Hi everyone! Today’s we’re here to talk cardio with you all, specifically running. What’s the first thing most people do when they want to start losing weight or kick themselves into shape? They sign up for some kind of run. In our opinion, this is not your best option. We’re not here to tell you what to do and not everything we say is the only way to go. We do have our own experiences and resources that help support our opinion though.
Our Experience’s Running
I have a limited running career. In high school, I ran cross country for one semester during before deciding it was not for me. I have always had poor running form and land heavy on my feet in a sort of earth shaking way. Running every day resulted in a right hip injury that never recovered and still gives me issues now from time to time. I was soon skipping practices to go lift weights with my friends and by that time I I knew it was not for me.
I decided to give running a shot (as talked about here) in college. I did the cliche move and signed up for a run right away. A half marathon at that. Read my post to see what the result was but long story short, tendonitis got in the way and it was time to move on from running for the time being.
Being too scared to run again and because, even in lifting, I was still feeling some of the pain that running caused, running wasn’t even a thought up until this year. After we got back from Costa Rica (and I even talked about it a little here), I got the running bug back. I wanted to introduce some more cardio back into my life and I thought running would be the answer for me. Safe to say that hasn’t been the answer. For the first few weeks it was going great – it was like I was to back training for a half marathon. But that euphoria quickly dissipated. Now two months later, I’m giving it up again and this time probably for good. The pain that my knees and ankles take isn’t worth any few extra pounds that running may help lose. There are other ways to do so.
But running is healthy for you right?
As mentioned above, most people are under the impression that to be healthy and lose weight, you need to run. We think this comes from the fact that running as an exercise is something everyone knows how to do. It also requires little to no equipment to do, leaving fewer excuses as to why not to do it.
Being “healthy” is an extremely broad term, but for argument’s sake let’s quantify it by saying that your primary health indicators should be good to great for your age group (blood pressure, heart rate, etc) and your body should generally feel as few aches and pains as possible.
When it comes to health indicators, this study from 2013 came to the conclusion that keeping energy expenditure equal (i.e. calories “burned”), the health benefits from walking or running were equal. All the health benefits associated with exercise (such as reducing your blood pressure) can be gotten by performing lower intensity exercise.
The keyword phrase is: “energy expenditure is equal”. In order to accomplish the same health benefits, you will need to spend roughly three times as much time walking to match the calories burned for running.
This may seem like a negative, but given that injury rates for walking can be 50-100% lower than running, it may be more sustainable to walk 30 minutes a day instead of running 10 minutes a day. By walking, you’ll have more time off to recover and it may even be easier to get walking in. All it takes is 10 minutes here and there to make a huge difference in your life.
So if they’re the same ultimately, why are we so against running?
The big topic around running is weight loss. Weight loss, or more importantly fat loss, is a result of your net energy expenditure (calories burned) being less than energy consumed (calories eaten). Your energy expenditure is as follows:
- 70% of your daily calories are burned at rest. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This includes organ functions, fuel for your muscles, and all the complex functions your body performs.
- 15% of your daily calories are burned from daily activities. This is your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is movement including blinking, typing, walking, and everything in between.
- 10% of your daily calories are burned from eating food.This is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
- 5% of your daily calories are burned from exercise. This is called Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
Given this breakout you may be surprised to see that exercise is the lowest factor for energy expenditure. You may be better off focusing on increasing your BMR by increasing your muscle mass or your NEAT by being more active with walking. To us, it’s not worth the aches and pains that you encounter in running to get this 5% energy expenditure.
To prove the point that we want you to make your own decision around running. There was a study published in 2013 that shows runners are more likely to lose more BMI (body mass index: which compares your height and weight) than walkers. To us, this proves that if done properly, running could work for you. You just need to know your body and be careful.
Ultimately, running can definitely help you lose weight but it is by no means a necessity or even what may make the most difference.
So if running we don’t think running is the best and only option, what should you do to get moving and change your life?
One simple answer (like we talked about above) is to walk. Walking is so much easier on your joints and provides the same type of endorphins after. We incorporate walking into our lives on a daily basis. We walk to the train, take a walk as our lunch break, and take a walk prior to going to bed. It’s an easy and free way to get moving.
Another option is to take up spinning. If you have knee problems, doctors tend to recommend the recumbent bike. That’s a fine option but not entertaining enough for us. One of our favorite ways to get cardio in and burn calories is with spinning. You can either find a studio to take a class, use the one that you likely have at your gym, or get one for home (what we’re planning on doing). Because spinning tends to be of a higher intensity, you’re more likely to burn more calories in 40 minutes of spinning than running. In our opinion it’s also more fun than running. You’re following some sort of routine and the intensity changes over the course of the class which makes it more engaging.
The last option we present to you is for those who are lifters. At the end of each workout, you can finish with a “finisher”. Incorporate a few HIIT movements. High-Intensity Interval Training – aka a lot of work followed by a little rest, rinse and repeat. Or add in strongman conditioning such as farmer walks or sled drags for a set amount of time or sets. This is what I (Tiffany) has been doing and have been loving it. Finish your workout with some burpees, box jumps, prowler pushes, farmer carries, or any other move that suits your fancy. You’ll continue to burn fat, improve your conditioning and get it all done within 15-20 minutes. Fast and to the point.
So what does this all mean? It means there’s no simple answer. Whether or not running is right for you depends on how your body responds to us. For both of us, running isn’t the answer and we can’t see us running anytime soon. This could change. We urge you to explore your options, watch your knees, and just enjoy whatever you choose.