You’ve decided to start running in order to lose weight. So every day you lace up your sneakers, throw on your earphones, and hit play on your favorite running mix. You step out the door ready to conquer the pavement…and you run.
At first it was hard. Every step was felt throughout your body. Muscles you never knew existed were sore. You would arrive home completely drenched in sweat and gasping for air. “Good run” you would tell yourself.
After a few weeks, running became a little easier. You were no longer sore. In order to get that same “good run” you would have to run for longer periods of time. You started to realize that your body was adapting, and so naturally you thought, “I’m definitely going to lose weight. It’s working!”
But then you stepped on the scale, and to your surprise, nothing happened. After weeks of consistency…after hours devoted to putting foot to pavement… you’ve barely lost a pound. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating.
Well, the truth is, running may not be the best option for weight loss and here we have put together four reasons why.
Reason Number 1: Consistency is Not Always a Good Thing
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “consistency is key.” That phrase holds true in 99.9% of situations. Unfortunately, we sometimes confuse consistency with monotony. You see, being consistent in your diet and in your workouts is a good thing…but doing the same workout over and over again? Not so much.
Because our bodies adapt. You’ve experienced this first hand. Remember how running was painful and difficult at first? But then slowly your workouts got easier and easier. That’s because your body adapted to the workout, and so the energy required to fuel those workouts decreased. In other words, you started to burn less calories while doing the same amount of work.
A study from the University of Tampa explains this best. In the study, subjects ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes at a constant pace that was not near maximal effort. During the first week, subjects lost weight. After the first week…not so much. The scientists concluded that the subjects’ metabolism adjusted to the workout over time, and consequently burned fewer calories.
The take home message? Add variety to your workouts. And the best way to do this if you want to lose weight is to increase the intensity through HIIT. Which brings us to…
Reason Number 2: You’re Not Bringing The Intensity
While at the gym one day, I crossed paths with a lovely woman with amazing muscle tone and definition. Impressed by her low body fat percentage, I asked her about her cardio routine.
“Do you run a lot?” I asked.
She laughed and with a smile said, “Oh no. I hate running. If I want to do cardio I just lift weights faster.”
In other words, she increases the intensity of her workouts. This is known as maximal training in some circuits and high intensity interval training (HIIT) in others. And as it turns out, science is behind her.
In a study at the University of Western Ontario, researchers compared HIIT to steady state cardio. In the study, two groups were formed. One group performed four to six 30-second sprints while the other group performed steady state cardio for 30 to 60 minutes. They found that the group that performed short but intense sprints lost more body fat.
Another study conducted in 1994, found similar results. When comparing men and women who performed either a 20-week endurance training program or a 15 week HIIT program, the researchers found that those performing HIIT lost nine times more subcutaneous fat levels than those performing steady state cardio.
The take home message? Increase the intensity.
Reason Number 3: Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Be Bad
Have you heard of Cortisol? Cortisol, or Hydrocortisone, is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex and is released in times of stress or when low levels of blood are present. It is released in an attempt to increase blood sugar; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
Cortisol is a beneficial hormone for all of us, but when we experience persistent stress and consequently have high levels of cortisol on a consistent basis, we run the chance of developing insulin resistance. And if you don’t know, insulin resistance can lead to you storing more fat around the midsection alongside with increased chances of getting other illnesses.
So what does this have to do with running? Well, believe it or not, running is stressful. Remember how sore you were at first, when you first tied up those sneakers and hit the pavement for the first time? In fact, studies have found that long distance running can lead to a chronic increase in cortisol levels.
The take home message? Work smarter and harder for shorter periods of time…and not every day. Allow your body to rest and heal. Your hormone levels will thank you for it.
Reason Number 4: Your Diet Is Terrible
This one is short and sweet as it’s very self explanatory and can be summed up in a few words. Ever heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”. Well is 110% true.
Weight loss starts in the kitchen. You can exercise all you want, but if you’re not eating right, you’re body isn’t going to act right.
The take home message? Get your diet in check if you want to keep your weight in check.
Running isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s great. But if you want to lose weight, it’s not the be-all and end-all to accomplish your weight loss goals. If you are determined to lose that excess body fat, add variety to your workout, increase the intensity, allow your body to recover, give yourself adequate rest and get your diet on point. If you follow these simple steps you will lose weight in no time.