False Health Narratives

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the stories we tell ourselves to explain our health and fitness status. And how those stories in hindsight can be completely wrong.

A classic example for me is from my 2008 post I Don’t Want To Ride A Donkey Down The Grand Canyon! when I associated going from 210 to 200 pounds as a bad thing. I was getting leaner, but I deeply feared I was losing muscle. I was totally wrong. Yet for a decade, I ate more than I needed to keep the scale weight over 200 on the belief those pounds were muscle.

The truth was once I leaned out more, I could actually see my muscles.

This is an extreme example. There are many false health narratives throughout this blog. Some are minor, but as my knowledge increases and I revisit some of these posts, they don’t ring as true anymore.

One of the reasons I stopped distance running more than 20 years ago was because of 2 facts:

  1. During the Olympic trials for the 1992 US Marathon (which went past my home in Columbus, Ohio), I went through the profiles of all 125 runners and only found a single one taller than 6 foot tall. And he didn’t place.
  2. My hip increasingly hurt from running distances.

My conclusion was that I was too tall to run distance. This was a pre-Internet decision, which made perfect sense to me at the time and for a long time afterward. As I recover from my knee issues, I have learned that my right side is much stronger than my left. Doing single-leg exercises really highlighted this fact.

Here I am in 2019 pushing up a leg press with my left leg as my hip and glute struggle to fire as efficiently as my right and I think back to 1994 and how false my health narrative was. I had a strength imbalance that was never addressed and was made worse with every mile I ran.

Maybe I had a few more marathons in me? We’ll never know.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento

And speaking of my knee, how many years did I blame driving a stick-shift as the cause of my knee pain? And then when I learned about truck drivers, who drive manual vehicles, often get knee surgery, I was convinced I’d need to surgery to repair my knee. Nope. My knee wasn’t the problem. Another false narrative.

I could go on and on, but I think those examples are enough for now.

Today I’ve learned to ask better questions. I’m still learning. I’ll continue to have false health narratives, but hopefully, they won’t last long. I’m making it a point to challenge these narratives more often.

In my next post, I am going to share a sad story of a friend of mine that died recently as a result of a false health narrative.

3 Comments

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  1. I still think that you may have smartly correct about the running. The yearly injury rates are astronomically high for such a simple activity, and that is for all body types. You may have been lighter then, but you were by no means a lean Kenyan runner.
    Don’t forget that running is an impact sport and running miles on concrete, plus every added pound on each footfall will all add up in the end. You may have corrected imbalances to run a few extra marathons, but would that have achieved any greater long term health outcomes? And what if you had just created even more long term health issues? Looking at it with your investors outlook, you may view it as having a lucky escape.

  2. I meant partly correct, not smartly.

  3. @Stuart – Great point. I may have corrected my hip issue, only to develop a new issue further down the road (no pun intended).

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