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The Marathon that Should Never Be Run…

December 8, 2009

Thank you biggest loser for the previous seasons.  I really did enjoy a show about attaining a fit lifestyle.  It really was refreshing to see how out of touch with the realities of exercise and healthy eating most of us had gotten, and how it was possible to turn this around.  Now though, you have become a joke.  You have continually chosen people who are more and more overweight, with stories that are more and more emotionally compelling to make for better TV.  By doing this though, you have become less and less in touch with the people who need your help.  Now your TV show consists of Jillian Michaels climbing on weight apparatus followed up with her sitting down with contestants looking them in the eye and solving all of their emotional problems with one life changing realization.  Of course all of this would be bad enough to stop watching but the extreme fitness challenges that they have come up with are another story.

I watched in something just short of horror the other night as the biggest loser contestants were told that they were going to compete in a marathon.  I looked at the 4 contestants and thought, maybe, just maybe one of them could be up to the task.  It wasn’t that I doubted that any of them could complete it.  Almost anyone CAN run a marathon-good planning and yomping (planned walk running) goes a long way to achieving this, but unless you have trained properly, most of us SHOULDN’T.  This brings us to watching the Biggest Loser.  These people who have been burning the candle at both ends for the last however long, after lifetimes of essentially sedentary behavoir should be building up a base of running before doing a marathon.  This base should be a year for even a fit person.  Here they have at most 60 days!   This is universally understood by all trainers. Here,  Art Liberman says “I recommend that you don’t consider training for a marathon until you have been running consistently for at least one year.”  According to Runners World Magazine you should increase your milage by no more than 10 percent per week-1 mile a week up to 10 miles, and then 2 miles a week after that.  In fact, they publish a 16 week training program for people who can already run 10k (which I am assuming all of the remaining biggest losers can).   Jeff Galloway, who certainly knows as much about training for running as anyone alive, and the expert I always listen to, has a 32 week training program for marathons.  I could list 1000 pages that say the same thing, but it is put well by Stephen M. Pribut here:

The majority of running injuries occur from overtraining or improper training. With a careful and gradual increase in your running you should be able to avoid many overtraining injuries. It is important to pay attention to your body and to avoid the “terrible too’s”: too much, too soon, too often, too fast, too hard combined with too little rest. The key is to: “avoid doing too much too soon.”

So there is no doubt that the contestants were being made to overdo their training, encouraged to do all of the terrible too’s.  The thing that is so egregious about this is that they actually promised to stop overdoing it with their contestants right after 2 of them passed out on the very same beach that the marathon ended on!!!

“If we had it to do over, we wouldn’t do it,” Dr. Huizenga said of the recent one-mile race that resulted in hospitalizations. “It was an unexpected complication and we’re going to do better,” he said, adding that “that challenge has changed a lot of the way we do things,” including more closely monitoring contestants’ body temperatures during exercise.

HUH?!?!  1 mile was clearly too much to challenge many of the early contestants to do, so now, what 26 miles is acceptable?!?!  In past biggest loser never appeared to push the contestants into ridiculous territory, mind you, the contestants had less weight to lose (as they are continuously getting larger and the time line is the same, I guess they have to push them more and more)  It sure does seem unfortunately exploitive now though.

During the run:  Rudy points out after passing mile 13 that this is further than he has ever run in his life (as does Amanda a few minutes later)… What?!?!  Amanda is feeling leg muscle cramping and knee pain at mile 13.  The leg muscle cramping is to be expected, but NEVER try to work through joint pain.  You can by the way, but you may pay a severe price for the rest of your life.  “My heart, my mind, my lungs want to finish this race, but my hip won’t let me” Danny says at mile 6!, along with  “knee starts hurting, my hip starts hurting.  Knees are really starting to ache.”  Amanda is also feeling joint pain” It is just my knees”, Both Tara and Brian reply “You should just be pushing through it.”    Surprisingly Rudy’s complaints of pain are what you should expect at mile 22, “I am tired.  My legs feel like they weigh a ton and I am out of gas.”  My favorite line is from Bob of course, “This is your first marathon that you really didn’t even train for”.  Things get much worse for Danny of course before he completes his marathon.

Say what you will about the show needing to be extreme, and the methods are safe, that simply is no longer true.  What they did on these recent episode is totally irresponsible and dangerous.  No matter what releases the contestants have signed, I think they have legal grounds to bring action for future injuries.  I wonder if Bob is disturbed by the fact that as a trainer for the show it appears that he approves this kind of behavior, because I am pretty damn sure if he is a certified trainer, he wouldn’t take considerably overweight trainees out on marathon runs.

By the way, I figured Amanda would be able to finish the marathon running without complaints of joint pain.  Turned out it was Rudy.  Never underestimate the athletic overweight person in a challenge.  They almost always amaze.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne Schiffbauer permalink
    December 8, 2009 4:02 pm

    To lose weight under these EXTREME conditions is, at
    it’s best irresponsible and worst dangerous! Simply
    having contestants compulsive behaviors go from eating
    to compulsive exercising is not the way to go.
    And, adding to the mix, “phycho babble”…a big thumbs

  2. December 8, 2009 11:16 pm

    I used to like the show in it’s early seasons. The challenges were fun and fairly realistic. The contestants were heavy but not morbidly obese. Now, now way! Drama pure and simple seeing enormously fat people act like circus entertainers and talk show guests. It’s not inspiring much anymore.

  3. Chella permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:14 am

    I was wondering what you think of the Australian version of Biggest Loser. I haven’t seen any of the last season of US BL but it does sound more and more unrealistic and dangerous. Some of the contestants must end up with permanent injuries.

    I think the trainers are so blinded by the money that they are making that they are losing touch with reality and are incredibly dramatic about everything. I listened to Jillian awhile back on her radio show suggesting cleaning your own house instead of letting a cleaner do it for a little bonus calorie burn. When did she forget that most of us regular people always clean our own houses becauses we can’t afford to have everything done for us. It was so irritating and I completely understand the benefits of going organic but when so many people can barely afford to by fresh produce its rude and degrading to tell people to buy organic!

    Aussie BL can be just as full of crap but its not so ridiculous. Although if I hear the words “this will change the game forever” or something along those lines again I think I might puke! Sometimes I think the contestants completely forget there is a real world out there and get totally consumed by a silly game.

    Sorry about the rant….

    Let me know what you think :o)

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