The good, the bad and the weekend warrior

The good, the bad and the weekend warrior

As you probably have guessed by now, I am a bit of a freak for activity. Not the usual gym kind of thing however; but the activity that gets my adrenals pumping. Even though I do try to keep a routine of day to day fitness such as cycling and running, I mainly thrive on the more thrilling or adventurous sport. Let’s just say that I do love a challenge. So, roll back a few years and I jumped to the prospect of a long and hard trail walk around the perimeter of Gozo; our ‘not-so-tiny’ sister island! A spark of an idea over a few beers one night with a few friends resulted in ultimate failure. We set up a date and time, as you do in waste, and we set off trekking. With little to no preparation this experiment was doomed to fail. 35 km into the walk, feet bleeding and backs screaming, we decided to pack in and just head straight to the crossing. We came three-fourths of the way close but no cigar! Jump back to the present day, a tad more fit – and again, that opportunity to ‘DO GOZO’ seemed like a good idea again.

Choosing a more awkward time, and a particularly wet season, armed with as much wearable tech to ensure this gets etched in history – we set off again. After twelve long, wet and agonising hours, we managed this time. Largely fuelled by a hefty dose of optimism by two of my triathlete buddies (who were nice enough to allow us to trek with them), we finally managed!  The success, in contrast with the severe pain around the knees and hips, got me thinking… Is this possibly a good thing?

We as professionals usually advocate conditional training to reach a target over many months to years. Was this weekend warrior type thing harmful? My fellow colleagues have mixed feelings about it. Some say it’s a sure way for people to get injured and thus keep us orthopods in business, while others just sneer the idea off with as much disregard as underlying uncertainty. So I set out to do some research and shed some light on topic so you don’t have to. What does the literature say? Does science come into it? Has this been studied? What are the long-term sequelae, if any?

As one would imagine it is not easy to find an answer as the parameters to search for are very vast. Focussing on running alone, loads of papers have been written to try and find an answer. Unfortunately, most are useless as they are either flawed in their study design or power and the collective results are largely a mixed bag. And this is the reason why professional impressions are so varied.

A good meta-analysis carried out in 2017 (where someone went and painstakingly looked at 200-odd articles and extrapolated the results into one big study) showed however, that recreational running for less than fifteen years posed no risk for hip and knee osteoarthritis. On the contrary, long term high mileage and high intensity running; and, quite surprisingly, a sedentary lifestyle were both considered risk factors for development of lower limb joint arthritis. With regards to more intense running, there was also a good study reporting that active marathon runners running at least 10 miles per week showed no more risk for arthritis than the general population.

So, there you have it, folks. It is safe to go out running – be it short or moderate distance. Run to your heart’s content but as usual, ease into it and don’t follow my example and walk a 50 km trail without much prep beforehand as it will land you a few days’ worth of limping and, who knows, perhaps a visit to your local orthopaedic surgeon.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu