I love Biscuits. I’m not too fussy, but I do have my favourites. I have biscuits for every occasion. For special occasions it has to be chocolate Mikado’s. Relatively new on the scene they have stirred up the biscuit landscape and brought it to new heights. The crack of the chocolate, and then the cheap sugary jam mixed in with the pink marshmallow and coconut flakes….. Heaven. But I’m not too posh for Marietta biscuits either, real butter squeezed between two plane Mariettas, just perfect in times of desperation. But the reliable fig roll is my staple daily biscuit. I’m sitting here writing, whilst dunking a fig roll into a coffee. I’ve been with fig rolls for well over 15 years now and they’ve undergone some changes in that time. They used to have ridges on the top which lowered the fig to crust ratio, but thankfully these have now been sensibly removed. We even had a scare in 2008 when a shortage of figs, caused by a drought in Turkey, led to a decline in the production of fig rolls. That was a tough few months, but stockpiling and careful rationing got me through. But what effect is my biscuit addiction having on my running? Moving, as I did, from a sport like rugby, in which sheer size and mass is becoming a predictor of success at all levels (Olds, 2001) to a sport like running in which excessive body mass may hinder performance, is difficult. It’s hard to go from actively trying to keep weight on, to trying to stop weight gain and even reduce it!
Runners and joggers have always been concerned with weight. For many, like me, it is one of the many reasons to start jogging. But unfortunately like many amateur enthusiasts I’m pretty sure my physique may never resemble that of the elite runners. Unfortunately a strong correlation between running speed and the body mass index (BMI) has long been established (Sedeaud et al., 2014). Body mass index (BMI) is calculated as body mass divided by the square of the body height. A BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight, and a BMI higher than 30 is considered obese. It must however be noted that BMI does not account for body composition (percentage of fat versus muscle) which is a much better indicator of fitness and fatness. So in order to become a quicker runner, it is necessary to be lighter (Knechtle et al., 2010). But as I dunk my third fig roll into my cooling coffee I come across some reassuring research. Even though biscuits may slow me down, if I continue to run I will maintain my physical fitness levels. This appears to be the most important factor in maintaining health and preventing cardiovascular diseases – the main cause of death in the developed world. Ideally we should aim to be both lean and fit, but it is still safer from a health perspective to be physically active and overweight than skinny and unfit (Mahmood et al.; Hainer et al., 2009; Lee et al., 2010)
So feeling justified I move on to my fifth fig roll, happy that I will never sacrifice biscuits in search of a personal best running performance. There is so much more to life and so many biscuits to taste. But on my sixth and final fig roll now, the guilt starts to hit. I know that amongst runners, BMI has been found to be significantly linked to injuries. A runner with a BMI of greater than 25 kg/m2 has a 30% greater risk of sustaining an injury whilst running when compared with a runner with a BMI of less than 25 kg/m2 (Buist et al., 2010). But this risk can be controlled by the graduated, and coach led training programmes, particularly in the early stages of training (Nielsen et al., 2014). So for those that want to break PBs, remain injury free and maybe win races avoid the biscuit aisle in Tesco’s. But I am happy to run to keep fit and active and won’t lose any sleep over my BMI!
Buist I, Bredeweg SW, Lemmink KA, van Mechelen W & Diercks RL. (2010). Predictors of running-related injuries in novice runners enrolled in a systematic training program: a prospective cohort study. Am J Sports Med 38, 273-280.
Hainer V, Toplak H & Stich V. (2009). Fat or fit: what is more important? Diabetes Care 32 Suppl 2, S392-397.
Knechtle B, Wirth A & Rosemann T. (2010). Predictors of race time in male Ironman triathletes: physical characteristics, training, or prerace experience? Percept Mot Skills 111, 437-446.
Lee DC, Artero EG, Sui X & Blair SN. (2010). Mortality trends in the general population: the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness. J Psychopharmacol 24, 27-35.
Mahmood SS, Levy D, Vasan RS & Wang TJ. The Framingham Heart Study and the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease: a historical perspective. The Lancet 383, 999-1008.
Nielsen RO, Bertelsen ML, Parner ET, Sorensen H, Lind M & Rasmussen S. (2014). Running more than three kilometers during the first week of a running regimen may be associated with increased risk of injury in obese novice runners. Int J Sports Phys Ther 9, 338-345.
Olds T. (2001). The evolution of physique in male rugby union players in the twentieth century. J Sports Sci 19, 253-262.
Sedeaud A, Marc A, Marck A, Dor F, Schipman J, Dorsey M, Haida A, Berthelot G & Toussaint JF. (2014). BMI, a performance parameter for speed improvement. PLoS One 9, e90183.