The Winter is upon us and the hardcore runners are out – rain, shine, or snow. You know who I’m talking about, the crazy people you see running at 6AM, in minus thirty-degree weather, covered up to their knees in snow. Getting that runners high can be addictive to say the least. But is the lemonade really worth the squeeze, so to speak?
Running has its pros and cons and it’s been widely debated amongst those in the fitness industry for a long time. But how can running make you fat? We’ve always been told that running is the best way to lose fat! Well, it can be a good way to shed some extra fat, if it’s done right. Most often, people make the wrong choice in that they think they have to make a choice between running and strength training. It’s either one or the other, not a harmonious combination of the two.
THE PROS: To state the obvious, some people just love being active outdoors. There’s definitely no harm or debate in that. It’s also good for your cardiovascular health. Not to mention, a great way to burn calories and lose fat, when done with strength training and proper nutrition.
THE CONS: And that’s the key point right there. Running, in a sense, can actually make you burn muscle along with that fat. If you aren’t getting enough calories, then muscle loss is a real possibility. It’s not difficult for your body to expend the energy it needs to build muscle mass. When you experience muscle loss, your metabolism will decrease and you gain fat more easily, especially belly and thigh fat. Who wants skinny legs with belly fat – I’ll go out on a limb in guessing that it’s probably not the look you’re going for!
What about injuries? As a fitness professional, I come across runners all the time with terrible leg injuries. If it’s not a fall on ice in the winter, it’s usually chronic injuries from constant wear and tear from impact on your joints and inflammation in your knees, ankles, feet, and elsewhere. Runners often have some major imbalances in their bodies as well, as they don’t work on upper body conditioning.
But doesn’t the cardiovascular benefits outweigh the negatives?
This is up for you to decide but there are much better alternatives to running, especially in the winter. Using an elliptical machine is excellent low impact exercise that also activates your arms, and to a lesser extent your core muscles. Some people don’t like the gym setting, so how about trying out some in-home personal training or self workouts? There are plenty of personal trainers on Youtube and other sites that have conjured up quick and easy anaerobic workouts you can do in the comfort of your home. To increase the intensity of your cardio workouts, you can also attach some light ankle weights for added resistance.
This isn’t meant to scare anyone out of running. If that’s what you like to do, then go on and keep doing it. My suggestion is to play it safe this winter and stay off the roads. There are lots of other activities you can do that will be more beneficial for fat loss, such as strength training and maintaining a well-balanced proper diet. Strength training will give you a metabolism boost to burn fat and help prevent injuries, especially as you age.
All I’m saying it so try some alternatives and see if you can start a new exercise addiction. Above all else, keep off the couch. The most important thing, after all, is to stay fit and active – no matter your method!
Scott is an experienced fitness professional who resides in Toronto, Canada. He’s the owner of Busy Bee Fitness Experts and Everfit.