HIIT Vs. Marathoning: Why we lost a family friend to marathoning

Which is better for health and performance?

Which is better for health and performance?

I grew up next to Heartbreak Hill, the famous last stretch of the Boston Marathon. I remember when I was about 6, I stood on the corner watching the marathon with my mother. I turned to her and said, “Mommy, why do they look sick?” She (a medical doctor) said, “No, they’re healthy, they are doing cardio exercise.” I said, “But mommy, they look sick.” She said, “No, they are healthy. It’s good for their heart”. I said, “I still think they look sick.”  

Years later, a dear family friend and life-long marathoner died of a heart attack in his son’s arms while hiking a mountain. It was a very tragic loss, not just for the family, but for the entire community as he was one of the absolute pillars.

I’ve always carried these two memories with me and have struggled for years to understand why we’ve been taught zone cardio is good for us, yet marathoners look so sick and can die from heart attacks doing intense, non-cardio exercise. 

It took until about 2007 in chiropractic school when I met Mark J. Smith, PhD in chiropractic school. He explained the real science of exercise and why marathon runners look so ill. Essentially extensive jogging triggers a prolonged stress response ultimately scavenging the body’s muscle tissue to make quick fuel, making them look like cancer patients. As you can see from the picture above, the sprinter and the jogger have a completely different hormone profiles and it literally shows. The video below goes into more detail into Dr. Smith’s research. 

Also, the heart is not just muscle tissue, it’s largely nervous tissue as well. The heart adapts neurologically to the requirements placed upon it. If the heart trains to operate at a jogging pace for years and never has the training or elasticity (technically called ‘plasticity’) to endure high intense bursts, it cannot handle the load (such as hiking a mountain) and fails. 

The good news is that to get a great hormone balance and to properly train your heart requires very little time, just the right type of exercise at the right intensity, known as “HIIT” or High Intensity Interval Training. 

I’ll lecture at Waikato University in Hamilton today from 7-8:30pm on HIIT vs. Marathoning. You’ll learn the dos and don’t of exercise for optimal hormonal health, fitness, body shape, and heart health. 

If you want a preview of what the talk will be about, click on the video below for a 20 minute summary on exercise. It’s the middle 20 minutes of a 1 hour talk on wellness. The exercise part starts at minute 19:13. 

watch video

19:13 – Burst exercise: Why marathoners look like cancer patients.
21:03 – Why cardiovascular research is severely flawed, just like most psychology research.
25:46 – The physiology and anthropology of why marathoners look like cancer patients and why sprinters look healthy and lean.
28:22 – Where walking fits into exercise compared to jogging.
29:04 – Defining Burst Exercise (HIIT).
30:33 – How to accurately measure progress with burst training.
32:04 – How to safely implement Burst exercise.
33:27 – How to “run” a marathon using burst exercise principles and how to use a bicycle or swim in a pool with the same principles
34:42 – Research on the safety and benefits of Burst exercise over cardiovascular exercise.
36:09 – Exercise for your sport versus exercise for your health.
37:33 – Where does “warming up” fit into Burst exercise and health?
39:16 – summary of the benefits of Burst exercise


Please forward this to anyone you know would benefit from getting more out of their exercise and especially to those that still think jogging is good for you. My hope is to educate as many people as possible about the difference between HIIT and marathoning. 

My hope is to educate as many people as possible about the difference between HIIT and marathoning so as to ensure everyone can have a long life, and not end up like our family friend on the side of the mountain. It’s because of him I educate everyone I have a chance to about the dangers of jogging and the importance of HIIT. 

Hope to see you at the talk. 

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