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  1. #1
    Member ldarlee's Avatar
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    Your take on "marathon type exercise is bad for you"?

    I read this thread this morning and wondered how running a marathon compares to riding long distance. I love riding centuries and would hate to think that I'm killing myself in the process. I'm not a racer; at age 60 I'm happy to finish in about 6.5 hours. Somehow, the thought of "short intense exercise" just doesn't "do it" for me.

    The first post in this thread is lengthy, but it's the second and third posts that raised my eyebrows. What do you ultra-riders think?

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...doesn-t-cut-it

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    Well, considering Jim Fixx, a well-known marathoner, died of a heart attack in his late 40s, I think - If one lives in fear all the time, is that really living?

    My point is I don't worry about dying, period. There's no way to prevent it. No way of ultimately succumbing to it. So, "what? Me worry?" Nah. Haven't got the time.

  3. #3
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Some people are just going to get heart disease. I doubt the marathon running contributed to Jim Fixx's (or Dave McGillivray's) condition.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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  4. #4
    Member ldarlee's Avatar
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    Agreed.

    "Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ... WOW! What a ride!"

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    Typical fo the media, they don't give enough information in that article. Remember, Jim Fixx'x family had a history of heart conditions (his father died at an early age due to heart disease), and I'd suspect MacGillvery's genetics probably have something to do with it. I'd also want to know how much 'meat and potatoes' he ate before determining if that was the cause. ON a similar note, the mention of the Pittsburgh marathon medical tent probelm doesn't give mush detail ofn the runner they treated - was he dehydrated when he started/when he came into the tent, did he have a family history of problems, was he sick taht day (bacterial or viral infection? . . . just hard to make judgement calls without sufficient info. It probably applies to long distance bicycle riding, too.

    As for doing lots of miles - I could see where it could wear on your joints, and might affect you if you became dehydrated or always ran on pavement, but other than that (and any genetic issues), I don't see a problem. I used to run in highschool and college, and we'd regularly do a long (slow) 25-30 mile run about once per month. Other runs were in the 7-10 mile. I also ran a few marathons back then and noticed no ill effects beyond being very tired the following day(s).
    Are we having fun yet?

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    Randomhead
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    it's a complicated issue. I think we need to keep in mind that it is possible to hurt yourself with excessive exercise. OTOH, I am somewhat disinclined to believe this kind of study, and in any event, extrapolating to distance cycling isn't all that easy. The media loves to run with stories that show that healthy activities are bad for you. And so there are people that will put that spin on their studies, even if it isn't reflected in the data. Sorta like the one that showed your dog is more of an ecological disaster than a giant SUV. As far as my case goes, I don't think it's hurting at all, and if I lost more weight through heavier exercise that would be a good thing.

    People tend to think of a marathon as a ridiculous athletic feat. People run them on very little training. Those people might be hurting themselves, the people that are properly prepared surely aren't.

  7. #7
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    While anything can be taken to excess and become "bad for you", 99.9%+ of us on this forum are not going to die from too much cycling. On the other hand, go into a cardiac ward in any hospital, in any city in the world, and you will see a huge number of people who would have benefited from a lot more cycling.

    Ride, eat well, sleep soundly, listen to your body, enjoy life
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  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    If you want to look into it, a very informative google is:
    "science daily endurance heart disease"

    Read all the Science Daily links that come up, including the sidebar links.

  9. #9
    Senior Member SmallFront's Avatar
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    My take is "everything in moderation". If you push your body to extremes, be it marathons or sprinting - or, hell, dancing, bad stuff will happen in the long run.

    That's not to say I don't admire top athletes in some way or another, but it is not exactly healthy. Do I consider people who run a marathon top athletes? No, not necessarily, but if you do it fast enough, you may just be.

  10. #10
    Senior Member hodag's Avatar
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    A co-worker who is obese and smokes and has a degree in sports nutrition (yep) told me and another co-worker that all of the training we do for the endurance events we participate and compete in is bad for us.
    I have a family history of heart disease. I watch my blood work, get annual EKG, TRY to watch what I eat and my numbers improve a little bit evey year.
    I came into this world naked, screaming and covered in someone elses blood, I plan on going out the same way.

  11. #11
    Senior Member work4bike's Avatar
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    I read a couple articles on this recently and even seen a video of this issue by a cardiologist that seems to confirm it, but I have issues with how this is being put forth. I do think that you can overdo it, but participating in a marathon I don't believe is "too much".

    Here's a link to that cardiologist, kind of interesting, but leaves me with a lot of questions, not at all convinced... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6U72...Gi1f5sWEtBBnO8
    Last edited by work4bike; 01-06-14 at 12:10 PM.
    "The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible."

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  12. #12
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    One critical thing to keep in mind is that anecdotes have very little scientific merit. Its best use was in the first article -- namely, it illustrates the point that "fitness for a sport" and "overall health" are two different things, and that good exercise does not necessarily fix a bad diet.

    In terms of real scientific evidence: The famous Copenhagen Study found that runners live six years more than their non-running counterparts. Another study of Tour de France participants showed that they outlived people in the general population by nearly eight years.

    In addition, sudden cardiac events aren't that frequent in marathons -- roughly 1 in 100,000 participants.

    So, I'd stick to the standard advice: Check with your doctor before doing strenuous exercise, and eat healthy. Otherwise, I don't see any reason to worry that ultracycling is a threat to anyone's health. Except for the whole "sleep deprivation causing you to run into a tree" thing...

  13. #13
    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    Some people are just going to get heart disease. I doubt the marathon running contributed to Jim Fixx's (or Dave McGillivray's) condition.
    Fixx was obese and a two pack a day smoker for quite a few years before he took up running in his mid-30s. His autopsy disclosed three arteries with substantial blockage, from 70% to 95%. He also had a genetic history (father died of a heart attack at age 43), and an enlarged heart, which his autopsy also disclosed. Not the best example for people who cite the "dangers" of strenuous aerobic activity.

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    Randomhead
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    I think these stories have the effect comforting the comfortable. And that is a disservice to the people that are going to be battling heart disease as a result. My family has a "history of heart disease." Really? You think it might be the lard-laden diet? Excess weight? Or maybe it was the fact that they were all farmers and got too much exercise. Yeah, that's it, it was the exercise. I'm going to guess that there are quite a few doctors that would rather have people getting too much exercise than too little. My father's last few years were complicated by his lack of fitness and his heart issues. I just don't think that my long distance rides are anywhere near as debilitating as sitting on a couch eating cookies and chips.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    It takes a HELL of a lot to get to the point where endurance negatively effects lifespan.

    I'm sure there are people on this site that would qualify. But they would be few and far between.

    Usually seen in the extreme high performers, like professional racers (think tdf contenders)... Multi-marathon (monthly) runners and ultra runners... Way out there rare air performers...

    I would like to chalk it up to PEDS, but I really doubt it...
    Likely just people taking it to the extreme levels of what they are capable of, and then some...

  16. #16
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Null66 View Post
    It takes a HELL of a lot to get to the point where endurance negatively effects lifespan.... Usually seen in the extreme high performers, like professional racers (think tdf contenders)...
    As noted above, that's not actually the case. Tour de France contenders outlive their age group by several years: http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/...-longer_301388

    Ultra marathons might also extend life by over a decade: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/vic...-1226763742845

  17. #17
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    As noted above, that's not actually the case. Tour de France contenders outlive their age group by several years: http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/...-longer_301388

    Ultra marathons might also extend life by over a decade: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/vic...-1226763742845

    So compared with normal people. Oh and only frenchmen and not controlled for minor variables like SMOKING...
    Couch potatoes...

    and

    "biological age" by tolemeres? not a direct measure by any means but even then from your own article:
    "

    "Not everyone has to run 40km every week, we think that it may be better to do a little bit of high intensity benefit rather than one hour walking," he said.'





    Marathon people do great compared to people who don't move. As the average person in us watches 40+ hours of tv a week.. Funny they do less well then recreational bicyclists and less well then body builders.

    Anecdote alert:

    "World strongest man" died last year at 104. He was hit by a car...
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/2010/01...ng-hit-by-car/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/0..._n_419269.html



    However to get serious now...

    I'll take this as a more likely to be reliable source.
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/...or-your-heart/

    http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org.../fulltext#sec1

    Again, this isn't about people who do occasional marathons, or even several as amazing as that is. This applies to serious edge cases. People who are profoundly accomplished. People who have achieved more then I ever could even if I: hit the lottery, became compulsively obsessed and dedicated my existence to just one event...


    About people who run occasional marathons, however that is defined. Even this may not be good for longevity. Particularly when controlling for ALL variables and comparing against a properly matched cohort. However, it is good because people like it, and want to do it... Good as a thing-in-itself good. but that doesn't mean it will make them live longer, and that's ok...

    Data is getting clearer on this regard. A lot of activity, but not too much, for maximizing lifespan over the whole population.

    One massive confounding variable is amount of time sitting. Starting to look like sitting is itself a problematic activity. Enough to offset otherwise high levels of activity as an independent variable! Duration seems like a critical variable. So that x amount of time seated is worse if all at one time then if broken up... No way to know how this effect biking, as it is sitting, but then it's also not...

  18. #18
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    As I know an avid TT'er that does get atrial arrhythmias, I agree that repeatedly running your heart at excessive rates will cause damage. So the Mayo article isn't a big surprise. However, low level endurance exercise (randonees etc) doesn't seem to cause such problems.(at least I haven't found any articles that say so). I think it's the combination of high output + long duration that's the biggest suspect for cardiac damage. Mayo seems to bear that out.

    Good post, Null.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
    How do I know any of this? I got diagnosed with sleep apnea, and started researching like mad, and talking to pulmonologists, and then finding the articles about triathletes and marathoners who die in their sleep of heart failure.
    As I get older, I know more old people. Seeing how that can be has convinced me that feeling good when I go to sleep and dying before I wake up is probably the best I can hope for.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    As I know an avid TT'er that does get atrial arrhythmias, I agree that repeatedly running your heart at excessive rates will cause damage. So the Mayo article isn't a big surprise. However, low level endurance exercise (randonees etc) doesn't seem to cause such problems.(at least I haven't found any articles that say so). I think it's the combination of high output + long duration that's the biggest suspect for cardiac damage. Mayo seems to bear that out.

    Good post, Null.
    Thanks,
    I would posit that even fairly extreme duration and intensities can be done w/o impairing longevity for some people. But some people do truly amazing things and then do them an astounding number of times...

    Just listened to a pod cast on cycle360 where the guy did I think it was a 5x triathlon. He spoke of people doing DECA-TRIATHLONS... Personally, I think a single triathlon is a heck of an accomplishment once in a life time...

    On the lower intensity endurance and health longevity, the more recent studies show that rides > 4 hours have a significant positive effect on fat loss, visceral fat, and serum glucose control... Visceral fat and Glucose control are major risk factors. So likely to be a very positive on longevity. The key is that the intensity is dialed way down from racing, let alone the intensity of the extreme performers.

  21. #21
    Randomhead
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    it's so hard to get good data for studies, because people's prep is so varied. A lot of people have marathons on their "bucket list" and yet they don't prepare properly for them. I know a group of people that worked for a year to be able to run a half-marathon, and then one of their friends decided to go with them and run it on no training. That person was at risk, but if he had he been a victim of SCD, he would have been counted as a marathoner. There is another thread in training and nutrition where someone mentions elevated body temperature as a risk of marathoning. It's not a risk of marathoning, it's a risk of failure to properly understand fairly simple things about your body. Of course, that's not uncommon, it happens to a few randonneurs every year. Randonneuring is low-intensity enough that people can ride without training enough. I know, I've done it. I don't see the potential ramifications of that as a risk of long distance, but rather a risk of improper training.

    The arrhythmia issue is something I'm concerned about, but it doesn't seem particularly high-risk.

  22. #22
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    The arrhythmia issue is something I'm concerned about, but it doesn't seem particularly high-risk.
    Probably not but it is evidence of some sort of damage. The guy I mentioned still does TT's so I assume he's cleared it with his doc.
    Don't know if he's had a muga etc.but I bet it'd be enlightening.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  23. #23
    Senior Member joewein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Null66 View Post
    About people who run occasional marathons, however that is defined. Even this may not be good for longevity. Particularly when controlling for ALL variables and comparing against a properly matched cohort.
    "Controlling for ALL variables" can be tricky. As Alex Hutchinson wrote in Runner's World about a study that adjusted for several variables:

    What this means is that they used statistical methods to effectively "equalize" everyone's weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on. But this is absurd when you think about it. Why do we think running is good for health? In part because it plays a role in reducing weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on (...) They're effectively saying, "If we ignore the known health benefits of greater amounts of aerobic exercise, then greater amounts of aerobic exercise don't have any health benefits."

  24. #24
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    I have run 3 marathons once at 28 years old then twice in my late thirties. You would think it is not the best thing for your health. Then again you read about guys running marathons every week,,and into their 70's so I am not sure. My feet couldnt take it, but then again back then they were giving wrong advice on what kind of shoes to wear. I dont run anymore, bicycling is just too much fun and makes me feel like a kid, even though I am 60.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Null66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joewein View Post
    "Controlling for ALL variables" can be tricky. As Alex Hutchinson wrote in Runner's World about a study that adjusted for several variables:
    And the studies about demonstrable negative effects are not about these people...

    They are about people who do much more than this, much...

    I realize you have reasons to believe what you believe, but if you read the links I posted... They showed both enzyme they use as marker for heart damage in all sorts of of heart attacks and other cardio events (even impacts to the chest)... It's remarkably reliable indicator as it is released when heart muscle DIES... Also they were able to directly observe cardiac muscle scaring... pretty definitive.

    But the population was special. Very rare air people. World class competitors.

    It is likely that the more occasional marathoner would not experience this, unless they are predisposed. I would bet that it is more likely in those that prepare properly what ever that means as it would likely be influenced by individual variation.

    Please also understand that it also positively effects other risks... So some come out ahead, some not. You pays your money, and you make your choices. Just do so with eye's wide open.

    If longevity is the goal, then the amount of running required is very low per week. But that's not everyone's goal. And that's ok.

    Me for instance, I'm way too heavy for maximum longevity. But I really like being strong. 9 times out of 10, I'll be the strongest guy (in bull strength, as there are many kinds of strength) in the building, even at 47, even in walmart... I won't live as long. But I live the way I want but I have no illusions, the strength costs me life span. The weight costs me a lot in food, more in bicycle gear, but most in years... I do have to say pulling 575 (my max) was a hell of a thing. I did 819 once on a Hammer Strength squat machine, that felt damn good too...

    A guy at work is going for max longevity though extreme calorie restriction. Shown in some lower animal to extend life. Unfortunately, it failed to replicate in higher animals. Well, he's emaciated, depressed, indecisive, unmotivated, and frankly lost his masculinity... Too high a price in my book.

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