmed her doctor’s suspicion: she had hypothyroidism — her body no longer made enough thyroid hormone. Her metabolism slowed to a snail’s pace and the fat was accumulating. Now she had a culprit to blame, it wasn’t the cardio causing her problems, it was her body rebelling. When Jessica asked my advice, I told her to do two things: schedule a second test for two weeks later and until then, stop all the goddamn running.
Don’t assume I’m picking on women or making fun. There are men out there who do the same, thinking cardio wipes away the gut resulting from regular weekend beer binges, but they are, in comparison, rare. I am targeting women for three very good reasons:
  1. They are often intensely recruited for fund-raisers like Team-In-Training, lured by the promise of slim, trim health resulting from the month of cardio training leading to a marathon in addition to helping the charity in question
  2. Some physique coaches prescribe 20-plus hours per week of pre-contest cardio for women (that’s a part-time job)
  3. Steady-state endurance activities like this devastate a woman’s metabolism. It will devastate a man’s too, but in different ways.
There’s not much I hate in the fitness world — well, that’s not true, I hate most things about its present state, but at the top of the list is over-prescribed cardio. I’m not talking about walking or even appropriate HIIT cardio, but the running, cycling, stair climbing or elliptical variety done for hours at or above 65 percent of max heart rate, actually anaerobic threshold is a better measure, but not practical for day-to-day use.
Trashing steady-state cardio is nothing new and the better of the physique gurus figured this out a long time ago, but even then, they only apply the no-steady-state-cardio rule to contest preparation. The non-cardio coaches fail to state the most detrimental effect, one that applies specifically to women and is a primary reason many first-time or second-time figure and bikini competitors explode in weight when returning to their normal diet. It’s the same reason the Jessicas of the world run for hours per week with negative results. Studies demonstrate beyond any doubt that in women, cardio chronically shuts down the production of the thyroid hormone, T3.1-11

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