Running is Special???

Jan. 23, 2022 —A simple answer would be: Yes! Running IS special in a sense that you probably gain a lot more “buck for the bang”. After 2 surgeries, my wife had a hard time getting back in shape (again). Several times, she would go out for a run (or at least tried to run) and came home all depressed and frustrated…(*HERE is my previous blog on “Come-back Attempt”). “I had a heck of a time trying to catch up to people WALKING!! I’m running almost as slow as walking…”. I would tell her what Arthur Lydiard used to say: “Even if you are running as slow as walking, or even if you are running the same duration as walking; you will still be doing MORE exercise by running than walking…”.

Both my wife and I had joined this program called “ShareCare” by Blue Shield Blue Cross. Basically you are supposed to take 7,500 steps a day, 21 days a month; and you’ll receive $20 online credit each month. I very quickly realize that, practically speaking, this is really the bare-minimum of “exercise”. You may get up and walk to the kitchen for orange juice…and then walk to the bathroom…back to the kitchen for a cup of coffee…and then you sit down and sip coffee and have breakfast. That would be 500 steps. An hour later, you walk to the garage, hop in a car and drive to work. You park the car and walk up to the building…and take an elevator (or you may choose to take stairs?) and walk through the corridor to your office and then sit down…. I’m just Curious George and, when I went to the client’s office from first thing in the morning and sat down for discussion, presentation and negotiation, I checked out about how many steps I would take for this “usual” work day. I was actually surprised to find out, from all-day’s work in the office, I was lucky to get about 4,000 steps!! And — and this is actually an important point — all these steps are, in general, all broken-up. In other words, they are NOT “continuous”. Either way, that’s about a half of the requirement. Unless you take conscious walk or other form of exercise, it’s not as easy to fulfill this requirement as you may think.

When you join this ShareCare program, you will receive a sheet of paper to explain the “equivalent” number of steps to “walking”. For example, RUNNING is given 2.8 steps to each running step equal to 1 walking step. Suppose you would take 4,000 steps from your “normal” activities. Each activity is given “equivalent” number of steps (i.e.: mowing the lawn is 1.6 steps for each 1 step…but be sure it’s NOT the riding mower!!). Interestingly, way back in 1961, Lydiard claimed “if you try to get the same amount of exercise as running from cycling or swimming, you’ll need to do 3-times more…”. From experience, he knew running is approximately 3-time harder than other exercises. Cycling and swimming are 2 activities most widely used as alternate aerobic exercise. Back in the 1980s, Some elite athletes, when they got injured, they used these alternate exercises to maintain their fitness level. As it turned out, they ended up getting even stronger then before. The example of Joan Benoit-Samuelson comes to mind. This is most probably because they were not as efficient with these alternate activities and, with relatively same level of effort with these alternate activities, they had gained more aerobic conditioning than running which they were way too efficient. This led so-called Cross-Training craze for runners in the 1980s. Unfortunately many examples were not as good. After all, the best exercise for running is running.

“In running,” Lydiard would explain, “you are getting the entire body weight off the ground, into the air, and each leg would take 3–5 times of your entire body weight on each step. With cycling, your body is supported by the bike. With swimming, your body is floating in the water…”. Even with walking, your body never leaves the ground. After the success of Rome Olympic Games, Lydiard received a phone call from a gentleman by the name of Barry Davenport. He was a long distance swimmer and had attempted to swim across Cook Strait between the North Island and the South Island of New Zealand. It is about 14-miles which is shorter than Dover Strait (21-miles) between England and France but the current is very strong. Davenport had attempted several times but came short in the last mile. He figured he would need to work on his stamina and came to this guru of endurance, Arthur Lydiard. “You need to work on your endurance,” Arthur told him. “By swimming longer?” Davenport asked. “No, by running,” replied Lydiard. Lydiard explained: We have a set of legs, a set of arms…for different activities. But we only have one heart and one set of lungs. You need to work on this “plumbing”. And the best way to develop your heart and lungs is by running. Davenport said that, the first time he went out for a run, he thought he was going to cough out his lungs from running a half a mile!! (*Note, he was already very well-established long distance swimmer!). Eventually, he worked his way up to being able to run 15-miles comfortably. That was his “Aerobic Base-Building Phase”. Then he did weight training to work on his upper body for swimming (=Hill Training Phase); and then he put together a special apparatus for actual swimming (=Event-Specific Training Phase). Next time Barry Davenport attempted to swim across Cook Strait, he made it to the other shore. It was made possible because of RUNNING. — Nobby Hashizume

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