Running: Friend or Foe

An article title caught my eye recently on Yahoo. It was entitled Your Cardio Routine is Making You FatI clicked on it although I knew what it was going to tell me. I’ve heard it before…the evils of cardio. I’m sure all the running haters are nodding their heads and saying yup I told you so. Oh how times and information has changed. The days of aerobics class as a primary means of exercise are long gone and in its place we now have Cross Fit, Body Pump and kettle bells. I’m not naive to the importance and benefits of strength training. I have actually amped up my strength training from 1-2 days a week to 2-3 days a week. I have created very obvious definition in my arms where it was once soft and loose. I love the way I feel after a good session of weight training. I worked with a trainer in the beginning of the year to learn more about how to incorporate strength training into my typically cardio heavy workouts. I watch You Tube videos for instruction and learn from some of my favorite bloggers. I am by no means an expert on strength training, but I will continue to learn and grow in this area. However, it has become a part of my fitness routine and I strongly suspect that it will become an even greater part once I have completed my fall marathon because I really like the results I am achieving with my strength training.

The article begins, “Are you interested in gaining weight? If you are, perform cardiovascular exercise, and a lot of it.” As a runner training for a marathon I run, A LOT! For some this statement would be extremely discouraging. If I hadn’t already trained for and completed two marathons while successfully losing and maintaining weight loss I would have a new reason to blame for my weight issues. Last year while training for the Philadelphia Marathon from July to November I successfully lost and maintained a 10 pound weight loss. I have surpassed that loss and continue to maintain my weight despite being mid marathon training once again. I’m not depriving myself or running on inadequate fuel. I’m actually eating healthier than ever and experimenting with more natural fuel sources before long runs. I’ve made a number of sustainable changes to my life while performing a great deal of cardiovascular exercise.

I am absolutely not disputing the information in the article. It touts interval based strength training as a more effective means of weight loss. While I know all about the benefits of interval training and I do incorporate it to some degree into my workouts, the majority of my exercise still comes from running.

Ironically a few days after reading the article on how my cardio routine is making me fat I stumbled upon what seemed to be the article’s counterpart, 4 Reasons Running is Best for Weight LossI laughed when I saw it because as you know for every bit of information on the internet there is another piece of information to dispute it. My mind spins sometimes. This second article is by no means a scientific argument for why you should run. It points to four positive aspects of running namely running burns more calories than walking, it is time-efficient and convenient, and lastly it stimulates endorphins which essentially keep you coming back for more running.

Running alone will not make you lose weight. Training for endurance races can and often do cause a slight to moderate weight gain in many runners. So why the heck do I run if weight loss has been an important goal for me?

On one hand the answer is simple…I love it! Of course there’s more to it though. Running challenges me and pushes me clear out of my comfort zone with almost every run. Training for races keeps me accountable and has been integral in maintaining a fitness routine for the last four years. While the running may not have been responsible for my weight loss it did jump start it initially and I’m certain that hasn’t hindered it. The more I run the more I want my body to be as healthy as it can be. Running motivated me to change my diet. Weighing less helps me to run easier, more efficiently and faster. Running has taken me to new places with my family. It has enabled me to keep up with my extremely active child. Rather than lag behind him I’m right there next to him.

Running changed me in so many ways. It has become my “me” time, my thinking time, my alone time. It is as much spiritual and emotional as it is physical for me. It’s no longer about weight loss for me. Running is a key factor in how I care for myself holistically.

The bottom line is that through running I went from inactive to active, obese to no longer obese, and from a negative person to a positive person. Running is not for everyone and that’s ok. If you are struggling to make healthy lifestyle changes do what works for you. You can spend all day researching the best way to lose weight, lift weights, run, etc., but eventually you simply have to get out there and do it. Find something that makes you happy or that you think might make you happy and get out there and do it!

“Just don’t give up trying what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Ella Fitzgerald

4 thoughts on “Running: Friend or Foe

  1. Hi Aimee! I don’t think they’re talking about you or other serious runners. They are talking about those gym people who spend 2 hours on the cardio machines and then treat themselves to donuts to make up for the enormous amount of calories that cardio machines said that they burned off. They don’t understand that cardio machines lie. You don’t burn off a gazillion calories on a cardio machine! Then they remain chubby, and possibly even get fatter, and can’t understand why.

    You and I don’t expect our exercise to cure it all. I tried that for years! It did not work. Working out, no matter if it is weightlifting or running, is not a magic bullet for losing weight. Food journaling and eating less is. We both learned that last year.

    Don’t let those stupid articles even bother you. Those medical doctors and researchers are often–out to lunch. They think they are helping, when they need to be telling people to read blogs of people who lost weight–to see how it REALLY works. 😀

    🙂 Marion

  2. I love this post! I also lost weight when I started running (having done little to no real exercise before I started marathon training), and I lost even more and toned up and got faster when I added strength training. Now, in marathon training, I usually stay within a 5 pound range, and I usually drop to the very bottom of that range when I taper. Works for me, particularly since as you said, there’s so much more to running than just weight loss!

  3. I love how you have embraced being a runner! That being said, for every argument on the internet for something, you will find 10 more telling you the opposite. I love that you love to run, and that’s all that matters, right?! 😀

  4. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you run because you love it. That’s really all that matters. I love cardio and always will, and I can’t believe that burning calories and expending energy would make me gain weight. It hasn’t so far. Plus, there’s nothing quite like riding my beach cruiser with a light wind, overlooking the waves of the ocean. Strength training definitely has it’s place, but nothing can compare to that.

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