Why Women Should Run, A Rebuttal

Last week, I was sent an article by a client entitled, "Why Women Should Not Run."

At first I was amused reading through the case-study presented as fact article and then it started to bug the hell out of me. The main argument is this: too much running will lower certain thyroid hormones (T3, T4, TSH, … ) which in turn makes it impossible to lose weight, regardless of physical activity.

I am SICK AND TIRED OF TRAINERS (which, by the way this guy isn't even a trainer) WHO HAVE NEVER RUN WHO HATE ON RUNNING. I'm SICK OF IT. LEAVE US ALONE.

Sorry I had to get that off my chest.

I couldn't believe the amount of misrepresented, largely fabricated "evidence" this guy presented as fact. The first article cited is “Resting thyroid and leptin hormone changes in women following intense, prolonged exercise training” (Baylor LS, Hackney AC. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(4-5):480-4.) The group considered in this study consists of females participating in running, rowing, and weight lifting. If you actually read the research article it says nothing about runners having thyroid problems it explains that post-heavy training periods, thyroid hormone levels go back to normal. The interesting part is that this is true for women who lift weight, and row (which is far closer to weight lifting, crossfit, etc, than to running), and run – these women in the study ALL show the SAME drops in thyroid hormones no matter what their activity. He goes on to cite 79 more research articles, most actually finding no significant difference in their conclusions. Not a single article he sites actually supports his claim that women should not run.

The article also mentions that women who train for competitions gain weight after because the cardio sessions messed up their bodies. Hello!!?? What about the weeks of starvation and dehydration these people put themselves through? They aren't just running for three hours a day and lifting weights for another two, they are doing it on a single boiled chicken breast. So unhealthy on so many levels, all the power to you if that's how you like to spend your time but the reason why so many figure competitors gain weight after competitions is they eat for the first time in months… and they eat a lot, not because they've been running too much. I could go on about this topic alone but I'm going to stop here for today.

I'm a runner and I'm a trainer and a Pilates instructor and a frequent dabbler in all types of fitness – I like to think that I draw the best from everything. I lift weights and swing the odd 54 lb kettlebell but I do not lift crazy heavy weights. I've done the lift heavy thing and I've been 25 lbs heavier feeling bulking and not being able to fit into jeans properly! Not a good look and frankly I was not comfortable with my body at the peak of my lifting years. That's just MY experience, I don't force it on others! I am the happiest I've ever been in my skin now and that's been through a combination of diet, interval running, steady-state running, plyometrics, Pilates and weight training. 

I agree with is article that steady-state running is not the most optimal choice for fat loss. I am a huge believer in interval running and ever since I started integrating sprints into my workout routine I've been more lean and they have improved my overall fitness and posture so much. Without running in my mix I feel lethargic and thick. I'm way more functionally fit now than I ever was when I was rowing and weight training 12x per week. I've done Crossfit and I often draw workout inspiration from it but that program isn't for everyone, just like running marathons or going to spin classes everyday isn't also!

So please, to the trainers and article writers who keep shouting at women to "Lift Heavy" … only – stop hating on other forms of training – we are all in this together. Our message should never be don't but explore and find out what works best for you! Variety is the spice of life after all and I think it's also the spice of a healthy fitness routine.

What's my bottom line? Find what works best for your body and excel at it, eat well and be happy for everyone in the gym… we are all miles ahead of everyone on the couch!