Right now in 2020, I run for two reasons.
- I enjoy it.
- I am training for another half marathon.
When clients talk to me about running I ask them two questions.
- Do you enjoy running?
- Are you currently training for a race? Or do you want to sign up for a race?
If the client answers ‘no’ to both of those questions I do my best to suggest that running is simply not needed in their program. Why? Well, running is often turned to first when it comes to weight loss goals and this is an issue. Running may burn more calories than any other modality of cardio, but the results are short lived. Your body adapts to the calorie burn and unless you are going to continually progress your mileage, pace and distance forever (most people stop progressing after a few weeks) the weight loss will stall. High running mileage is not sustainable forever for most people. Life simply gets in the way because running takes TIME. So, guess what happens if your only way of sustaining the weight you have lost is running and then you cut your running mileage in half? Yes, you gain weight back. Running also doesn’t help you build muscle, especially if you are someone who strength trains on a regular basis. In fact, running can lead to muscle loss in some individuals who are used to consistent strength training. Muscle loss is never a good thing for weight loss goals because more muscle means a better metabolism and a better metabolism is more efficient at burning body fat. Muscle gain (and nutrition habits) from consistent strength training is the only way to sustain weight loss long term.
The reason we do something in fitness is important. Running for weight loss might give short term results on the scale, but the frustration it can lead to when long term results don’t come, is not worth it. Not to mention the potential for overuse joint injuries in the feet, ankles, knees and hips that come with running. Running is not worth it as your “main”source of exercise if your primary goal is weight loss, body composition change or looking leaner.
Remember, the “skinny” people you see running all the time, “running chose them.” They aren’t running for weight loss, they are running because they enjoy it and their body makes it a good fit for them. This means that they were genetically a good fit for running from an early age and when you are good at something you are going to enjoy it. These people were probably “skinny” before they started running….
Lets get back to the positives FOR running.
If you enjoy running you should keep running! Plain and simple. If running gives you stress relief keep running. If running allows you to “escape” the stress of your day to day life, then keep running. If running connects you with nature, keep running. Most people who run for these reasons are not running to lose weight. They are running out of pure enjoyment. This is the best reason to run.
If you are training for a race, well yes you have to be running.
Here are some tips if you are new to running or maybe want to try running for the first time:
- Ask yourself why you are contemplating running? If it’s for weight loss…maybe re-consider. It’s a slippery slope of frustration and “running for calories” that is not a good mindset to have.
- Hire a coach or ask an experienced runner for tips.
- Follow some sort of plan. Random runs lead to injuries.
- Progress slow. Slower than you heart and lungs can handle. Your cardio can handle more than your joints can. The first 3-6 months only increase your weekly running time by 5-10% per week. You can even run the same weekly time or mileage and see progress! More is not always better.
- Literally go slowwwww. Don’t try to run fast or set any records. Slow pace jogging is the best way to learn proper form, breathing and cadence (strides per minute).
- Think “short,” “bouncy” strides over “longer strides.” Your ankles, calves and knees will thank you.
- Strength train. Just because you start to run doesn’t mean you can stop strength training. Injured runners are weak runners and vice versa. Hire a coach or look up “runner strength plans” online.
- Buy proper shoes and more than one pair. Get fitted by a professional.
- Sign up for a race! This will keep you accountable to a plan. Training for a race will show you if you truly enjoy running or not. Then after the race you can decide if this is something you want to continue for “enjoyment sake.”
- Maybe hold off until you gain some muscle, complete your goal of “looking leaner” and then add in running once you have the body you “want.” I can’t tell you the importance of the confidence gained from being stronger and looking leaner when it comes to wanting to go out for a run. You will ENJOY the running instead of the running being a punishment for eating that cake last night….
In the end, running can be a great addition to anyone’s fitness program. For me, it’s been a stress relief, a mental challenge and way to “round out” my overall fitness level. But, I wouldn’t be doing it if I hated it. I also have years of strength training behind me and continue to lift multiple times per week. I am happy with my current body and in no way am I running to lose weight or look leaner. Running for the “right” reasons makes it a positive experience and this is the most important thing.