As both a blog writer and a reader, I am thoroughly unqualified to say…
Not all running bloggers appear to be psychologically healthy.
I know. Jenx-pot, meet the kettles. The difference is that these bloggers / Instagrammers / Tweeters are known as “influencers”. I can barely influence the people in my house to put their laundry away. There is little risk of me influencing Sally Newrunner into a stress fracture.
So before you find yourself admiring that winning runner with the great pics and thinking, “Goalz!”, consider these red flags:
1. No Rest Days
I understand that running streaks are a thing. Even the stalwart Runner’s World magazine promotes the occasional challenge of running at least one mile a day for x number of days in a row. A prudent runner enters with the intention of breaking the streak if he is sick or injured.
Some bloggers, though, never take rest days from running. They’re not in an organized or personal streak. They may even be following a training plan that specifically calls for rest days (as all long distance plans seem to do).
If you see a blogger say, “The plan called for a rest day but I was feeling good, so I did eight easy miles and then hill repeats.”, let that be a red flag.
2. Runs When Injured or Sick
Many of us push the envelope here a little bit. We seek advice about “If the cold is above the neck, it’s okay to run, but if you’re sick from the neck down or you have a fever, take a day off.”.
It can be particularly challenging to know when an injury is just a twinge that will go away or something that will only get worse with activity. And that’s so, so frustrating! Argh.
I have seen bloggers, though, who run on stress fractures. STRESS FRACTURES. They run while in the midst of a miserable flu. Because if they don’t, what? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing bad will happen if you take a day off from running when you have the flu.
Do not trust a runner who refuses to heed to sensible logic. Something’s not right there.
3. Ignores Doctor’s Recommendations
Some of these questionable bloggers won’t even go to a doctor when really sick or injured. I can only guess it’s because they don’t want to hear the truth. But when one does, the advice sometimes gets ignored.
I’m sure many of us have stories of doctors who don’t “get” running and so have needlessly advised against it. “That hangnail looks infected. You should probably give up running. I hear it’s bad on the knees.”
But I’ve seen a blogger or two admit that a doctor has advised no running for six weeks for a stress fracture but since they are feeling strong, they’re just going to keep it slow and easy each day. (I really need one of those emojis with the wide eyes and the mouth hanging open.)
4. Repeated Stress Fractures / Injuries
Well, this isn’t a surprise, is it? You can’t keep ignoring doctors’ orders and running when injured with no rest days and be surprised that you end up with multiple stress fractures.
Many highly talented and reasonable runners end up with injuries. It’s the rare runner who doesn’t! But if the influencer you follow seems to be injured more frequently than typical and exhibits the first three warning signs I mentioned, you might want to reconsider considering her a go-to guru.
The frequent stress fractures concern me a great deal. We’re hearing more about running and amenorrhea, especially after elite runner Tina Muir admitted that she hadn’t had a period in nine years. That isn’t a perk of over-running. That’s a very serious warning sign.
5. Exercises Multiple Times a Day
I have a few friends who are exercise instructors. They do their own runs in the morning and then teach a few classes during the day. They are amazing and could kick my butt, so I am not going to tick them off. They are not what I’m talking about, though.
I’m also not talking about doing the occasional two runs a day, either as part of a training plan or because you do your own run once and then coach someone else. I’ve done that, myself.
I’m talking about an amount of exercise for no apparent reason that can only be described as excessive. A 12 mile run in the morning, followed by a noon-time spin class for 90 minutes, then a 2 hour kickboxing class in the evening. Four times a week.
I hesitate to tell anyone that the answer is less exercise! But I also don’t want anyone following someone like this and thinking that this is what it takes to lose weight and be fit. Good heavens, it so isn’t!
I can hear the response now… “The blogger isn’t saying that everyone has to do what she does! This is just what works for her!”… and that’s a legitimate argument. I refer you back to #4. Is it “working for her”? Long term?
Actually, this can be a disorder called anorexia athletica or hypergymnasia.
People with Anorexia Athletica may have anxiety and feel out of control in their life but that they can control their body and their weight. However, they will often feel guilty if they miss a workout, or don’t exercise “enough,” and therefore are out of control and at the mercy of this compulsory activity.
I suspect many of us can sympathize quite sincerely. There may be a fine line between being deeply emotionally invested in one’s training and having an exercise anxiety disorder. But there is a line and it’s important for us to recognize it.
6. Food Obsessed
(Full disclosure: I am typing this while munching on Fritos. But I started my day with bullet coffee. Contradictions.)
I don’t care which eating plan you prefer… paleo, Whole 30, high carb, whatever. But are you familiar with the term “orthorexia nervosa”? National Eating Disorders.Org defines it as
…a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”
Spend ten minutes at running blogs or Instagram accounts and you will encounter lots of nutrition advice and meal photos. Personally, I have found much of it helpful and motivational. These Fritos do nothing good for me but the bullet coffee truly revolutionized my mornings.
As with anything, there are those who take healthy things to an obsessive level and this time the biggest offender I’ve run across is a man.
This man has written extensively about nutrition and his approach influences many runners, including me. It was he who introduced me to bullet coffee and convinced me to give up my beloved Splenda and flavored coffee creamers.
But in reading more deeply I came across something disturbing… He believes that even one serving of junk food can cause cancer. Therefore, he advises all of his followers to avoid a single bite of junk food forever.
No cake on your baby’s first birthday. No hot dog on the Fourth of July. No margarita on the beach. No stuffing on Thanksgiving. No Raisinettes at the movies.
Yes, for optimum health it’s best day in and day out to eat clean and come up with healthy alternatives to junky treats. But food is a cultural touchstone, too. To reject your culture’s food traditions 100% because one serving may give you cancer is wacky.
This man sent out an email entitled something like “Is Orthorexia even a thing?” and immediately I thought, “Yeah, buddy… and you got it.”
His beliefs defy logic. For the thousands of years before Fritos were invented, when people subsisted on the very foods that he promotes, people got sick early and often. I can imagine that when he hears of someone getting sick he thinks, “Such a shame they brought this on themselves.”, not appreciating that he owes his good health to his lifestyle habits and a heaping dose of luck… which could end tomorrow.
7. Races Their Training
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in want of a PR runs much of his training runs at a pace slower than he plans to run his race. (I think I just violated a copyright.)
Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this, but I read a ton of books, y’all. And I listen in on the conversations of hundreds, if not thousands, of runners of all skill levels. (Thanks, Facebook!).
The most experienced and knowledgeable at all points on the speed spectrum seem to agree… a good portion of your runs (some say 80%) should be slower than race pace in order to lessen the wear and tear on your body.
It has been while eavesdropping on these experienced runners that I’ve learned about the occasional blogger/Instagrammer who posts training runs at race pace every single time.
Wednesday tempo run? Race pace. Thursday recovery run? Race pace. Friday hill repeats? Race pace. Saturday long run? Say it with me now, race pace.
Next year? Stress fracture.
8. Fudges Watch Data
This one cracks me up because I stumbled upon the possibility quite by accident, but it never occurred to me actually to do it.
According to industry insiders (i.e. the rumor mill), there are those who pause their watches when taking walking breaks and only start them up again when they resume running. Thus, if they took a 2 minute walking break in the middle of their mile, the watch will say it was a 10:00 minute mile and not a 12:00 minute mile.
Of course, in reality, they have traversed more than one mile but they’re willing not to get credit for that extra two/tenths of a mile if their pace can look faster.
Who are they trying to impress?? You. Sponsors. Themselves.
One time I did this inadvertently. It was a hot summer and I was tired of my frequent walking breaks. The brilliant idea popped into my head, “I’m just going to time my running segments so that I can see what my running pace is.”
Wow! I was so much faster without that dang walking slowing me down! “Haha!”, I thought. “I should do this every time!”
And then I never did it again.
I’m not talking about timing your speed intervals separately from your slower paced intervals. I’m saying to be wary of those whose data looks hinky. This most easily can be spotted from race results that never match the blogger’s reported finishing times by a dramatic margin.
9. This Point Brought To You By ~AwesomePoints!~
We all have products and companies that we believe in. We also want to feed our families and buy new running shoes. But when every other post that a blogger publishes is a sponsored post with advertising banners throughout and affiliate links sprinkled within, you can start to get a little suspicious of her intentions.
“Why is she promoting Acme Almonds this month? Didn’t last month she say that Affiliated Almonds were the best almonds that she ever tasted? It’s an almond. Unsalted, even. How much better can Acme’s really be?”
If next month she declares that almonds are gross and Bob’s Brazil Nuts are the only nuts she uses while training for the RockMusic!SuperMarathon (click here for a discount code!), take her recommendations for anything with a grain of salt. The salt left behind from poor abandoned Acme almonds.
10. Way Too Many Selfies
Selfies get a bad rap from my generation, I think. We tend to be a little “Get off my lawn, whippersnapper!” about them.
In defense of the selfie, I’d like to point out to GenXers that we are missing from a lot of our own photos when we were teens and young adults. I don’t know about you, but I never turned my 35mm around and attempted to take a photo of myself.
Now the camera owner gets to be in the shot, as well. Hey, I was at the zoo with the gang, too! That was a fun day.
But some bloggers/Instagrammers really, really seem to love their faces. Don’t get me wrong. They’re great faces. And since it’s your story, I’m happy to see you in it. But… you know… there are other things.
Remember the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You”?
Some bloggers seem to think, “That’s okay. I’m pretty sure every else is!” We really don’t need ten shots of you eating your oatmeal. (“Now with Bob’s Brazil Nuts! Click here for an amazing offer for my readers! But hurry, because an email just came in from Carl’s Cashews…)
If your own running selfies could use some help (that’d be me), my adorable, accomplished, online running friend Samantha Hopkins wrote a great article for Another Mother Runner called, “10 Tips for Great Running Selfies!“. Her photos are amazing and are going to lead to my next post…
How to Spot a Hypocrite Blogger, wherein I become a selfie addict and violate my own point #10 from this article.
These are my Top 10 Ways to Spot a Disordered Blogger. Keep in mind that I’m using “disordered” non-clinically. I am neither capable nor desirous of diagnosing anyone even of the common cold. (I learned my lesson when I “discovered” a non-existent brain tumor in my daughter’s MRI. Yeah.)
I just think that it’s important for us to evaluate if our influencers… what we used to call role models… are acting in ways that will lead us closer to our goals in sustainably healthy ways.
Do you have a different red flag that gives you pause? Please comment below and tell us!