On a recent episode of NBC's "The Biggest Loser", the 4 remaining contestants were given their final challenge: run a marathon. They had 60 days to train, and although the episode doesn't discuss the details of their training program, we assume that they did most of the training on their own. Maybe some people found inspiration by watching the contestants struggle through the 26.2 mile race. But as I watched the episode, I just became more and more frustrated. Am I the only one?
Let me say up front that I am not a fan of the show, as I think it sets viewers up for unrealistic expectations about how much weight they can safely lose in a certain amount of time. I watched this episode online after it aired. I know a lot of people draw huge inspiration from the show, and it has encouraged some people to take the first steps towards changing their lives. And that's a good thing. But running a marathon with just 60 days to train? I think that's irresponsible.
Having run 5 marathons myself, I know what kind of training is involved. Most training programs are 16 to 18 weeks in length, and assume you've been running an average of 12-15 miles a week for a year before you start. They are a long-term commitment, because it takes your body a long time to safely build up the endurance to tackle such a distance. But if you train properly, it can be an amazing experience.
The episode didn't talk much about how the contestants trained for the race. One person commented that the farthest training run they did was 15 miles. I'm sure it would have been difficult to do more with only 60 days to train, but that can make for a rough race (both physically and mentally) when you've only trained for a little over half of the distance. They also didn't say whether they were coached about other options like the run/walk method. It seemed like they were just told they were going to "run a marathon". The run/walk method would have been a great option for them, perhaps running for one minute and then walking for a minute, following this pattern for most of the race.
I love running marathons, and get very excited when others decide they are ready to tackle the challenge for the first time. But I felt like this episode put marathons in a bad light (completely grueling and not at all enjoyable), and also gave viewers a very unrealistic idea of what it takes to successfully train for a race of this distance. To me, it's dangerous to take someone who's only been exercising regularly for a few months, give them 2 months to train, and then send them out to run over 26 miles. It took at 2 of the contestants over 7 hours to complete the distance. At that point, you've stressed your body for so long that I'd begin to worry about the health of the participants.
I know this blog will draw some heated comments from fans of the show who don't agree with my opinion. (And that's fine, as long as you post your comments in a respectful way.) But am I really off-base when I say it's irresponsible to have the contestants do this?
What do you think?
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