Thursday, January 04, 2007

To my Athena runner friends

Want to get pissed off? Get a load of this article.

"Good female runners generally do not look like plus-size models. It's not a question of cause and effect; it's a question of natural selection. You can't run to get that cute little runner's body. It's actually reversed. You have to have that cute little runner's body to survive running. . . . The bottom line: Running is not good for most females. If you want higher-intensity exercise, ride a stationary bike. Take a spin class, use a stairclimber, and don't run."

I'll bet that dinosaur is real popular with his female clients, eh? I'll get right on that stationary bike, you betcha. Yeah, since I'm training for that Olympic stationary bike competition, after all.


Heather said...

That is just plain wrong. Let's discourage people from running why don't we. Yes, we all can't be elite athletes (not that most of have illusions that we will be), but we do our best. I've been a runner since 1999 (two marathons and many half marathons), and have never had an injury that wasn't in some way related to shoes. What an extremely egotistical article! Yuck.

Amber said...

Ever since I started being active, it's definitely my experience that people HATE to see fat people exercising, ESPECIALLY running. It makes them uncomfortable. We no longer fit into their stereotype.

bunnygirl said...

Well, he's right about the Q-angle issue. I've had problems with mismatched Q-angles, and it's hell, even if you're one of those "skinny runners."

BUT, the answer to the problem isn't "women shouldn't run." That's like saying that we should ban chocolate because some people eat more of it than they should.

Women with Q-angle issues (more common in persons with heavy thighs, no matter what the cause), should be aware of the greater potential for injury and should have a well-designed exercise plan. There's no reason for that plan not to include running, or even marathoning.

The insult of this article isn't that he points out some valid biomechanical concerns (women of all sizes are more prone to Q-angle problems than are men). The problem is that he seems to think we aren't bright enough or disciplined enough to develop and stick with a program that takes this matter into account.

LeahC said...

what a horrible article. as bunnygirl says, while he might be correct about the Q angle stuff, I don't think only elite women should be runners, that's ridiculous.

what a jerk. I don't know what else to say. Elite women runners don't have curves either because they are well....elite and I'm guessing don't have any fat on them.

sigh. thanks for the article though, I always like having something to rile me up :-)

Iron Pol said...

Hmmmm, allow me to chime in as a guy.

What an boob, what a maroon... (in my best Bugs Bunny impression).

He makes two huge logic errors. First, he assumes women are running in order to become smaller and/or elite. While weight loss may be on their minds, most people (male and female) acknowledge their limitations and pursue achievable goals.

Second, he assumes that people are oblivious to issues of mechanics. I'm male and had a pelvic torsion. Oh darn, I guess I shouldn't run.

My final thoughts would be these. If you check out his credentials, they have very little to do with the fields of running or endurance sports. He is a strength and conditioning coach. And he seems to specialize in hockey. Not quite a good comparison. And good luck trying to respond to him. I couldn't find any way to actually reach him through his site. That frees him from having to defend his comments.

m said...

What a dick.

I have small hips, but have(had) big boobs. I started running when I was about 150lbs and today I am 140lbs. I'm not winning any races, but I love running. I have been beat by women who have at least 15lbs on me in my only half marathon. I guess their big hips were better than my big boobs (which have shrunk due to running and diet) So if I go down to a b cup will I run faster? I don't think so.

Mojo said...

That's terrible! It's pretty much telling people not to believe in themselves and try!

I didn't have a runners' body a few years ago. I didn't workout at all and developed some saddle bags. I started trail running 6 days a week. I created a runners'body. It wasn't all that it's cracked up to being. I was just plain skinny. No muscle, just boney.

So now, I'm striving for a body builders' body. Thick with muscle. Ask me in three years what I think about muscley bodies. :)

Julia said...

Okay, it's true that professional women runners have low fat percentages, but that is 0000,0008% of the population. What about the other 99% of the women that ENJOY running no matter what body size they have? Good solution, just stop running. I bet this Moron is going to be getting plenty of business...NOT!

nancytoby said...

Actually what pisses me off most is the patronizing tone, telling women what's good for them.

Yeah, and males really shouldn't cycle, either, unless they use big fat chair seats, because it's bad for their reproductive organs.

GeekGirl said...

RRR. Don'tcha just want to prove him wrong? How come women never write articles about what women can't do?

PS: Recommending the Redman Iron Distance for next year if you're still interested. Cheaper, friendlier, and they are now advertising NO CUTOFF TIME. Last year, they followed the last runner around after midnight with a "portable" aid station until he was done.

Triteacher said...

That is friggin' unbelievable!!!

nancytoby said...

Woot, thanks for the tip on Redman! I'll bet their entry fee is more reasonable, too, without even looking it up....

runr53 said...

C'mon Nancy, we all know you really are that guy's ghost writer! Stirring up the hornets nest right, because as thick as us men can be, ain't none of us that thick, hehe! Run Good!

21st Century Mom said...

What an elitist snob and big fat jerk. Not worth our emotional energy.

plods said...

Yes, we all know we all run to become elite runners, why would we run otherwise? *rolls eyes*

KLN said...

Grrrrr, what a jerk.

And amber, as a fat women runner, I mostly get lots of support and encouragement from people. It's only the very small minority who vocalize this kind of crap.

Vickie said...

Well that goes hand in hand with a discussion I have been mulling around as a blog topic: what is considered running well? According to a non-runner woman in our office, unless you can run a race at a 5:30 pace or better, you better not even consider it. As for the article, I would vehemently disagree about running determining shape. Regardless of your size or shape, you will definitely look more toned and muscled with some running. Running does more for my shape than anything else, including any amount of dieting.

Vickie said...

P.S. There is a woman in our running group who has lost over 150 pounds, mainly from running. I almost didn't recognize her the last time I saw her, she has shaped up that much in a couple of years. And she is a lot more consistent and persistent with her exercise than anyone I know.

jeanne said...

oh just what I need--some idiot telling me what I should and shouldn't do. I'm SO SICK of this kind of shit i could scream.(I've read similar crap about slow runners elsewhere.) Maybe i'll write him and tell him he's right, I'm giving up running...because he said to.

as if.

Is it ok for fat men to run? just curious.

OK, now I'll go read the article so I can really get pissed off. Then I'll be back.


jeanne said...

"Women who run successfully for long periods of time were made to run."

Well, that's a relief. So is running 5 1/2 hours considered a long period of time? But then I wonder: is there a minute-per-mile cut off? Like, is 7 min per mile "not successful?"


Jeff said...

I am a guy, about 155-160 lbs, 5'8", and ran my first half marathon last spring, but I was a high school letterman runner. Halfway through the race I had to walk some. Then I got passed by a "fat" or full figured woman. Whichever term is appropriate. She wore pink spandex shorts and had a big, bubble butt! I didn't want to lose to a fat woman, so I immediately started running again but could not keep pace with her. She wore me out and beat me decisively! The article doesn't support my experience because she was in much better shape than me..

nancytoby said...

Hmm, pink shorts? I may just know that woman... ;-)

Athena of Texas said...

just gotta love expert jerks.

*amanda* said...

Well, I'm not a bigger girl, but I'm not sure I meet his qualifications in order to be "allowed to run." Hmm, let's see. Well, I'm a 34A, that's pretty small -- maybe I'm in!!! But...wait...38 inch hips? Those are not small in relation to my bust size. What should I do? When my goal was "small and cute," now, if I keep running, I guess my 34A's will just be saggy.

What a loser.

nios said...

I can undertand how of all of you are upset by this article by mike boyle he does a have a valid point. I work with alot of female clients that are not fit for running we use other methods to get the heart rate up and to get them in shape. Then when they feel like they can sustain a lite jog or a run then we will progress. You have to understand i do this with grown men too- the same exact process. Also i would like to state is he's not discouraging females from running...basically saying running is not meant for all body types and that includes men's bodies too.
Understand its a riddle-question and that people shouldnt twist ones words when the majority of you dont work with people to improve overall health.

nancytoby said...

nios -
I don't see any words being twisted. I may not be taking home a paycheck from clients, but I'll match my knowledge of exercise physiology, sports biomechanics, and sports nutrition with anyone you would like to name. I know that my readers are pretty darned knowledgeable, as well.

ABC said...

Have you read Alwyn Cosgroves thoughts on log distance aerobic training for fat loss? That is just from a physiological standpoint, anatomically, I think Mike is right for the most part. My female clients do not run, nor do I have any aerobic training at all in their routines, yet are the healthiest they have been in years, even at ages over 40 years old.

dmartinez said...

So as not to confuse the issue further, I suggest dealing with Mike directly. He hosts a forum that is a great collection of very knowledgeable coaches and athletes at I would give out his e-mail address, but that is for Coach Boyle himself to do.

Everyone has him all wrong here and Coach Boyle is one of the most open-minded and reasonable coaches anyone in the performance business will ever have the pleasure to meet. I suggest anyone interested in discussing this issue further to do so in an open forum, rather than registering opinions on half-truths pulled from an article meant to stimulate thought. It was not meant as an indictment of runners everywhere.

Also, check out part 2 for more insight to his thoughts on the subject and his reaction to the blog posts:

I am a frequent contributor to Coach Boyle's forum and was saddened to think that people could actually believe that Coach Boyle is some kind've chauvinistic ego-maniac, when in fact the opposite is true. He is famous for having an opinion, but more famous for achieving results with his athletes and for being extremely helpful to young coaches hoping to learn more.

To read further, check out this testosterone nation article and also see the comments (and apparent hate) that he received for making similar, provocative statements regarding weightlifting and the health/performance of the strength athlete.

I hope that if anything comes from this, any runners who may read this blog and have experienced injury may at least consider the facts related to joint mechanics and performance/injury.

Good day to you all.

Daniel Martinez

nancytoby said...

Hmm, that's at least three people now who joined blogger simply to post a reply here. Seems like a few have a vested interest in this issue, eh?

rodeostar said...

Whether to run or not has nothing to do with gender; it has everything to do with the joints and what they are designed to do and prepared to tolerate. The human body is very adaptive but what most people, coaches and fitness professionals included, fail to realize is that for every adaptation we hope for (improved performance, muscle strength, increased flexibility, weight loss etc.) there is an equal opportunity for adaptations we want to avoid (tendonitis, bone spurs, bursitis, chronic muscle tightness, arthritis etc.). The key is to start off by creating a neuromechanical foundation and then systematically progress all the different tissues that make up the joint so as to increase their ability to tolerate forces. At this point, specific sports and fitness goals can be introduced. Think of it this way…In order to take a trip in your car, you first have to make sure that the car is mechanically sound and that the driver has the skill to drive proficiently under a variety of different circumstances. Once these two things are taken care of you can go just about anywhere and feel relatively prepared. Coaches and fitness professionals are all about the “trip” and nothing else. They’ll argue that they address the other stuff, but it is evident by the increase in orthopedic injuries that they don’t come close. As for Mike’s articles in general, you can take comfort in his many inconsistencies and misinformation. In his “Why Most Women Shouldn’t Run” article he says, “You can’t run to get that cute little runners body. You have to have that cute little runners body to survive running”. However, in his “Is Doing Abs a Waste of Time?” article, he says, “Interval training burns more calories than steady state aerobic training and because it is a sprint program you get a sprinters body”. So, according to Mike, you can’t run to get a runners body, but you can do interval training if you want a sprinters body. His articles are full of these blunders.

whatever said...

What an idiot! My husband and I just completed our first half-marathon together. I'm large-chested, not big in the hips but average sized (I've had 2 9-pound+ babies in the last two years - can't be small after that!) My husband is overweight, but has an athletic build. We wanted to finish together, which meant that I ended up waiting for HIM! His article is COMPLETELY sexist! He doesn't even suggest ANYTHING about men who are out of shape not running! My husband and I are both a little overweight, but healthy. We completed our race together - my husband felt awful, in sore shape, and I felt great (and already signed up for another one!)... hmmm... who shouldn't be running again??

Chris C said...

I'm truly surprised by some of the reactions published in this blog - I've been referred to it from reading the same article everyone else has on Mike Boyle's Strength and Conditioning website.

I think that many of your readers are missing what I believe is the real point here - there is an army of walking wounded out there, and you don't need to become 1 of them (like me).

Running can certainly be addictive - love those endorphins - but that doesn't mean that it's "good" or optimal exercise for all of us in the long term, and that you, the avid runner, shouldn't be thinking about the

Having recently turned 42, I'm now making regular visits to physios, doctors, masseuses etc. for my past training "mistakes" and I'm increasingly in tune with the advice that is being proposed here:

1. Anaerobic vs aerobic: it is much better for me and more efficient timewise to train my heart hard i.e. anaerobically, than do aerobic endurance work.

2. The orthopaedic stress from endurance running is significant and that applies to both men and women. There are many alternative sports/training strategies that will result in less time at physiotherapy or surgery.

My wife was also unfortunately 1 of the women that Coach Boyle was referring to - having invasive knee surgery due to inappropriate training (endurance running etc.) during the late 80's and early 90's.

Don't let Coach Boyle's lack of diplomacy distract you from the quality of the message - I sincerely wish someone had given me/us this advice back then - I can recall being told the opposite advice when I was at school - "do the miles don't worry about the speed". With hindsight, both of us would have gladly given up the "endorphin highs" of running if we had known the knee problems that would result.

1 final point for readers of this blog to ponder - beware of "survivor bias" - those who have stopped running due to orthopaedic problems etc. are probably not going to continue to contribute.

I have too many friends/acquaintances who are now casualties from the jogging boom of the 70's and 80's. I wish your readers a different future.

nancytoby said...

Thanks for all the commentary, but I think one of the major causes of running injuries is not supposedly hazardous endurance exercise on your feet - it's doing too much too fast in the wrong shoes.

Train smart.

If I can - while weighing over 200 pounds - do nine marathons with no more than one major overuse injury - and that one due to a badly done prior surgery - nearly anybody can.

There's a REASON this blog is entitled Run Big!!!

Chris C said...

I agree with your comments that overdoing it is the main risk - but in a real-time training situation how well can we really judge how much is pushing it just enough to get improvement, and how much is too much?? Our bodies are far too complex to identify that fine line precisely - particularly when the feedback only comes years later.

For me the real problem with running is the endorphin high - v. addictive; and can mask any overuse damage that is occurring in the body. I compare it to the effect on Las Vegas gamblers of pumping oxygen into the casinos - they feel great on an oxygen high - but in reality they are tired and increasingly making bad decisions (1 proof is that the casinos are not going out of business).

I agree with your comments on shoes only up to a certain point, I certainly had the best advice/shoes/insoles I could find when I was running. I know that professional athletes are nowadays also doing barefoot training - the goal being to improve foot strength and ankle joint mobility. My doctors, various physios and in the case of my wife, the surgeon, didn't blame the shoes - its hard to argue against all of them when they all reach the same conclusion - overuse injuries for our body types from running.

I checked out your blog - you are doing a lot of training and racing. I applaud your commitment and your energy, and in particular your training plan. I note 2 things on this front, 6 days on with only 1 days rest as per the plan is a lot - I am younger than you and am less ambitious than that, I have 2 days on, 1 day active rest, then 2 days on and 2 days complete rest - and finally that you had 2 days out last week injured.

I hope that you are a better judge of how much is too much than I was.

nancytoby said...

Heh, I got injured throwing my back out by picking up a kicking 3-year-old!! You try it!

You can pick any kind of training you want, including weight training, and if you do too much too fast, or use the wrong technique, you're going to incur musculoskeletal injury. Nothing unique about running there. Happens in any activity, and there's no evidence that it happens any more or less frequently to runners.

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