Does gender matter when it comes to running?
Running season is about to begin with spring weather on the horizon. Scores of people are lacing up and signing up for their favorite races. To prevent injury and to have a great experience, seasoned runners know the need for training before stepping across the starting line.
But do women and men need to train differently? Does gender matter when it comes to pre-race prep?
health enews checked in with Dr. Charles Crotteau, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, and an avid runner. Dr. Crotteau has completed 26 marathons, including the 2015 Boston Marathon and has a personal best of 2 hours and 56 minutes.
Here’s what he has to say:
Q. Is it true that men and women need different types of training?
A. In general, I would say no. Both men and women require a thoughtful balance of long runs at a reasonable pace, shorter faster efforts and cross training. In my Boston Marathon training group, our gender ratio was 50/50 and we all ran similar workouts regardless of gender.
Q. Doesn’t the difference in body type between genders require different kinds of training plans?
A. From an anatomic standpoint, women are theoretically at increased risk for leg/knee/foot issues because of the shape of the pelvis which leads to different stresses on the bones, muscles and ligaments of the lower extremities. Cross training (to strengthen one’s entire body, which should hopefully prevent injury) and correct shoe choice are critical for women.
Q. Is either gender more susceptible to injury?
A. All runners seem to be at risk for injury, especially if they fail to make wise choices about training intensity, mileage, etc. However, women might be at slightly increased risk for the reasons mentioned earlier.
Q. Does one gender have any advantage over the other when it comes to running efficiency?
A. Anecdotally speaking, in my experience, women tend to be way more flexible than men. This flexibility must be advantageous for women in general. Most runners work tirelessly to make themselves more flexible—it seems like men struggle in this area. Many people fail to realize how much upper body strength is required to run effectively. Therefore, men (who tend to focus more on upper body strength) may have an advantage here.
Q. Would they require different nutritional needs during training?
A. The nutritional needs are similar. Because of increased body weight, men may have a higher caloric requirement during training than women. There is a need for runners of any gender to consume quality carbohydrate and healthy fat to meet the energy demands of training. Additionally, ample protein intake is critical to build and repair muscle, especially during intense training.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.