If You Want to Lose Weight Don’t Count on Running

This weekend I finished my 17 mile run, the farthest I have gone to date.  I was exhausted and sore by the time I finished it, but I got it done.  While I was on the treadmill and for almost this entire 16+ weeks of training I had some time to think about the misconceptions of running.  The one I want to address today is stated pretty simply in my title: if you want to lose weight you shouldn’t count on running.

Misconception #1: Cardio is the way to lose weight.  It is a way you can lose weight, but if you go to many races you will see that runners come in all shapes and sizes, even the larger sizes.  The solution if you want to lose weight you should be doing a healthy combination of aerobic and resistance.  Resistance builds muscle= higher metabolism among the various benefits (sexy looking body, stronger bones, stronger core, resistance to injury while running).

Misconception #2:  I just ran _____ miles so I can eat anything. Wrong!  Not if you are trying to do things like eat clean and perhaps maintain your weight.  There is no out running a poor diet, I have tried this, many others have tried this, and we all fail.  Run To the Finish calls it “runners entitlement” this thought that since I burned a ton of calories I can eat a ton.  In fact this happens often enough that you will find several articles out there on how to try and keep the over eating and weight gain under control.  One article that explains it very well is from Runner’s World http://www.runnersworld.com/weight-loss/why-do-i-gain-weight-during-marathon-training ; it offers some great insight and suggestions on how to combat this. A side note to this is that the people around you might encourage that kind of thinking, because they are in awe of how much you ran. Be cautious about feeding into this justification or rationalization it’s an easy thing to do.

Misconception #3: I just ran ____ miles and got my steps so I can relax now.  *Raises hand in guilt.* Yeah it’s pretty easy to say to yourself I ran 8, 10, or 16 miles today so I deserve to be able to relax the rest of the day.  The fact is, it’s awesome that you were active for so many minutes or hours, but sitting down the rest of the day will not help your metabolism to keep going, nor will it help you fight the increase in health risks that come with sitting all day.  Most runners do their run first thing in the morning so they can get it out of the way and because it wakes you up better than a cup of coffee.  Personally I have to work to be mindful to stay active the rest of the day on my long run days on the weekend.  The shorter runs it isn’t as challenging in part because of the time of day and the fact that they aren’t as draining. The solution, get up and do some household chores, go for a walk (with dog or kids maybe), add a little resistance later in the day, but make an effort to get up and move.

Misconception #4: The more often I run the more calories I will burn, i.e. if I do 3 miles a day or 5 miles a day.  Sadly this isn’t true, if it were I can think of many run streakers who would LOVE IT!  Just like other exercises you have to “shake it up” or your body will adapt and you will hit the dreaded plateau.  To address it consider throwing in the resistance and other forms of cross training, like bike riding, swimming, or yoga. 

If you address these issues you will see that while yes you can lose weight by running, but it isn’t the only nor is it the best way to do it.  If you are like me you have a hard time finding the balance, but just like other parts of life finding balance is very important.

Are any of these misconceptions one that you believed or that you struggle with?


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Pamela Hernandez (@ThriveFit)
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 04:25:26

    Too much cardio is actually muscle wasting. One of the conundrums of long distance running. Don’t worry it will pass.


  2. sarahkerner
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 04:58:02

    I’ve definitely fallen prey to gaining weight while training for a long distance race! Adding in some speedwork or hills will fix that pronto, but it’s not really something that fits into a marathon training plan very well. I think fueling properly during your run and eating a good mix of carbs and protein immediately after make a huge difference, too. (And don’t forget getting enough sleep! Running that any miles really takes a lot out of your body!)


  3. Suzanne Digre (@WorkoutNirvana)
    Mar 17, 2014 @ 12:57:09

    Soooo true Jenn! Thanks for articulating these cop-outs – they are incredibly common.


  4. tonee78
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 05:33:37

    Great post!! It is so true that running alone is not necessarily good for weight loss, personally after I run long runs or participate in half marathons I am ravenous for days, easily overeating in comparison to the calories I burned. Keeping that in check is key to not gaining weight.


  5. shiramiller
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 16:49:51

    I so here you on the point of working out to burn lots of calories…and then eating even more calories after that exercise event. Appreciate your insight!


  6. Trackback: Read This Before You Start Training For Your First Marathon - Thrive Personal Fitness

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