Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

Rats ‘R’ Us – Running for Research

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Yesterday was my first day off from running in 2011, which is a step towards getting faster.  Today, I ran just over two miles and this short run confirmed that taking yesterday off was a wise move.  My ligaments and muscles are definitely feeling the after-effects of the much-harder-than-usual workout with the U of T Masters group.  The day of rest, and the very easy day will ensure that my body will come back stronger, rather than accumulate stress and break down.

So the blogging versus running count for 2011 now stands at:

Blogging = 64 days (65 posts) Running = 67 days (67 runs)

And this day off came just in time to avoid (ever so slightly) comparisons with the overworked rats with heart troubles mentioned in an article in today’s New York Times called . . .

When Exercise is Too Much of a Good Thing.

Recently, researchers in Britain set out to study the heart health of a group of dauntingly fit older athletes. Uninterested in sluggards, the scientists recruited only men who had been part of a British national or Olympic team in distance running or rowing, as well as members of the extremely selective 100 Marathon club, which admits runners who, as you might have guessed, have completed at least a hundred marathons.

All of the men had trained and competed throughout their adult lives and continued to work out strenuously. Twelve were age 50 or older, with the oldest age 67; another 17 were relative striplings, ages 26 to 40. The scientists also gathered a group of 20 healthy men over 50, none of them endurance athletes, for comparison. The different groups underwent a new type of magnetic resonance imaging of their hearts that identifies very early signs of fibrosis, or scarring, within the heart muscle. Fibrosis, if it becomes severe, can lead to stiffening or thickening of portions of the heart, which can contribute to irregular heart function and, eventually, heart failure.


The study was supposed to mimic marathon training as  “. . .  scientists prodded young, healthy male rats to run at an intense pace, day after day, for three months, which is the equivalent of about 10 years in human terms.”  I have questions, serious questions.  Were the rats given easy days?  Did they wear heart rate monitors and were they able to vary their pace from very easy to very hard with interval breaks between the hardest run sections?  Did they have sedentary time in front of computers, at work and at play?  Were they encouraged to stretch?  To me the training sounds more like a ten year tempo run.  The study is published in the journal, Circulation.

My husband had questions as well.  The one-hundred-marathon group is self-selected.  How many of the rats were truly talented distance-running rats?  Did they hold rat time trials to select their subjects?  If you are naturally a sprinter will it be damaging to your heart to try distance running?

Due to the short supply of female marathoners available for an equivalent longitudinal study, I’m waiting for science to call.

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