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Thread: Questions from a Former Runner

  1. #1
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    Default Questions from a Former Runner

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    I started running my freshman year of high school as a result of being part of my high schoolís soccer team. I continued running up until I started college at which point I continued running sporadically. Towards the end of my senior year of college I did a very long run (about 20 miles) with little training as part of a fundraiser. This turned out to be a very dumb thing to do because since then Iíve not been able to run more than 3 miles without significant pain in my ankles and/or knees. Iíve tried everything from reducing the rate of increase of the mileage to changing shoes to switching to a treadmill and nothing seemed to work.

    A week or so ago, I stumbled on this (link) article that you wrote (it was mentioned in a podcast I listen to), which led to reading a few other articles on startingstrength.com. It wasnít long before I found your article (link) making the case against running, which was quite eye-opening, to say the least. Since then, Iíve read several more articles as well as watched several videos including this one (link) on the case for the Starting Strength model. Over the past couple weeks, Iíve started to look at things in a new light and have become aware of the fact that the soreness that Iíve been experiencing from sleeping on my shoulder wrong a few months ago (as well as other aches and pains I have from time to time) is probably due to my lack of strength.

    All that to say, at this point, Iím 95 percent convinced, and the only reason that percentage isnít at 100 percent is because I still have some unanswered questions:
    1. As a mechanical engineer who has done a lot of running and studied the way the foot is constructed, I can say with confidence that the human foot is an exquisite mechanical system that appears to be designed for the purpose of making it possible for people to run efficiently. Further, while (as youíve pointed out), lifting heavy things is one of the most natural things a person can do, isnít it also true that running is an entirely natural thing to do? After all, a runner requires even less equipment than the weight lifter (athletes in ancient times even did it in the nude without any equipment at all). How is it that one completely natural activity (i.e. strength training with barbell exercises) is extremely good for you while another completely natural activity (i.e. running) can actually be detrimental to your health with these differences becoming more stark as the activity becomes more extreme?
    2. One of the arguments in favor of the healthiness of running that Iíve heard is the fact that there are many old people (including nonagenarians) who run and sometimes do so for quite long distances (including marathons). Correct me if Iím wrong, but you are making a different point: not only can a person of any age improve their health by strength training, but also a person who begins strength training at the age of 10 can continue doing it until they die at 90+ without concern for injury that is associated with repetitive movements (or any of the other downsides to running you describe). Am I understanding that correctly?
    3. Anytime I encounter something that causes me to massively change my thinking like this, Iím extremely interested to hear what people who arenít convinced by the argument have to say about it. In light of that, what would you say is the best argument against the Starting Strength model that youíre aware of, and what is your response? Furthermore, would you be willing to share something that someone critical of the Starting Strength program has written that you believe represents the best argument against it?
    4. My wife eats much more healthily than I do, and as is true of almost all women, would like to lose some weight (particularly after giving birth to my son last year). However, she long ago bought into Pilates and Yoga (not the wacky meditation part, but just the stretching part). How would you recommend that I explain to her that she would benefit far more from strength training when she wants to be skinnier, not necessarily stronger (after all, ďbeefyĒ is not really the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of attractive traits of the female gender)?
    5. Finally, in your video making the case for the Starting Strength model, you mention that there needs to be significant amounts of time (i.e. ~7 minutes for a novice and 15-20 minutes for someone more advanced) between sets to allow for sufficient recovery, which would seem to very quickly add up to a massive amount of time across 5 sets of 5 different activities. How much time do I need to be prepared to commit to strength training each week during the ďnoviceĒ phase? Can it be done with a time commitment of just 1 hour per day?

  2. #2
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    I think we will make a podcast out of this thoughtful post. Watch for it soon.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlewis3348 View Post

    All that to say, at this point, Iím 95 percent convinced, and the only reason that percentage isnít at 100 percent is because I still have some unanswered questions:
    1. My wife eats much more healthily than I do, and as is true of almost all women, would like to lose some weight (particularly after giving birth to my son last year). However, she long ago bought into Pilates and Yoga (not the wacky meditation part, but just the stretching part). How would you recommend that I explain to her that she would benefit far more from strength training when she wants to be skinnier, not necessarily stronger (after all, ďbeefyĒ is not really the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of attractive traits of the female gender)?
    2. Finally, in your video making the case for the Starting Strength model, you mention that there needs to be significant amounts of time (i.e. ~7 minutes for a novice and 15-20 minutes for someone more advanced) between sets to allow for sufficient recovery, which would seem to very quickly add up to a massive amount of time across 5 sets of 5 different activities. How much time do I need to be prepared to commit to strength training each week during the ďnoviceĒ phase? Can it be done with a time commitment of just 1 hour per day?

    As a recovering "runner," I'll tackle the two that I have experience with. The first three are for those far smarter than me, but I'll give these a go....

    The best way to show your wife is by doing it yourself, being transformed, and her seeing the evidence of a life changed. It's ALWAYS that simple. I'll give you some background information about me which may be helpful, but you doing it and her seeing it will far outweigh any number of cases, as it should.

    I'm 6'1 and in my late 20s as I was trying to improve and progress my running I got myself down to 160lbs. Let that sink in. I realize this isn't the case for all runners, or even many, but doing so enabled me to "run" better, or so I thought. Little did I know the ill-effects doings so would have on my health. Here I am nearly a decade later trying to achieve strength that would have easily been conquered had I not "devoted" so much to running. I'm stronger now, and if I had to, I can run faster....... because I can. There's a slew of studies that will show strength increases improve your running, but more importantly, as Mark and others tend to point out, strength will improve your life in numerous other ways. I'm fighting back and it's been a long self inflicted road mostly due to stupidity, but it's worth it. My story isn't that unique and you can find any number of similar ones if you take a few minutes to look around. I know my health is far better now than when I was a twig. Internally, I didn't give my body much care (i.e. food, nutrients, etc) when I "toned" with 'em razzzzer abzzzzz and my general health certainly paid the price.

  4. #4
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    Before I out myself as a formerly running-adjacent person, a few responses:

    #3. The best argument against the Starting Strength model. That's a tough one, because arguments against the model are basically a plot to keep you weak. There's a lot of advocacy for the model on the website, as well there should be. One of my favorite shorthand arguments that you see here is the following: When did someone ever wish that they were weaker or say "I regret that I was too strong."

    #4. Convincing the spouse. Here's a link to an article and a video addressing women's concerns about barbell training (many others on the site):

    The Iron Makes Us Strong | Kelli Nielson

    Overcoming the Fear of Barbell Training | Starting Strength Podcast

    #5. Lengthy workouts. Rip just went over this again on a forum thread: you can hurry by doing warm-up sets between work sets:

    NLP workouts taking 2 hours - other's experience

    Also, workouts are three exercises each, not five (Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition, p. 296-297).

    #1, #2. Running. O.K., now onto running. You can hardly get very far in strength training if you run, for all the reasons Rip points out in the article you linked to. Some (younger) people aim for a compromise, but I'm past the point of being able to consider that (still wearing the race shirts, though).

    But to your questions . . . I categorically deny all knowledge, association or endorsement, but there's a guy named Barefoot Ken Bob . . .

    He agrees that the foot that has been "constructed" (as you say) for running, but believes that shoes mess this up (hence "Barefoot"). He and Rip would agree that running shoes are bad!

    Barefoot Ken Bob's idea is that you re-train yourself to run carefully without slamming your weight down on your (bare) foot--again, I categorically deny ever having done this at a Barefoot Ken Bob workshop or after. Barefoot Ken Bob has many marathons under his belt.

    Old folks who are still runners seem to run in this manner, even though they (usually) are wearing shoes. Their feet seem to skim the ground, they don't bob up and down, and they kind of look like they are practically walking (until they zoom by you).

    Reducing joint stress by running in a manner that involves less loading and acceleration for said joints would seem logically to lead to less injury, but the real fun (which I have no knowledge of) is having perplexed observers yell "You're not wearing shoes!?" as you run by.

  5. #5
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    On whether or not barbell lifts are natural:

    Squatting is standing up.
    Overhead Pressing is putting something over your head.
    Bench Pressing is pushing something away.
    Deadlifting is picking up a thing.
    Power Cleaning is a jump.

    We evolved to do all that stuff. They've just figured out a way to scale everything up in a safe manner.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlewis3348 View Post
    How is it that one completely natural activity (i.e. strength training with barbell exercises) is extremely good for you while another completely natural activity (i.e. running) can actually be detrimental to your health with these differences becoming more stark as the activity becomes more extreme?
    I think the biggest problem with runners is not that they are running, but that they are not lifting and eating. Being weak is bad for you and running does not make you strong. There is no reason to run, since barbell training provides conditioning too, other than if you love to run.

    I also don't think you just get "healthier" as you progress in barbell training. Sure the health benefits for novices are huge, but there is some point in training advancement that the huge stresses of training (acute and built-up fatigue) negatively impact your health. See the articles on the MED.

  7. #7
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    You could just try it for 2 months. If you dont like being bigger and stronger just stop, go back to running more and eating less and it will all go away.

    Just because something is natural doesnt make it good for you and even good things can be overdone too.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlewis3348 View Post
    odel, you mention that there needs to be significant amounts of time (i.e. ~7 minutes for a novice and 15-20 minutes for someone more advanced) between sets to allow for sufficient recovery[/LIST]
    Here's a bit I can help with.

    Around 5 minutes should be adequate for most of your lifting life. Novice to Advanced. You are not doing 5x5 in novice phase....3x5.

    7-8+/- mins for the times you are really grinding heavy sets or singles. These days are planned so you will know well in advance when days will require more time, they are not supposed to happen in your novice phase.

    15 minutes will likely only happen if you are in a competition and have to weight your turn. You will appreciate the rest.

    An hour will be a bit short.

  9. #9
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    Running is largely a hedonistic form of exercise. For most people it is not a competitive sport, but a repetitive activity. The mere act of running for some amount of distance gives an endorphin high. This is the reward. Running has little value in the real world experience of existence, therefore it’s a method of gaining pleasure without gaining value.

    Strength training -as opposed to body building-is the opposite of running. It’s rewards are the objective values of strength, which are directly applicable to basic existence. There is no endorphin high, there is only the day to day grind of loading up a bar with increasingly heavy weights and performing the movement. The pleasure can only be obtained by gaining the value of strength.

  10. #10
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    starting strength coach development program
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I think we will make a podcast out of this thoughtful post. Watch for it soon.
    Thanks, Rip. I'll be looking forward to it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Swyou22 View Post
    The best way to show your wife is by doing it yourself, being transformed, and her seeing the evidence of a life changed.
    I do think this is a pretty significant point, but there is a significant aspect of a person's health that can't be seen. Further, a person is only going to be willing to consider something if their predispositions against it are dealt with first. I'm trying to deal with those in the most effective way possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Killmond View Post
    #4. Convincing the spouse. Here's a link to an article and a video addressing women's concerns about barbell training (many others on the site).

    #5. Lengthy workouts. Rip just went over this again on a forum thread: you can hurry by doing warm-up sets between work sets.
    Thanks for the links! They are quite informative.

    Quote Originally Posted by J. Killmond View Post
    Also, workouts are three exercises each, not five (Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 3rd edition, p. 296-297).
    Oh, I thought the five exercises in a barbel workout were the squat, deadlift, press, bench press, and power clean. I've obviously not read the book, but I do recall Rip saying in some of the videos and interviews I've watched/heard that there are five basic barbell exercises. Could you clarify what I'm misunderstanding?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Rodgers View Post
    On whether or not barbell lifts are natural ... .
    My question wasn't whether barbell lifts were natural or not, but rather why another natural activity (i.e. running) seems to have the opposite results (especially when taken to the extreme) when compared to barbell training.

    Quote Originally Posted by m s View Post
    I also don't think you just get "healthier" as you progress in barbell training. Sure the health benefits for novices are huge, but there is some point in training advancement that the huge stresses of training (acute and built-up fatigue) negatively impact your health. See the articles on the MED.
    Could you clarify what you mean when you refer to the "negative impacts on health"? Also, I don't know what "the MED" is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Le Comte View Post
    You could just try it for 2 months. If you dont like being bigger and stronger just stop, go back to running more and eating less and it will all go away.

    Just because something is natural doesnt make it good for you and even good things can be overdone too.
    Yeah, I get that. I just like to understand things at a deeper level than most people, and while I've already been convinced by seeing the results in other people THAT it works, I want to better understand WHY it works so I can provide good answers when people ask why I'm doing what I'm doing.

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