If you are a runner I will split you into 1 of 2 groups – those that love it as a sporting endeavour and those that are doing it for weight loss. If running is your sport or you are running for some other noble exploit then you are not my target, though you still could benefit from reading on. This article is instead directly aimed at those who think the answer to their health and body issues lies on their local pavement or treadmill.
Not a day goes by where I don’t see some poor girl posting on social media about her running exploits in an effort to shape up. I feel sorry for these people as they don’t know any better. Most people don’t research things; they just buy into mainstream advice which tells them that running will solve their problems. The unfortunate truth for these people is that the mainstream advice is wrong, in the long term their running will be making them fatter and unhealthier.
As with most discussions in the health and performance field it is useful to start from an evolutionary perspective. We are designed to survive by any means; our body is a highly adaptable organism and will up regulate and down regulate in order to survive whatever situation we are placed in. Let’s therefore consider what running does to this system. The body views running as energy wastage so will slow the metabolism to try and hold on to as much energy as possible. Combine this with a reduced calorie diet – as the genius of the energy balance equation has instructed you to – and you are placing further stress on the body. What you have now created is a perfect situation for your body to store fat. Your body thinks that it is in a tough survival situation so it will conserve every bit of energy it can to help you through.
A lot of the mechanics to this is to do with the thyroid hormone T3. This hormone regulates metabolism, too much and you will struggle to gain any weight, too little and you will store fat much more easily. In women chronic cardio can shut down the production of T3. How many times have you heard someone blame weight gain on a sluggish thyroid? Does that person run? Ahh thought so!
Now combine the deleterious effects on our thyroid with the increase in cortisol production and we now have muscle breakdown also. Muscle is an expensive tissue for the body to hold – it requires a lot of energy to keep it. If the body doesn’t think we have enough energy to survive then we will start dropping muscle. The effect of this – our metabolism is slowed even more and weight gain is even easier. What’s more having a higher muscle mass is an excellent indicator of health. One correlation in particular stands out – life expectancy. More muscle = longer life and healthier old age.
If you don’t believe me then have a look at this excellent Kiefer article and read through the references: http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/women-running-into-trouble/
For other happy side effects of running have a scan at the following from Mark Sisson: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-evidence-continues-to-mount-against-chronic-cardio/#axzz39pllrFec
If I haven’t convinced you to unlace the trainers by now then you are a tough sell so let me finish with this. Consider the start line at the Olympics, this line is filled with the very best in the world at their activity, it is therefore fair to assume that these people will have the bodies that their sport has given them. Picture the marathon start line, the emaciated runners are hardly a picture of health are they? They are skinny to the point of looking anorexic, they have visible ribs, bony arms yet still carry a little fat with no discernible muscle tone. Is this the body you are wanting? Now let’s look at the 100m start line, these are power athletes, rarely running more than 400m in training, their focus is on being explosive, they train with weights and perform short bouts of sprinting with plenty of rest time. These individuals are lean and muscular. The men are imposing specimens with cover model abs the women are lean yet still have curves. Is this a little more what you had in mind? How do you think you should train then..?
If you point blank refuse to quit the pavement pounding then please do yourself a favour and look into ketogenic diets, these can at least reduce the ill effects of high carb fuelling. You should also study proper running form to help prevent injuries and please lift some weights to help protect your remaining muscle to some degree.
If you are looking to get into better shape and improve your health then quit running. Focus first on your diet, then start walking daily and then incorporate a couple of weights sessions a week. It’s that simple.
Running is normal. Normal is broken. Escape normal..