Let’s face it, you’ve been conditioned, pretty much since conception, that if you want to “get in shape” you should run. Hit the pavement, the treadmill, whatever. The more miles, the better shape you’ll achieve.
This idea of “fitness by cardiovascular endurance training” arose in the 1960s. Almost overnight, jogging became a phenomenon. Today, it remains the go-to method of exercise for the casual trainee.
Unfortunately, despite its popularity, there are lots of reasons that you should not be running, especially not at the expense of other modes of exercise.
- You Get Too Good At It – The more you run long distance, the better you get at running long distance. Sounds great right? Wrong. Getting better at running long distance means getting more efficient with your calories. The more efficient you get, the fewer calories you burn while running. Like an addict, you have to keep doing more to get the same (or lesser result).
- It Causes Muscle Loss – This is an addition to the above. A muscular body is not ideal for running 5 miles. Muscles are too heavy and requires too much energy when they move. As your body adapts to your training, it will actually catabolize (break down) your muscle mass in order to lessen the metabolic load of running. Less muscle equals a “slower” metabolism – fewer calories burned all day long.
- It Isn’t Efficient For Fat Loss – Compared to weight training and high intensity interval training (HIIT), long distance cardio just isn’t that efficient at reducing body fat. Long distance cardio burns calories, but so do weight training and HIIT. Plus, weight training and HIIT have the additional bonuses of raising excess post exercise oxygen consumption (increase your metabolism long after exercise is complete) and building muscle mass, which also burns calories.
- The “Fat Burning Zone” Is Crap – Lots of exercise equipment and many trainers espouse a “fat burning zone” of intensity around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. This idea is based on research which shows that more fats are burned as fuel in this lower-intensity range. Again, sounds great! Not so fast. While lower intensity training indeed burns more fats for fuel and fewer carbohydrates, the net calorie balance is the ultimate determinant of body fat loss. If your net calorie balance is positive (you take in more than your burn), your fat stores are replenished after exercise and more! Regardless of the fuel source during exercise, your fat loss is better served by the metabolic and muscle building benefits of HIIT and weight training.
- Injuries / You Aren’t Ready – Despite seeming relatively simple, running is actually a highly advanced form of exercise from a biomechanical standpoint. We’re talking about thousands of repetitions of high-impact force on the entire body. Most beginner and intermediate exercisers have nowhere near the physical readiness to handle that kind of stress. This is part of the reason why so many serious runners are always injured – shin splints, joint problems, tendonitis, fasciitis, you name it. Running takes a huge physical toll that most beginner to intermediate exercisers cannot handle. Ironically, some smart people in the industry have coined the phrase “Don’t run to get fit. Get fit to run.” to address just this issue. Distance running should not be considered until a baseline level of strength, flexibility, and mobility has been established in the gym.
For more good info on the subject of not running, check out No Business Running by Rachel Cosgrove on Figure Athlete. She’s been there and knows what she’s talking about.
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