Sure, go from zero running to some running to lots of running and you will probably lose some weight. But then what?
I’ve seen it, in people I know, in people I read about, in people I see out in public…the weight loss stalls.
Now, I used to be that meat head that would say “cardio is dumb, you don’t need to do cardio, just lift and diet and you will be good”.
While I partially still agree with this – I also don’t think cardio is dumb. It is very important to make sure your heart is strong and functions well or, well, you die. If you ENJOY running – or more traditional cardio, and it doesn’t harm you – then more power to ya, run run run!
However, using cardio as a sole means of fat loss with complete ignorance of diet and some cross training is a recipe for disaster.
The three common traps that cardio lovers seem to fall into are:
- Weight loss stopped? Time to run more.
- I run a lot/train for marathons – I can eat whatever I want.
- I want to be better at running – so I will run more!
When weight loss stops on a pure cardio routine, many peoples first instinct is “I need more cardio”. Here why that might not be the best idea.
When you live by the cardio – you die by the cardio. Meaning that the more cardio you add and add and add to your week, as soon as something happens in your life that doesn’t allow you to run 10 hours per week, your progress will backfire and your weight will rocket back.
Without paying any attention to creating a slight caloric restriction through food instead of just trying to run more, you set yourself up for trouble when trouble strikes in your life.
Your body also becomes very efficient at running at a slow and steady pace. Meaning you CONSERVE calories so you can last longer on your run, but at a slightly slower pace. When fatloss is the goal, efficiency sucks.
Crank up the intensity, hit some sprints (on a bike especially) and turn your body into a furnace in a shorter amount of time.
This is where problem 2 comes in – the “I run a lot therefore I can eat whatever I want”.
There is a generic statistic that says you burn about 100 calories per mile traveled while running so lets just use that for an example.
Say you run 10 miles one day – so “burn” 1000 calories. Then you go to Olive Garden to celebrate with friends and get the biggest past dish you can find because you “earned” it.
Well that dish is 2500 calories, plus the 4 breadsticks you ate – so there you go, you now cancelled out your run plus jumped into a surplus.
The main point being – its very easy to supplant the caloric burn of a cardio workout if you blindly eat whatever.
You must still pay attention to diet, and eat enough for performance – but also if you goal is fat loss, you must be in a slight deficit.
And the last trap – more running = better at running, its not always the case.
Yes, you need to practice any skill to get better.
But for runners, don’t forget strength!
You need to build up the muscles through strength training so they can endure long runs, and the pounding on the pavement.
Strength training not only builds muscle (which boosts your resting metabolic rate) but it also helps build BONE.
How many cardio lovers do you know who have gotten stress fractures? I know a few.
Heavier loading of the bones and especially the axial skeleton greatly improves bone density. This means squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, all those good lower body exercises should be done 2-3 days per week.
So if your goal is to lose some fat here’s what I would recommend:
- Don’t rely solely on running- if you enjoy it, cool, but you don’t NEED to run. Biking, swimming, hiking, circuit training, are all great ways to get cardiovascular improvements as well.
- Don’t ignore diet. Your goal should be to lose fat at a pace of 1-2 pounds per week with as little change to your normal routine as possible. So don’t just add in 10 hours of cardio per week because that wont last. Start with bodyweight x 10 for your calorie goal.
- Weight train – not only to help prevent running injuries, but also to improve your metabolism, your muscle tone, and to improve your mood and energy.
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Stay healthy my friends,