My 4 Beefs with Running for Fat Loss - and their solutions
Let me start by saying that my beef isn’t necessarily with people running, but more HOW they go about running. In my many years in the fitness industry, I have only met a handful of people that are well educated on running – and they were competitive runners. The rest of the people I talk to about running have very little knowledge as to the most effective way to go about it.
I have 4 big beefs with running for fat loss, and I’ll share them here along with what I see as a sensible solution to my particular beef.
BEEF #1 – UNEDUCATED RUNNERS
This is probably my biggest beef, and many of my other issues stem from this one...Too many people want to lose weight and the first thought is, “hey I’ll just start running – that’ll work!” They don’t take the time to hire a proper running coach/trainer, or educate themselves from reliable sources (the internet is a great resource for those willing to spend the time). They literally dust off whatever somewhat athletic shoe they have in the house and out the door they go...WAHOO!! Time to lose weight!
SOLUTION #1 – EDUCATION!
As with all types of exercise, it is much safer and more effective if you have an educated, thought-out plan. Unbeknownst to many people (again the education is at the forefront here), running can be VERY DANGEROUS to the health of your body. Talk to any chiropractor, massage therapist, or physiotherapist and ask them what they see a good majority of their clients for and the answer is frequently “running.” Damage to the feet, ankles, shins, knees and hips is all common with uneducated runners (it is common in elite runners as well, but that is a different story all together and injuries are common for elite athletes in ANY sport). WHY? Because improper programming (i.e., a lack of planning or structure), cheap or old running shoes, improper running mechanics, as well as improper warm-ups and/or cooldowns and you have a recipe for a trip to the disabled list. Counterproductive for your big weight loss plan, isn’t it??
If you educate yourself with proper programming, proper warming up (yes you should be warming up and not just hitting the pavement cold with your iPhone pounding 8tracks), proper running mechanics (there are different mechanics required for different running distances), and proper running shoes, you can reduce your risk for injury substantially. But people don’t want to spend the time educating themselves, breaking their bodies in properly for required distances, or doing this thing the right way. They slip their shoes on and hope for the best. At least know what you’re getting yourself into before you get started.
BEEF #2 – GETTING FATTER ON THE PAVEMENT
Again this stems back to education, but I see and hear people all the time that run the same distance in the same speed day in and day out for who knows how long. Well they probably lost a few pounds out of the gate, because something is better than nothing, but after the body adapted to that particular stimulus, progress stalled and they continue to waste their time day in a day out. Running at a steady state (i.e. same speed the whole run) can eat up A LOT of time if you let it and can actually help your body STORE FAT. Soo...lots of effort and lots of time invested with a minimal return. Sounds like a bum deal if you ask me. Why waste precious time and energy for possibly going backwards in your progress?
Here are 2 interesting reads from the same author several years apart:
SOLUTION #2 – MAKE A PLAN
Make a plan and set up your programming. The body will not change with a consistent stimulus. You need to vary your running lengths, speeds, styles and set it up over the course of a week and a month and a year. Yeah, planning is very important here. And even with proper running programming, the body will want to hold on to some bodyfat for those long, steady state runs. When your body is put into a long distance at a steady state, your body will, over time, begin to store fat, because at longer distances (and in turn at lower running speeds) fat/lipids are broken down as energy, and when you’re running a lot and at a high frequency (several times a week), the body’s natural response is to hang on to some fuel for the long trip ahead. Good thing there’s a solution to this...
Resistance Training. Yes, lifting weights. For whatever reason, in many fitness circles running is glorified, while weights are demonized. Use your resistance training as a conditioning tool as well as a strength tool – weighted cardio is much harder, much more demanding, and much more beneficial for the body from a fat-loss perspective. A combination of cardio and weights is going to give you the best results – don’t believe me? Educate yourself on these aspects and see for yourself.
BEEF #3 – THE WRONG KIND OF RUNNING
As I stated from the outright, I’m not against all running – just the uneducated, slog away on the pavement because I’ve got this cockamamie plan to lose weight that seems to float around too much – type of running. Long, steady, low to the pavement slow moving running is NEVER in my recommended forms of fat loss or body recomposition. We have athletes as high as the NHL and surprise surprise they don't do ANY long, steady-state running!!
SOLUTION #3 – SPRINTS!
Yes, sprints. They make for one heckuva hard workout, take WAY less time, and will strip fat from your body without storing it. Again, education is needed here (a common theme hey) but using sprinting – whether it is on flat ground, hills, stairs, with push or pull sleds or weighted vests, you will get ALOT more out of your time and energy investment from sprints than steady state cardio. Don’t believe me?? Here is a quick article on the benefits of sprinting:
BEEF #4 – WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU WANT TO LOOK LIKE?
I often ask why people are out running all the time. The answer is almost always “because I’m trying to lose weight.” Well we’ve already touched on a few things here as to the drawbacks of steady-state running....and the benefits of sprints.
Here is an honest question for you....what exactly do you want to look like when you lose the weight??
The body’s muscles are essentially composed of 2 types of muscle fibres – slow twitch and fast twitch. Type 1 fibres are slow twitch and tend to be associated with endurance training – they are smaller in nature but have strong aerobic capacities. Type 2 fibres are fast twitch and are associated with power and explosive training – they are larger and
tend to look “fuller” when they are the dominant type. The body has both and whichever type of training you do tends to facilitate the one used the most. Long distance running employs type 1 muscle fibres and destroys type 2 muscle fibres – essentially leaving the muscles flat and “stringy” looking. Long distance runners tend to have very skinny legs, flat butts, stringy arms and often (but not always) a soft abdomen (that fat storage I mentioned earlier), while track and strength athletes (sprinters and other explosive sport athletes) tend to have more shapely legs, a tight, round butt, capped shoulders and a lean, muscular abdomen.
SOLUTION #4 - IDENTIFY AND ATTACK YOUR GOAL
Look at the bodies below
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Now again these are sort of extremes of each of the styles of training, BUT they are clear examples of what focused training will do to your body composition. Look at people that employ both shorter distances (I’m talking running distances less than 1 or 2km at a time and using short, explosive bursts of energy with timed recoveries AND including strength training in the whole equation), and ask yourself if that’s what you want to more closely resemble than the long, steady-state marathon style runners of the endurance world.
So, there are my 4 beefs with running. So when I say I don’t like running (I personally don’t like it at all but that’s not to say you shouldn’t run if you want to - to each their own), it’s more the way people go about running than the actual process of moving yourself from place to place with your feet. If there is one piece of advice I can offer it is EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION!!!
The benefits of interval running/hill running/sprinting in my opinion BY FAR outweigh the benefits of long, steady-state running, not only in changing your body composition, but also in injury prevention and time spent actually doing the running. Cut your training time down, increase your fat loss and reduce your injury risk with anaerobic running. And lift weights. I truly believe that every single person no matter what your goals are will 100% benefit from barbell training in one form or another. Get after it!!