I read an article yesterday entitled: “running for weight loss – Is it a good way to burn fat?” and some of the views that were expressed concerned me a little!
Firstly, it was implied that actually exercise isn’t essential and that nutrition is the only important factor. We know this not to be the case for lasting health benefits.
Secondly, it compared different exercises like-for-like, based on the number of calories burned and didn’t seem to give any consideration to adaptations that occur in the body as a result of different types of exercise. You may have noticed that a runner’s physique is different to a triathlete’s and there are reasons for this.
This post is my rebuttal to the article “running for weight loss – Is it a good way to burn fat?”!
Running for Weight Loss – Is ‘Weight Loss’ The Goal?
Before you put on your trainers and start pounding the streets, I want you to consider a few things. I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
2. If so, how much weight needs to be lost?
3. What will happen once the weight is lost?
4. Is running the only way to achieve the goal?
These are 4 important questions because you need to consider whether losing weight is actually the goal. Do you actually want to lose weight, or would you prefer to improve muscular tone and definition? Is it ‘weight’ you want to lose or fat?
Assuming your goal is to lose weight (or fat) then how much weight do you want to lose? Be sure to quantify it, so that you have a specific, measurable goal in mind.
It is imperative that you consider how you will behave once you have lost the weight. This is the major problem with ‘weight loss goals’ because once they have been achieved most people have nothing in place to maintain their new weight. Don’t fall in to this trap. What will your new goal be once you have achieved your target weight? I personally fell into this trap first time round, but have measures in place to make sure it never happens again! You can read my story below:
Finally you should ask yourself if running is the only way to achieve your goal. If you sustain an injury then is that the end of your bid to lose weight? It doesn’t need to be if you explore more than one way to achieve your goal! Below are some exercise and fitness principles that may be of use:
Running for Weight Loss – Getting Empowered
Personally I recommend shifting the focus. Is you goal to achieve the body of a runner? If so, running is going to be an important factor. Would you prefer to achieve the body of a triathlete? If so, swimming and cycling would also feature in your exercise plan.
Assuming you want to look like a runner, I want to encourage you to start thinking of yourself as a runner. You might not be in peak condition, but you are still a runner. In fact, Christopher McDougall explains how we are perfectly adapted for running in his book, ‘Born to Run’. This book will be a massive source of inspiration if you do choose to take up running:
Once you are able to think of yourself as a runner, try to act like a runner. What would a runner eat and how frequently would they eat? This might encourage you to replace refined carbohydrates with complex carbs and replace fatty meat with chicken or fish. It might also encourage you to eat little and often, which provides sustained energy and encourages a faster metabolism for burning fat.
As a runner, how often should you train and what should be the focus of your training? You might try to increase your distances, or you might work on your speed over a known distance. This new focus will be more motivating than the number on your weighing scales, because you will be seeing incremental improvements week on week, rather than feeling like sacrifices are being made in pursuit of your goal! You will be focusing on gains rather than losses.
As you start perceiving yourself as a runner, start acting like a runner and believing you are a runner, the final step might be to start entering into some running races. Then you will ‘KNOW’ for certain that you are a runner!
So what are the benefits of running over other exercises? From a practicality point of view: you only need a pair of trainers, you need no money for gym memberships and you don’t need any extra time to get to and from the gym or leisure centre.
From a cardiovascular fitness perspective: running can be performed at a range of levels from a steady walk / jog, right through to high intensity interval training. It is very versatile and the types or training you perform can evolve as your fitness levels improve.
Running for Weight Loss – Final Thoughts
It is important to note that runners do not neglect their muscular fitness or flexibility. Whilst running is the main activity, it is also impornant to incorportate other types of fitness into your programme. See below for more details:
Also, runners often ‘cross-train’ to improve their cardiovascular fitness whilst resting their muscles and joints. They may also use other forms of exercise following an injury. Remember to incorporate low impact cardiovascular exercises into your programme too.
In this ‘Running for Weight Loss‘ article I have tried to emphasise the importance of shifting the focus in order to fully empower yourself. This is the basis for success in relation to any health goal and should never to overlooked. If you want to look like a runner then behave like a runner. That will naturally include doing some running!