I’ve been bashing on distance running for years – and there’s a number of reasons why. This isn’t to say you should NOT run, but you need to ask yourself “why” before tying up your shoes and hitting the pavement.
Let’s start with the WORST reasons to commit to a regular running plan, then I’m going to share with you the BEST alternatives…..and finish with the only reasons you SHOULD run!
Mistake #1 To Lose Weight Or Body Fat
Yes, if you control your diet and create a caloric deficit (more calories out than in) on a daily basis, and use running as your go-to exercise, you WILL see the scale go down.
But what exactly are you losing?
SOME body fat is part of it, but in all honesty you’re destroying your metabolism. Steady state, distance running has practically ZERO benefit in helping us with long-term fat loss and weight maintenance.
In fact, you will probably hit your weight goal if you’re committed, but you’ll see MORE pounds pack on once you up your food intake because
- You never instilled healthy, sustainable nutrition habits for long term success
- You chipped away at your mediocre metabolism, making fat gain more than inevitable
Best Alternative: Progressive Strength Training
Lifting weights will create tone and shape to your entire body, while burning calories and INCREASING your metabolism in the process. You develop a physique vs. just melting in your clothes which is the result from running as your sole activity. You’ll also find that day to day things are easier and that you’re just all around stronger.
Resistance/Weight training MUST be progressive – you can not expect to see results if you don’t challenge your body. If you are lifitng the SAME exact 8 or 10 pound dumbbells for the same rep goals oyu were 1 month or even worse, 1 year ago – YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME.
Let me repeat, if you are lifting the SAME exact weights in a progressive strength prorgram that you were 1 month ago YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME.
Your body has adapted and the benefits have diminished. This is the biggest drawback I find is that so many men and women get comfortable and think doing the same weights over and over will get the same results – it’s simply not true. You must progress and track your weight selection if you want to see any progress, and increase your metabolism!
Mistake #2 For Cardio
Intensity is the secret to nearly ALL health and fitness benefits, regardless of what your goals are. The more intensely you work (relative to you and your ability) the more you get for your time invested.
If you think that repetitive stress on your joints for THOUSANDS of repetitions is going to benefit you in the long run (no pun intended) then by all means use distance running as your go-to.
Best Alternative: Metabolic Cardio
By doing resistance based metabolic circuits, you get far more return for your time invested, burn more calories in the process and stimulate a faster metabolism after. (remember, steady-state cardio chips away at your metabolism!)
The higher intensity you’ll be working at will provide you with more cardiovascular and endurance benefits than you can imagine, and you’ll spend half the time (15-20 minutes) actually exercising, and get far more for your time spent.
An example would be doing 30 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds or rest, where you alternate between Exercise #1 and Exercise #2.
It looks simple (and is) but you still want to program these workouts properly as your muscles will fatigue if you select the wrong exercises. (there’s also some exercises that you get a FAR greater return on than others!).
3 Reasons You SHOULD Run
Reason #1 Peace Of Mind
If running gives you the “calm” you need and want in your life, or is your time away from the hecticness, then I would encourage you to continue. The ONE thing you must keep in mind, is what are your goals? Remember, if you want to lose body fat you MUST prioritize strength & metabolic work – but can totally plan in a distance run here or there for peace of mind.
The thing I would hate to see is justification for “exercise being done today” simply because you checked running off your list. Plan your week out, based on your goals and put running in (but keep your goals as what you base your exercise time around!).
Reason #2 As A Sport
Do you run to compete? That’s fantastic, and it should probably take on hte forefront of your training. Keep in mind, running more at a steady state will help you perform better at running, but the benefits of higher intensity work from metabolic workouts and developing strength will go a long way too. You’ll want to balance your time of exercise use differently than if you were looking to lose body fat, but steady state distance running will definitely take it’s precedence in your training program – just don’t neglect the higher intensity and strength training work if you want to speed past your competition!
Reason #3 Pure Enjoyment
Do you absolutely just love running? Great – as long as it doesn’t hinder your goals. Running will chip away at your strength, speed of metabolism and fat loss efforts should any of those be your goals – just keep that in mind. Find your balance and make your time – if this is what you enjoy, by golly do it!
I hope this puts running into perspective for you – it’s tough as a coach to educate on this topic as it’s SO easy and simple to stick with running, especially when it comes to fat loss. It requires only a moderate amount of time with somewhat quick returns on the scale, but it’s setting most up for complete failure with fat loss. Run for fun, run because you love it – but please do it intelligently and keep in mind the price your body may be paying with the repetitive stress!
Dedicated to your health and fitness,