Everyone has been there. You find the motivation or get re-invigorated to get back to your fighting shape or get moving on your health & fitness and your first thought is “I need to go running.”
Do you though? Is that the best method to shed unwanted pounds and work towards the body you are looking to build? It may work for some, but there are a good number of reasons why there is a better way….(keep reading)
You might think back to when you were in great shape and maybe you were running at the time, but how long ago was that? Your body is no longer the same body. Not to mention, you probably made some other great changes to your life then that helped you see some progress.
Maybe you think running is the answer because you know you need to burn more calories in order to lose weight. Others you know lost the extra body fat by running so you are willing to give it a shot.
There is nothing inherently wrong with running but many people pick it up with a bit of faulty logic.
We look back at our previous selves and tend to attribute success to certain specific things, when there were likely a number of factors that were different in our lives. We also have to remember that just because something worked in the past or for others, doesn’t mean it’s right for us now. More importantly, there just might be a BETTER way of going about it.
Before diving in to some reasons why we don’t always advocate running (specifically longer duration) for many people, we are firm believers in that you should do what you love when it comes to working out!
If you love running and that’s your way to de-stress and be outside, then run your heart out!
The human body was definitely built to move, skip, hop, and run so if it’s your thing and you enjoy doing it regularly, keep up the good work! The problem is that too many people don’t really love it, but trod along anyways, because they think they have to.
Well for those who don’t really want to run, but do it anyways, let’s talk about some reasons why it might not be the best approach for everyone. If you’re looking to get in great shape and stay injury free, you have better options than hitting the treadmill or road for a run.
1) Impact & Repetitive Injury
The worst thing that can happen when you get re-committed to working out is getting hurt, unfortunately this is a reality for many. Whether we do too much too fast, don’t have great form, or don’t have the best training plan, it happens a lot. Running is a lot of impact on the body if you have not been active and doing higher impact activities, which could result in getting sidelined.
When we are running we have what we call a “flight phase” where momentarily both feet are off of the ground. When we go airborne, what goes up must come down. Thanks to gravity this means even more force than just our body weight having to be absorbed. This additional force then has to be distributed up through the rest of the body.
This means that the process of getting into shape is more than just burning calories, but actually allowing your body to re-adjust to the demands of what you are doing, such as impact. Running for 20+ minutes at a time means hundreds to thousands of impacts with your foot and the ground and can equate to a lot of additional force going through the ankles, hips, knees, and back.
Have you ever started to run more for a while only for something non-muscular to start hurting? Our body was not built to run on concrete, so running on the road and sidewalks can be a rude awakening for the body, resulting in stress on the knees, hips, and back. Even the impact of a traditional gym treadmill can have the same effect.
Compared to your younger years you might also have more weight on your body (trying to lose it of course!) than you had last time you were into running. That just means even more stress and force going into those joints every time your foot hits the ground.
We aren’t saying everyone will get hurt running but we are all about efficiency when getting people back on the horse. Minimizing risks of injury is part of this process! If you can stay people injury free, you can work out more often, at a higher intensity, resulting in faster and more consistent progress.
2) It Doesn’t Promote Muscle Building
It actually does the opposite. Running is inherently a breakdown activity. From burning calories, to the small signals our body receives, low intensity cardio works against the process of building lean muscle. Again, this doesn’t mean don’t do it, we just want to make sure you understand the equation to changing your body.
What we really mean is don’t ONLY go running. This can contribute to weight loss but you may also lose valuable muscle in the process. Really, if your goal is weight loss without injury then just don’t do it every single day. Not only might your joints need the rest, but it may not allow for you to build your intensity over time and be most efficient with your running approach.
Long duration running will only burn calories WHILE you are working out, which is great, but if you can build a little bit of lean muscle with resistance training it will help burn more calories after your workout and all day long. Meaning the ability to shed body fat even when you are not actually working out.
This is great because even if we are working out 5-7 hours in a week, that still leaves hundreds of non-workout hours where that small amount of lean muscle can contribute to your long term fat burning and weight maintenance.
Not to mention as we age and want to maintain daily pain free function. Resistance training gives us the ability to address these concerns while running does not. Based on the fact that you can sustain something like running for 20-60 minutes means it’s not enough of a strength challenge to have any effect on your muscular system.
Will running improve your endurance and allow you to go flower for a long time? Yes. Will it help you better pick up something off the ground without pulling your back? No.
3) You Don’t Enjoy It
In the long game, consistency is the #1 most important variable to see change in your body. If you dread what you are doing, what are the odds you will stick with it? Not very high. Now, you may not initially be in love with the workout life, but with time you must find something that you enjoy doing regularly.
If you can’t find the right gym, activity, or group that keeps you excited about working out consistently you may struggle. What can you continue to grow with and build into your daily routine and activities you enjoy? Find that and stick with it!
At Gravity + Oxygen we have climbers, rowers, bikes, and self-propelled treadmills. We offer this variety not only because they are all great low impact ways for people to improve their cardiovascular health (the oxygen side of our brand), but because we know not every mode of cardio is a great fit for each person.
Is it going to be hard? Yes, anything worth having is, but it’s all about finding ways to challenge your fitness in ways you can both sustain and enjoy long term.
Sometimes this just means having choices.
If you legitimately dread the idea of running, then we say don’t do it! There is tons of new evidence and research showing cardio isn’t the only (or best) way to get in shape. This is where the strength training (gravity) and interval training side of things comes into play.
Maybe circuit training, pushing sleds, and playing with battle ropes sounds like more fun to you. Perfect, because you can successfully lose weight and keep it off training that way. Maybe you love running and want to continue to do marathons and 5k races. Great, just make sure you have a plan to vary what you are doing, and incorporate strength training so that you continue to progress injury free.
Do what speaks to your motivations and interests.
This will put you on the right path to long term progress. In the end it’s all about understanding that there is no one-size fits all approach towards being healthy and getting into shape.
Cardiovascular health is very important or it wouldn’t be half of our brand here at Gravity + Oxygen fitness but we encourage you to keep an open mind about what "cardio" looks like. There are many ways to burn calories, burn fat, and build muscle.
Your goal should be to try and find the approach that works best with your body, not against it.
We tend to be comfortable with what we have done in the past and what we know, even if it’s not the best fit for us now. Running for many people is one of those things.
Just keep in mind that true lasting change doesn't happen inside the comfort zone.
Best of luck,
p.s. Been hearing more and more about interval training and wonder how running (or other modes of cardio) might fit into this process? Keep an eye on an upcoming blog on this very thing and find out how/why interval training is at the foundation of our training philosophy at G+O Fitness!
Joe is the Co-owner of G+O Fitness and the Axiom Fitness Academy. When he isn't at the HQ whipping people into shape and changing lives, you can probably find him with his fiance', Megan, reading or playing outdoors.
Joe is a lover of team huddles, IPic, craft beers, and all things peanut butter related. You can connect with him more at firstname.lastname@example.org