Yes, I know I’m going to get dinged for this article. After all, there are many avid runners out there, and many more people who aren’t avid runners, but pretend to be because they think it’s necessary.
My goal today is to bring clarity to a topic that isn’t being discussed in the fitness world, but definitely needs to be. The reason “running = bad” is not brought up is because it just seems to make sense that “running = better health”.
Understand that I would never tell you not to run if that’s what you believe is right. After all, if you’re moving, you’re moving. Movement is always a better option than not doing so.
I hope that this article is able to bring some clarification to the topic of running, especially for that group of people who run because they think they have to. If you feel the need to tell me how bad of a person I am (or how grateful you are that you don’t have to run anymore) feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 Main Reasons Why You Run
The running craze started back in the 70s & 80s when Phil Knight invented the Nike shoe and started selling it to colleges around the country. Because the shoe seemed much more runner-friendly, this made people more comfortable with the idea of running for long distances.
Ever since then, running has taken on a world of its own. Now there are shoes stores, magazines, books, specialists, coaches, and other gadget companies who will gladly take your money to help you improve your running ability.
All of these companies are betting on you fitting into one of three areas when it comes to running. These areas are the three main reasons why you might be running:
#1) To Get Fit
#2) To Lose Weight
#3) Because you love running
I want to address each of these reasons one at time to see if it makes sense. Then, if you follow the logic of reasoning, you can make an informed decision on what your next steps (or non-steps in this instance) might be to move your health & fitness forward from here.
Running to Get Fit
In the fitness world, we have a saying. The saying goes “you don’t run to get fit, you get fit to run”. Now how in the world does that even make sense? And how can a fitness professional be saying that you need to get fit in order to run? Isn’t that what running is doing? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.
Let’s say one day you decided you wanted to get in shape and haven’t worked out for years. So, you decide to start running. This is the starting place for most runners.
Starting a running program from scratch is a risky proposition. Yes, running will definitely make you more cardiovascularly (I just made that wordup) fit. However, is it worth improving your cardio at the expense of your overall health & wellbeing?
To begin with, the average person is not physically ready to run when they get started on their fitness journey. There are a number of reasons for this, but this mostly revolves around muscular stiffness and imbalance issues.
Issues such as muscular imbalances can cause other injuries such as knee, hip, back, shoulderand neck pain. If you’ve ever started a running regimen and ended up with one of these ailments, you have a muscular imbalance (actually, EVERYBODY has muscular imbalance to some degree).
Structurally speaking, most people are not naturally built for running either. This is especially true for women (sorry ladies, you’re likely the worst candidate to be a well-structured runner).
The reason that most women are not structurally built to run is because of something called the Q-Angle. The Q-Angle has to do with the lower body. Specifically, the relationship between the position of the hips verse the position of the knee.
The greater the angle is between the outside of your hip and outside of your knee, the greater your Q-Angle. The greater the Q-Angle, the more likely you will be to have running-related injuries.
So, if you’re definition of being fit is being in great overall shape without injuries, you can see how running may not get you to your goal.
Running to Lose Weight
This is likely where the greatest amount of people begin when they start a running program. Running to lose weight is something that has been popularized and strongly encouraged over the years.
And, guess what, it can work! But, again, is this the best, most efficient use of your time and effort if your overall goal is weight loss?
I’m not going to spend much time here going over the structural aspects of why running for weight loss doesn’t make sense. To go along with everything I’ve said above, let’s just look at a few other physical implications of running.
I’m going to make the assumption that, if you’re running to lose weight, you’re probably…well, overweight. And if you’re overweight, you understand that your body is already taking on more load demands than it wants.
When it comes to running, every foot strike can equal 2 to 4 times the load of your body weight. That means that if you weigh 180lbs, every time you take a stride when you run, the pressure on your body is between 360lbs and 720lbs of pressure. Factor that with an average of 1500 steps per mile, and that’s a lot of built up pressure!
But beyond the fact of joint degradation, is running the most efficient way to lose weight in general? Well, this is an easy one.
Over the years, research is starting to catch up with the world of fitness and show us what we can do to effectively reach our health goals. And weight loss has been one of the primary research topics of choice.
For weight loss purposes, running has been shown to be a moderately effective tool. However, 2 markers that we typically use to gauge our health levels, weight and calories, can be deceiving when it comes to running results.
WEIGHT LOSS VS FAT LOSS
You see, when it comes to losing weight, running can be extremely effective. Go ahead and get started on a running program and you’ll see the pounds fall off in the first couple of weeks. The trouble is, where are those pounds coming from? And how long can you sustain that weight loss?
When you lose weight from running, what you’re losing is overall body mass. On the surface, this may seem like a good thing. But if you dig a little deeper, what you see is that a healthy percentage of that body mass is lean muscle.
For health and longevity purposes, lean muscle is not only important, it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE for quality of life as you age. Do you remember watching your grandparents having trouble getting around toward the end of their lives? That’s because they lacked the strength and muscle to move around effectively.
What you want when it comes to healthy weight loss is FAT LOSS. And fat loss happens much slower than overall weight loss. Quality, healthy fat loss should take off about 1-2lbs a week. When you creep much past that 2lbs a week number, you’re starting to dig into your muscle stores. And that’s dangerous territory.
THE CALORIE BURNING MYTH
Another gauge that you might use to see if you’re becoming healthier is how many calories you’re burning. When it comes to running, counting your calories burned can lead to you down a dangerous path.
Your body is an awesome adaptation machine. When it comes to running, for instance, your body adapts by becoming more efficient both internally and externally.
For instance, if you walk a mile and it takes you 15 minutes, you’ll burn approximately 110 calories (dependent, of course, on weight). If you run that same mile and it takes you 10 minutes, you’ll burn about 130 calories.
So that change from walking to running of course increased that amount of calories you burned, but not by as much as you would hope. To add to this, as you become more efficient, the number of calories you burn will go down.
To continue our example, as you continue to walk the same 15 minute mile, your body will slowly burn less & less calories. The same goes for the 10 minute mile.
Why does your body do this? Because of adaptation. Your body burns the most calories when it is doing something inefficient. To use the analogy of a car, if the engine is missing oil, it’s probably not running as well as it should. And if it’s not running as well as it should, it’s likely burning more fuel.
The same goes with the human body. If you do exercise that your body is not good at, it will burn lots of calories. But as you become more efficient at those things and adapt, your body will burn less calories.
And since running and walking are easy, cyclical movements, your body will adapt extremely quick!
Running Because You Love It
Finally, we get to our last group of runners, the headband wearing, endorphin junkies of the running world.
If you run because you absolutely love to run, I salute you. Be happy that you’ve found something that you enjoy that involves movement. Many people struggle with finding their place in the fitness world. You’re lucky enough to have found a modality that you enjoy. So keep up the hard work.
I do, however, have some suggestions if you fit into the love-of-running group. Just like any other person, you have muscular imbalances somewhere. PLEASE, PLEASE be mindful of your warm up routine. I know runners. And runners like to “warm up” by running slower than usual, and then running faster as they go.
This IS NOT a warm up. Take care of your body. Warm up properly. And, for goodness sake, do some resistance training to overcome those muscular imbalances. A quality weight training program WILL NOT make you slow and bulky!
Where Do I Go From Here?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. Maybe you’ve had a couple of revelations along the way. And, if you have, then your body will thank you for it.
So, the question then becomes, where do I go from here? I’ve mentioned above that the body adapts well to movement, especially cyclical movement. I’ve also mentioned that your body has muscular imbalances and issues that can arise over time.
To overcome both of these issues, a great path to take is incorporating a well thought out, well developed weight training program combined with some sort of HIIT (high intensity interval training).
In a perfect world, you can find something that puts these 2 modalities together to form MRT (metabolic resistance training). MRT is what you get when you combine free weights and interval training. It’s the best of both worlds because you’re focusing on building strength and sustaining muscle mass, while also doing inefficient exercise that your body has trouble adapting to.
Never underestimate the importance of a quality weight training program. For best results, you need to find someone who is knowledgeable in the subject and can build a program that works for you.
If you’re ready to get going on your fitness journey, or if you’ve been running and are ready for a change, I strongly suggest you reach out to us to set up a Strategy Session so you can learn how we can help you achieve your fitness goals.