Ever decide to lose weight or know someone who has?
You know the common knowledge is to exercise and eat better foods so what happens? You choose to do those two.
And one exercise has been a staple go to exercise for dieters and those with the ambition of weight loss for decades.
In fact, I hear it all the time. I speak with many people on a weekly basis who want to get into shape. They tell me that they want to get in shape and that they’ve started doing this exercise.
What is it I hear you ask?
Okay, well the exercise is running (or jogging if you prefer the slower pace).
And, to be honest, when I first started out with my own weight loss journey, I started running. In fact, I got addicted to running (yes, I was one of those sick puppies!) and I would often run 1o miles every other day at my peak.
Was I losing weight? You betcha! but here’s where it goes kind of pear shaped.
Now, before I go on, I want to add a caveat. I am not saying that you shouldn’t run. In moderation, it’s fine and to be honest, you do experience some sort of euphoric high from running (though I am now experiencing that high with weight training). If you love running or running is something you do competitively, by all means, keep at it but if your major goal is body composition (i.e. to burn fat, build muscle and sculpt a physique whilst turning your body into a fat burning machine and feeling amazing about it), then you may want to look at a better way, which I will discuss in this post.
So, what’s wrong with running? Running is an aerobic exercise (sprinting is anaerobic and is a different type of exercise) and thus effects the body and muscular system differently to say, weight bearing exercises (or even sprinting!). What this means is that your body responds differently to aerobic exercise to anaerobic resistance exercise. Resistance exercise sees an increase in muscle tissue. Aerobic exercise sees less muscle increase and more mitochondria increase (mitochondria are like the power plants for aerobic energy)
What does that mean? In a nutshell, running alone is not going to help you build muscle, an important factor in body composition and as a result, will not help increase your resting metabolic rate (the higher your resting metabolic rate, the more fat you can burn at rest and the more calories you can eat to sustain your weight loss)
There’s a lot of talk about whether running actually burns muscle and I have already written a short article here on that topic but the emphasis of this article is that of what training you should be performing to optimise your body composition.
The sprinter vs the marathon runner.
Do you remember the London Olympics back in 2012? During that event, there was a lot of talk about who would win in a race, Mo Farah or Usain Bolt. Incidentally, the boffins suggested that anything over 1500 meters and Mo Farah would be the winner but I was interested in something else.
I was interested in their physiques!
You see, Mo Farah is an elite athlete in his own right but has a completely different body type to Usain Bolt. Usain has a powerful, muscular and sculpted body where Farah has a wirey ectomorphic body type that is lean.
The question is, which do you want?
If you want the more sculpted, powerful body type then it goes without saying that you should train in a way that develops muscle tone, strength, power and physique.
That doesn’t mean ditch the cardio entirely and get married to to weights room, cardio still has a place especially if you aspire to the more “Ottermode” physique type but you’ll be better off with placing an emphasis on resistance training (Weights) and High intensity interval training for cardio such as conditioning work, tabatas and sprints with low intensity steady state cardio (you know, the slower jogs) for recovery days once or twice a week.
Now, to answer your most important question!
Why? Why resistance training and HIIT?
To answer that, I want to tell you why I have done a bit of a 180 on my own training philosophy. Back when I was a competitive fighter, I relied on running a lot for stamina and fitness. I enjoyed it and I was good at it (Though I am very injured because of running.. more on that in a moment). Weight training was never advised to me by my coaches because I used to fight at light weight and was always told, the weights would slow me down. I was a cardio junkie and my body was a reflection of that.
When I started Team Fighting Fit with my wife, our goal was to primarily to help our clients get the results they wanted in the fastest and safest way possible. The more clients I helped and the more study I did, the more I realised that what most of my clients really want is to burn fat and build muscle and the best way to do that is through resistance training and strength and conditioning work for cardio (high intensity interval training being one). We took the best from body building and married it with the best from fight training to create our own brand of training to help our clients get the results they want.
Why did we do this? Because it works!
Resistance training helps build muscle mass but also helps to burn fat, especially at rest. Simply put. Muscle is metabolically active which means, your body has to burn calories to preserve it and the more calories you burn, the more fat you burn at rest and the more calories you get to eat.
High intense cardio that gets the heart rate going and pushes you anaerobically forces you to burn more calories at rest too.
The preferred source of energy to burn at rest is fat and simply put, this combination of training turns you into a fat burning, muscle building machine!
Hormonally, this type of training helps to optimize body composition changes whilst running by itself does not do enough hormonally to help, in fact, excessive running can even cause a drop in the level of testosterone production. This is most likely caused by muscle catabolism but an interesting research study showed that after retirement, the athlete that is prone to gain the most weight is a marathon runner – again, most likely due to a low resting metabolic rate due to low levels of muscle mass and testosterone levels.
Oh and one more surprising reason, running may be bad for you?
When you want to do a skill based sport or exercise program, chances are, you’ll seek out a coach, trainer or club where you can learn the skill but unless you’ve joined an athletic program or athletic club, who actually coaches you on how to run?
Running, like any other activity requires a modicum of skill. Wearing the wrong shoes, running with tight muscles and muscular imbalances etc can all give way to problems such as postural issues that can cause pain and injury including joint and ligament damage, wear and tear and cartilage issues.
The conclusion and bottom line?
If weight loss is a major consideration for you and the end goal is to create a physique that looks strong and healthy is important to you, then running really shouldn’t be the main focus of your workout regiment. I myself did that and ended up with injured knees, tight hamstrings due to running with imbalances and frankly, I was a bean pole!
From my own personal experience, my physical appearance, overall health, fitness, metabolism and overall sense of well being has been far greater as a result of weight training and high intensity interval training than when I was doing nothing but long distance running and cardio based exercises.
In closing, I will leave you with a Meme that’s been doing the rounds for a while on social media in the fitness circles and the truth of this is evident in the fact that more and more people want to look a certain way rather than just focus on whatever it takes to lose the weight.