DO WE HAVE TO RUN TO GET IN SHAPE?

Running sucks.

I’m sorry, but it does.

As a mental pursuit, I hold running marathons with the up most respect.  Physically, however, it takes us further away from our aesthetic and performance goals and, in the process, makes us hobbled and wobbled earlier in life.

I don’t know if we do it because we think it will “get us ripped” or that it is “healthy”.  Most likely, however, we do it because it is easy (ie, no skill learning or research needed) and because we can get high off it.

A lot of Resolutioners this January will use running as tool to “get in shape”.

Running will, no doubt, do this (as well as produce some unwanted side effects).

It is because it produces some unwanted effects that we need to ask the question:  “Do we need it to get in shape?”

Many people (and even people in the fitness industry), seem to think yes.

I say no.

You see, this “getting in shape” roughly equates to the goal “breathing better while doing vigorous activities”.

That’s what we mean, right?

Rather than get scientific and dive into facts about the heart and our cardiovascular system, the solution to this goal is simple: To breathe better during activity, do activities that make breathing hard(er).

Like this:

Here are some more of my favorites:

  • Jump rope
  • Walking w/ heavy stuff (favorite)
  • Tabata squats, lunges, and thrusters
  • Sprinting and high intensity sports such as crossfit and basketball
  • Adding more reps or less rest to your current exercise routine

With these, not only will we be sending a signal to our body “to learn how to breathe”, but we will also be telling it it to “burn fat over muscle” (because we need that muscle to move the resistance).

And the beauty of these exercises is the more intense we can make them, the less we need. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do 4 minutes of tabata rather than 30 minutes of jogging any day of the week.

Now I am not saying long distance running doesn’t have it’s place (I like feeling high), I am just saying it’s an option and not mandatory.

Here are some more tips if you choose to use that option:

  • If you do not run with your feet straight ahead, you are going to mess your knees up. The average person will probably have to do ankle mobility exercises (like this one) before they are able to get their feet into the right position.
  • For most people, once a week of long distance running is enough! If you are training for a marathon, bump it up to 2 – 3 runs.
  • When in doubt, run faster not further.
  • Run after strength training, not before.
  • Long distance running is a catabolic activity. Meaning, it uses cortisol to break down fat and muscle to use as fuel. If you run all the time, not only will your muscle stores take a huge hit but so will your positive hormones (like testosterone).

To all my running lovers:

Don’t hate me.

The thing is, I used to be a runner-lover too. I used to be in Cross Country and did the whole “run for fun” thing.Since than, however, I’ve scaled way back.

For 2 reasons:

1) It killed my athletic performance (= less strength and speed + injuries and tight hip flexors).
2) It made me skinny fat (not cool)

Some people can pull off running and some can’t. It just so turns out my body was made for fighting tigers and not running away from them. Everyone is different and there will always been an exception to the rule (ie, the super healthy, fit dude that runs all the time).

What is clear from experience, running is a great quick fix (both for our body and mind).

For long-term results, however, we may need to look elsewhere…