Running is seen as the classic way to get fit and lose weight. The ultimate calorie burner. The only leg toner. That’s why the streets in my neighbourhood get taken over by the weekend warriors, hogging the footpath.
But what if running is not all that it’s cranked up to be? Could it be doing more harm than good?
With my new clients, if they tell me that they go running 2-3 times per week, I ask them why they run. If they say because they want to lose weight, I usually remove it from their program. If they say they really love to run, then I let them keep running, but with variations to their normal routine.
The reality is that long, continuous runs of more than 30 mins can cause undue stress to the body and its energy systems. Running by its very nature is not corrective and not strengthening, so if you have postural and muscular weaknesses in the body, running will find them and pick at them.
I think I should repeat this point – Running is NOT a strength exercise. So all those people who tell me that they have strong legs because they do lots of running, their squats in the gym usually tell a different story, i.e they struggle to do proper squats with just their own bodyweight.
Running the same distance at the same speed will also quickly lead to a plateau in your training. Even the most unfit people will stop gaining results from slow steady paced running in about 6-8 weeks. Given that any results in any training require the body to adapt to new stimulus, reaching a plateau and staying there is not what you want.
For a different take on running, I would highly recommend some sprint training. Sprint training forces you to work at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time. Numerous studies have shown that working at a higher intensity is the most effective way to burn calories and stay lean.
If you are new to sprint training, then it’s very likely that you will only last a short period of time, even if you are a regular runner. It may also make you feel a little ill, but this will pass as your conditioning improves.
Here’s a 20-25 minute moderate level programme you could try in the park or on the track:
40m sprint (jog back to start point) and repeat 6 times.
60m sprint (walk back to start point) and repeat 5 times
80m sprint (rest 60 secs, sprint back) repeat 4 times
Improving your anaearobic fitness also has carryover effects to your aerobic conditioning. So sprint training will actually help with your longer runs as well, especially if you are training for a middle distance event such as a 5-10km run.
Try it out. Your body won’t be disappointed