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The Fitness Industry's Favorite Marathon Runner

Created on Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Aaron Harris

 Does anyone reading this post(Is anyone reading this post?) recognize the runner in the picture below?

Anyone know his name? It seems to me that I, along with just about everyone else involved with fitness should. Chances are if you've searched online for fitness, especially a phrase pertaining to 'cardio' you might have stumbled upon his image.
His name should be as popular as Lance Armstrong, or as...umm... well as popular as any athlete famous for their physical endurance. Instead this nameless representative of Finland has become the poster child for the fitness marketers and trainers that bash some forms of cardio while hyping their preferred method or their fitness program.
Usually, almost always, his photo is beside a sprinter. And there's always a caption that refers to the differences in their physical appearances.

Some trainers love him. At least they love his image and how it suits their message.
I can get what they are getting at but it's not a fair comparison. It's like comparing a tractor trailer to a dragster. They are designed for different purposes and each has its advantage over the other.
To say marathon runners in general are unhealthy looking and frail is unfair. He doesn't represent them all, just like the sprinter in the second image isn't a rep for all short distance racers.
Marathoners can sprint. They might not win against a sprinter but they will finish. The same might not apply to a sprinter in a full marathon.
Also ones' body type influences how well they'll perform in certain events. How well someone does at something can have a major impact on the activities they participate in. Which is why we need to consider individual preferences and how it relates to exercise participation. Don't bash the guy because he's skinny and a photographer happened to take his picture at a point during the race when he's tired.

Frankly I feel for the guy. I'm sure he probably spent some time training for the race, possibly even qualifying for it by placing well in previous events, and now his claim to fame is being the sickly, weak marathoner that does LSD. And by LSD I'm referring to the acronym for Long Slow Distance which refers to a style of cardio respiratory training, not d-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.

Personally I'm not a fan of marathons. I have no interest in running or walking in one and never had. The last time I went 26.2 miles at a time I was driving. But I do believe long slow distance (LSD) cardiovascular exercise is optimum for some people.
I am definitely not a fan of bashing one form of exercise to make another look superior. All exercise has its merits. If someone enjoys running marathons good for them. If someone exercising for fat loss takes up walking which progresses into jogging and decides to do a marathon great for them, as long as they've developed the appropriate level of fitness.

Let's remember that marathons are competitions, with individuals competing against each other or themselves. Running a marathon is not a well suited exercise for someone requiring a great deal of fat loss. For a beginner it makes sense to do LSD and then progress to a more intense form if they desire to do so.

Don't believe the nonsense that if you start doing a form of cardio your muscles will waste away to skin and bone. And do not let it prevent you from starting a cardiovascular exercise program. Start with fitness which should be approached with common sense. Work on improving all the components, not just one. Include exercises that develop muscular strength, and ones that improve muscular endurance. Eat healthfully and exercise consistently to maintain a healthy body composition. Work on improving or maintaining flexibility and agility. Perform sensible cardiovascular exercise that suits your goals and that you enjoy. And if that means running 26.2 miles, well good for you. Just don't ask me to go with you! And if you do enter a race, be careful. Someone might take your picture and make you famous for all the wrong reasons.

What's your take on marathons, or LSD? Do you know who the Finnish racer is? Comments are always welcome.

Aaron Harris provides in home personal training in San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Escondido California and other cities in north San Diego county. Aaron completed his most recent marathon in February of 2014, which was multiple episodes of House of Cards on Netflix.



Dr. J
# Dr. J 2014-03-07 07:59
Well said! Great athletes maximize their bodies for their sport! I have a friend who ran with a BMI around 16! She is a two time winner of the Boston Marathon with some of the fastest times ever! (Olga Markova)

I do LSD, but like you, do not feel running 26.2 is a good idea. Nothing magical about the distance ,and most marathoners get chronic injuries.
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# Aaron 2014-03-07 20:13
Thanks Dr. J.

Your friend made sure she wasn't carrying an extra ounce to slow her down!

26.6 miles creates a lot of wear and tear. Makes me wonder where the risk/benefit ratio falls for the extreme distance runners.

Thanks for your comment!
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Maris Munkevics
# Maris Munkevics 2014-03-14 02:57
I recently read a book by Hal Higdon, an old guy who has run more than 100 marathons, and he too admits that marathon is too long and takes serious recovery afterwards. It's damaging, but he still loves it.

But he also states that most injuries occur due to incorrect planning, more specifically, choosing a training program overestimating their capabilities. Probably something that most amateurs in any sports do.

I had a thought about a marathon a while ago, but dropped it because for the several reasons. Two major ones were how time consuming the training is and how actually it's not that very beneficial for health.

Other afterthought about marathon is that it's not as big as they make it. 1/2 million finishers every year doesn't make me feel like I'd accomplished something huge by finishing a marathon. It's harder to optimize training to finish 10K in under 35 minutes than it is to finish marathon in a slow jog.

Other thought about chronic injuries is that, when it comes to professional sports, it's unavoidable. If you have a minor injury, you simply can't take a week off training to allow it heal. I now recall an interview with a latvian skeletonist Martins Dukurus (anyone heard of him? He just got his second Olympic silver in Sochi) where he stated that professional sports is no good for health.

Recently there was a video about an ice hockey player having a heart-stroke during a game and about a decade a Latvian player also died during a game. Pro sports is making money and pushing the maximum, not maintaining health.

One last though about the picture above is that it is based on wrong beliefs about what is healthy. Does having a body of Dwain Chambers really make you healthy? Both athletes (Finnish: Janne Holmen) are in pro sports, I'm sure they both have their problems.
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# Aaron 2014-03-14 20:51
Hey Maris! So now I can put a name to the face of the runner in question. Thank you!

You've made several great points.
I look at marathon running as more of a lifestyle than anything else. That would explain why someone would love it even though they realize the negative implications. There are safer and more reasonable ways to get fit. So if fitness was the main objective they would have stopped at around a more reasonable 6 or 8 miles.

You are absolutely right about the time investment. And as far as the huge number of people that complete a marathon I'm sure that number includes competitors that walked more of the 26 miles than they ran.

I think one of the reasons people are fascinated with great sports accomplishments is due to the fact that so many sports activities are unnatural or damaging to the body, either through trauma of force like football or rugby, stress to the joints like pitching a baseball or the impact of a racket, not to mention the many other risks. Throw in there the pressure to perform for the audience, the lack of time to recuperate like you mentioned, and the temptation to use performance enhancing drugs and some of the health benefits from physical activity are diminished.

Thanks for visiting and commenting Maris!
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# Rozsa 2014-03-14 06:51
Hi Aaron,
As a beginner, I took your advice and did LSD prior to progressing to more intense exercise. I have to tell you, the LSD certainly made it easier to hang! As I jogged through the neighborhood, the melting mailboxes and vibrant colors of the wind truly made it more interesting. I got a little variety in my workout when I climbed the trees and wrestled the stray pitbulls. I wasn't sure how much LSD I should take prior to my excursion into exercise, but two hits seemed to do the trick. I think I must have run 15 miles with a silly grin plastered on my face because of the music and the Fantasia-like scenery passing me by. Thanks for the tip! :D :D
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# Aaron 2014-03-14 20:56
Does this look familiar- "And by LSD I'm referring to the acronym for Long Slow Distance which refers to a style of cardio respiratory training, not d-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide."

I hate to think of what you have in mind when I recommend progressing to something more intense.

Maybe we just created a new Hollywood workout.
Who knows it might become the new workout trend of 2014! ;)
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