Marathoners should intersperse fast runs with long, slow ones TO YOUR HEALTH

FITNESS CLINIC

July 06, 1993|By Gabe Mirkin, M.D. | Gabe Mirkin, M.D.,Contributing Writer United Feature Syndicate

Many marathon runners think they have to run 100 miles a week to compete successfully. Most will run faster marathons by running fewer miles at a faster pace.

To run a fast marathon, you have to run very fast in practice. However, every time you run fast, your muscles are injured and it takes a day or more for your muscles to recover. If you try to run fast before your muscles recover from your previous fast run, you increase your chances of injuring yourself.

Most people can't run very fast when they run more than 70 miles a week. If they run fast too often, they will be injured. Top marathon runners can run 100 miles a week and not be injured because they inherit stronger bodies. When the vast majority of runners try to run 100 miles a week, they can't run very fast in practice, so they run too slowly in races.

Your training diary should not add up the number of miles you run each week. Then you will focus on total miles, which is irrelevant, and you will lose sight of the fact that training for competition means running very fast. You should run slowly only to allow you to recover so you can run fast again.

Most top marathon runners run very fast twice a week and long once a week. A typical training schedule for a top marathon runner includes running very fast on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and long on Sunday. They run at a slower pace on weekday mornings and Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.

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Q: My 25-year-old daughter likes to be extremely thin, and I'm concerned about her health. Is it possible to be too thin?

A: It's fashionable for women to want to be very thin, but I don't think it makes sense to want to look like a 12-year-old. Female marathon runners have little excess fat, yet most of them have large hips because the female hormone, estrogen, causes fat to be deposited in the hips, thighs and breasts.

The only way a woman can lose fat from her hips and thighs is to burn more calories than she takes in, so she loses fat from all over her body. Hip and thigh fat will be the last to go, so a woman has to be very thin to have thin hips.

When women diet and exercise to the point where their hips are very small, they stop menstruating. They don't have the extra TTC energy needed for a healthy pregnancy, so nature protects them by stopping their periods and making them infertile.

There are two types of irregular periods brought on by severe food restriction and both are harmful. Women who have irregular periods and lack progesterone are at increased risk for developing uterine cancer. Those who have irregular periods and lack estrogen and progesterone are likely to develop severe bone weakening, or osteoporosis.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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