A Health View of: Brittany Runs a Marathon
Have you ever thought about the way you view a book or movie? There are many ways to ‘view’ a certain material, and by doing so – produces different results. For example, let’s have you read this paragraph three times. The first time, I would like you to pay particular attention to my grammar and spelling. The second, I would like you to read this quickly and surmise what my message. The third, I would like you to read the writing style of this paragraph and compare it to any other writers you know.
By having different objectives, we are able to extrapolate different outcomes from the same text. I am of course, no writer, but a quick ‘Google’ of literary sources will provide an abundance of reading methods.
Having established how important the objectives of reading and/or viewing are, I would like to turn your attention to the impact of using particular paradigms and ideologies whilst consuming any content. If we were to watch any of the Rocky Balboa movies for the sake of realistic boxing scenes, we would be thoroughly disappointed. However, if we were to watch Rocky Balboa for the underdog story, we might be happily satisfied.
In one of my previous blogs, I touched on the use of stories and anecdotes as evidence to guide health decisions. For many, this is the best source they have. Many will also use celebrities as their source of advice – despite a very small percentage of them having any health or medical background. As frustrating as this might be, it is simply the power of pop-culture and stardom.
A picture of Chris Hemsworth doing weights will convince most men to start lifting weights, far more effective than any of us citing increases in hypertrophy due to volume-load. We can use this type of thinking to our advantage. By showcasing certain stories from a health and fitness perspective, we are able to turn something they already know (and find entertaining), into an introspective educational resource.
And thus, I will begin a series of blog posts dedicated to applying a health perspective to pop-culture materials, in the hope that it will be of use to you.
Without further adieu – our first movie will be: Brittany Runs a Marathon (SPOILER ALERT)
Let me begin by saying – this is one of the most accurate representations of the gen-pop experience I’ve ever encountered, and I highly recommend you watch this yourself if you’re a new coach.
I will dissect three scenes from this movie and integrate as much health knowledge as I can. Let’s begin.
The doctor tells Brittany that she is overweight and must lose weight. This acts as the catalyst for the entire movie. She tries to lose weight by running.
It’s evident from this scene that Brittany is shocked and feels disgusted with herself. In fact, she tries to object to the doctor’s claims. However, she is quickly reprimanded by his ‘no-bullshit’ attitude and resigns to the assessment that she is indeed, overweight.
From a psychological perspective, Brittany’s world view has been directly challenged by the doctor. Having believed that she wasn’t ‘unhealthy’, the assessment acts as a rude awakening and she is resistant at first. When a belief is challenged, the result is something called cognitive dissonance – mental conflict that stems from a mismatch between what we believe and what is observably real. Only two things can happen once cognitive dissonance occurs – we find reasons to maintain the status quo (hence Brittany’s objections), or, we concede and our beliefs are changed.
How many of us have had to deliver unfortunate news to our clients only for them to reject this notion? Many, I estimate.
In lieu of the doctor’s suggestions, Brittany goes to join a gym and realises she can’t afford even the most basic package.
Brittany represents one of the many people who need our help the most. The socio-economically disadvantaged. Hiring a coach is a luxury. Our services aren’t cheap (nor should they be), but the grim reality is that only the middle class and above are likely able to afford it. This is where we as coaches must recognise the financial stresses our clients have and find creative strategies to decrease this burden.
In the movie, this barrier forces her to take up running. With no running background or coaching, she quickly runs into some obstacles, which brings me to our third scene.
Her doctor informs her she has a stress fracture, preventing her from running for the next 6-8 weeks. She misses the marathon because of this injury.
A few things to dissect in this scene. The first, that her doctor did not refer her to any health professional to begin her exercise journey. This is replicated often in real life where doctors rightly tell their patients that they should adopt a more physical lifestyle. But that’s where it stops. Patients are left to their own interpretation of what this means.
Some will never start – they simply don’t know how. The others (as is the case for Brittany), will do too much, too quick. This usually presents itself as an overuse injury. Very few manage to successfully adopt a physical lifestyle without guidance.
Second, in a clear case of acute overload, a lack of guidance led to Brittany’s overuse injury. From having done no exercise to training for a marathon is no easy task. As coaches, a vital component of our role is to progress exercises at a safe rate. Her injury risk could’ve been reduced if she had proper guidance.
All in all, Brittany Runs a Marathon is largely accurate in its’ depiction of the exercise journey. From the science of exercise to the psychological and social determinants of health, Brittany Runs a Marathon presents many scenes that can be used as easy examples for our clients.