Get Off The Treadmill

I’m really fortunate that the people who read my site have two things in common:

  • a passion to lead a healthy lifestyle
  • goal(s) that they are striving to achieve

One of things I hope that I can provide to my readers as well as my clients is prescriptive guidance to help them achieve their goals. One of their main question is cardio?

I live in Boston right next to the Charles River as soon as the snow melts the runners, joggers and walkers come out in droves.  Do you know why they run — I mean at least 85% of them, come on you the answer, think about it!! That’s right its to LOSE WEIGHT!

Running is cardio right, running is hard for me so it must be good for me, running will help me lose weight, right.  Well…. Long distance running is the worst thing for weight loss.

SAY WHAT!!!

Most of you run because you’ve seen pictures of elite runners who are lean and mean and want to get the physique or you have a friend who has the physique that you want and you ask hey what are you doing and then they say or I just run x number of miles a day. You think to yourself — running that’s easy I’ll lace up and get moving.

I’m here to tell you unless you competing in an endurance event, running will not give you that lean toned physique. I’m sorry to report that continuous long slow steady state cardio just doesn’t get the metabolism fired up the way a strength training session coupled with interval training does.  Did know that interval training is 9xs more effective than steady state cardio? Getting your metabolism fired up is EXACTLY what is needed to get that lean and toned physique. Intervals keep your body guessing and stops it from going on autopilot.

Long slow steady state cardio does just that, it puts the body on autopilot. Your body knows exactly what to expect, how much effort to give you and therefore only gives you what you need. I’m not saying these workouts won’t be hard, but your body doesn’t have to give you as much. What’s even worse as you build up your mileage you begin to burn more fat, but guess what your body adapts to help you become more efficient at running so it begins to “store more fat”!  Yup — you heard that right.  Don’t believe me take a look at any finish line of any race; you’ll see far more average Joe physiques than you’ll see Kara Goucher physiques. They’ll be a few Kara Goucher’s, but I’ll let you in on little secret they looked like that before they started running.

You can’t run to get fit; you need to be fit to run.” – Diane Lee, Canadian Physical Therapist

When you are training for a long distance endurance race your body is recruiting different muscles to make sure that you are efficient at running.  When you are training to change your body composition you are looking to make your body’s efficient at strength training. Training for both throws your body into tug of war.  As you get more efficient at running you may experience that your fat stores tend overtake your muscle stores. Most people experience loss of muscularity in their quads and then in their tushies. Now depending on where you hold your weight, you may also experience fat gains around your mid-section.

I don’t say this to discourage your fitness goals. I tell you this so that you can make informed choices.

Need more proof – here are a few studies.

  • J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Jan 2
    Effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution.
    This is a six month study. Aerobic training group performed 50 minutes of aerobics 5 times a week for the entire duration. Results:  No additional effects of aerobic exercise on weight or body fat levels.
  • Obesity 2007 June – [15:14]96-1512.
    Exercise Effect on Weight and Body Fat in Men and Women.
  • McTiernan et al
    For 1 year they had a test group do six hours of steady state cardio for 60 min, six days per week. In one year, the group lost 3 lbs.
  • According to a British study, levels of Human Growth Hormone, which assists in building muscle and burning fat, skyrocketed 530% in subjects after just thirty seconds of sprinting as fast as they could on a stationary bike.

I would love to hear your thoughts leave me some comments below.

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