Wednesday, 24 October 2018

We need to stop making health black and white

Our 5am club had a discussion the other morning about running.  I can't remember how it came up to be honest, but one client said,

"Running is so bad for you. It's one of the worst things you can do to your body." 

This advice the client shared came from a former orthopedic surgeon, I was told who was the surgeon for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Blue Jays and other pro sports teams.  Therefore, absolutely a credible source. HOWEVER, once again we see a typical knee jerk reaction to information that's out there.  

Do you have to run to be healthy?  
Absolutely not. 

 On the other hand, can you run and be healthy?
 Absolutely, yes.

Like everything, there is no right or wrong answer and we need to stop trying to make it black or whiteHealth is individualized.  Absolutely there are many reasons not to run. But on the other hand there are many reasons to enjoy it as well.  I asked my client, "what about the 70-90 year olds you see running marathons or half marathons? Are you going to tell them it's bad for them?".  I've read wonderful stories of people in their 60's and 70's (and beyond) taking up running and finding a new passion and a new exciting lease on life.  This in turn, allows them to be active and healthier because of it, and therefore increases their independence and happiness.  

Another client brought up someone he knows who is an avid runner, and described her look as "gaunt" and "droopy".  I explained how, as with anything, if we lack some sort of balance, those things can possibly happen.  Runners who strictly run and who don't participate in other activities or don't have a general strength training routine may look differently than someone who is balanced in their activity.  But who are we to say that what they are doing is "bad" for them?  This person obviously enjoys running, and she's being active because of it.

 If we continue to say how bad it is for this person and somehow convince them to stop doing something they truly enjoy and feel good doing, then it's not the running that will make them unhealthy, it's the decrease in activity and enjoyment that will make them less healthy.  

I have some incredible strength coaches and fitness professionals that I've followed throughout my career. I have a lot of respect for them all (that's why I follow their work). However, I don't take everything they say as gospel.  If their information was the absolute truth without a doubt, then every single professional I follow would be touting the same information.  But guess what? They aren't! Because there are so many ways a person can be healthy! 

Back to the early morning topic of running and health;  there are many great professionals I follow who say "don't run".  Many of these professionals though, come from a different background than myself or others. These people are or were bodybuilders, powerlifters, discus throwers etc... Of course "running is bad".  In their experiences and their past, running wouldn't work for them and it would inhibit performance.    

On the other side of things, look at professional soccer players, Aussie rules football players, Olympic runners and marathoners etc... They make a living from running. I've seen more retired athletes from these sports than not, who are still very fit themselves even after the sport.  (And of course, some who aren't - once again, it's all individualized.... nothing is black and white).   

I cringe at comments and discussions like this morning, but it's not abnormal thinking. You could argue for and against anything in our world today.  

 It makes me wonder; with all the obesity, illness, diseases etc in the world today...

How much could actually be helped if we just stopped debating on topics like this? 

How much could be helped if we started to look at health, fitness and nutrition as a "multi coloured world of options" for us to choose from, rather than black and white answers? 

How much could be helped by actually being supportive of the fact that people are trying to be healthier?

There are activities, forms of exercise, popular diets etc... that I really don't care for (personally).  But even as a professional, who am I to tell someone it's wrong, if they're being active, they're trying to eat healthier and they're working to improve their health.  I can educate them about the pros and cons and share information, but without the judgement so to not discourage them trying to create healthy habits and activities, which may be bringing them joy as well. 

People get confused. People get frustrated. People often can only throw their arms up in the air and say "Ok - I have absolutely no idea what's 'right' or 'wrong' when it comes to my own health I guess!?"   I've ran for exercise since I was starting high school.  I ran to play my favourite sport of soccer for 32 years.  I enjoy it.  I feel my best when I'm running regularly. I got caught in the "don't run just sprint" mentality for 4-5 years recently, and they were my most "blah", "heavy feeling" and sickness filled years of my life.  However - I understand that everyone is different.  If I made all my clients run (just because I like it and feel good doing it), I wouldn't have many clients left because it just wouldn't work for everyone.

Let's look at it from another angle?  If running was something we "shouldn't do" then sports like soccer, rugby, lacrosse, etc... would produce athletes who eventually can't even walk, or who would all need joint replacements/surgeries guaranteed, right?  The reality is, yes some do (that's the risk of playing a sport regardless of which one you choose), but the reality is also that many athletes come out of their sports still able to do a wide variety of activity and feel great, without going under the knife.

If we take it to another example of "back in the day" when we were told, "Don't squat below 90 degrees because it's 'bad for your knees'".  Then that would imply that every major and minor league catcher in baseball would be a guaranteed surgery (because they work in a deep squat position every day!). Right? 

*Once again we are reminded how everything can be argued and we can get carried away.*

Where these arguments are most dangerous in my opinion is when people take information they've heard, read etc... blow it up to something more without enough experience or facts to back it, and share their argument with conviction (if that's the right word to use).  An example of this was when information was being released about long distance running and heart attacks.  Of all the races, and all the runners, this number is minimal.  Yet media (and society) blow it up and assume; marathons = heart attacks.  With that approach,  we can argue then that hockey is also bad for your heart then, as we also see heart issues amongst hockey players as well.  Again - a minimal percentage but it's overblown. 

When can something like running be unhealthy or bad???

Simple.  When you think you have to. As much as I cringe when people say "running is bad for you", I also cringe when people say "well I have to learn to run if I want to lose weight" or "if I want to be healthy".  That is 100% the WRONG reason to run, and it could be a bad thing.  

Do what you enjoy.   

Do what makes YOU feel good (regardless of what anyone else says).  

Do what you will do consistently and that you can sustain.  

Do that THING within reason and within the scope of your lifestyle or sport/activity.