It’s kind of cyclical, the complaint that running is not a good choice if you want to get “fit.” The latest bashing came from this article, “Running is the worst way to get fit.”
Why? Injuries…blah..blah…minimal cardio benefits…blah…not as good as resistance training…blah blah…bad choice for fat loss. Wait right there!
I have a few issues with this attitude.
(1) It’s not an either or. It’s not running or weight training or spinning or swimming or yoga or … In fact, it’s not even recommended to take up just one thing and do that. Cross-training! That’s where it’s at. So no. I don’t buy the “do weight training instead” argument one bit.
(2) Have we not yet learned that “fitness” does not equal “weight loss”? We spend a heck of a lot of time on this blog arguing for an alternative attitude. You can be fat and fit. You can be skinny and in poor health. And there are a whole bunch of other places on the on the continuum that don’t equate fat with unfit. So please, let’s stop with that equation. The author of that article I talked about up top sets things up totally wrong by starting out with: “Running is a crappy way to lose fat and an inferior way to boost cardiovascular health..”
(3) Running, done the right way, does improve cardio conditioning and that’s a fact. It’s not the only thing that gets your heart rate going. Other recommended cardio activities include rowing, biking, and swimming. But running is among the good choices. When I say “done the right way,” what I mean is that it’s true that most runners run either too slow or too fast for optimal training. I blogged about this recently. If you run at the same pace all the time, you’re not likely to get nearly as much benefit as if you mix it up–interval training with high intensity bursts peppered with lower intensity recovery periods, tempo runs where you push the pace a bit, and long slow distance runs where you slow it right down.
(4) Not all bodies are suited for running, and not all bodies are suited for the same kind of running. Sam wrote about the difference between elite sprinters and elite endurance runners. And of course, most casual runners are somewhere in between.
(5) If you hate running, just say so. You don’t have to do it. But you don’t have to dump on it either. I know lots of people hate running. I used to be among them (now I love it). When I googled running and cardio, I happened upon a slew of links offering alternative cardio routines for people who hate running. Like “Six Killer Cardio Workouts that Don’t Involve Running” and “Good News if You Hate Running” and “Ten Cardio Exercises that Burn More Calories than Running.”
(6) There are all sorts of other reasons people like to run. I have a friend who resisted races and any kind of structured training for a long time because her main reason for running was for the time out. Another friend who also writes finds that she works out some of her ideas while running in a way that she cannot do sitting in front of her computer. Picking up on the “time out” theme, I often find running to be meditative. Or not: sometimes I like to do it for the social time with friends.
(7) It’s also extremely portable. You can take running on the road very easily. And it’s a good way to see stuff. I’ve seen all sorts of parts of cities and towns that I’d never have seen if I didn’t run. A couple of weeks ago I had an incredibly energizing 14K that took me to the rural outskirts of Sackville, New Brunswick, where I was attending a conference. None of my other conference-going friends saw those parts of town. Places I’ve run include Zurich, Guayabitos (Mexico), Annapolis, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Vancouver, Banff, Ottawa, Collingwood, Manchester, San Francisco, to name a few.
I’m not saying anyone has to run. And I’d never claim it’s the only thing anyone should do if they want a well-rounded plan. But if you like running, it’s not the waste of time some people make it out to be. And while not all runners lose weight, lots of us don’t have that as a goal anyway. So what’s the problem? Weight loss is not the mark of a successful, healthy activity. For any activity you can name, there are loads of people who do it without losing weight. That’s hardly a reason not to do something.
Let’s back off from the annual attack on running. Some of us like it.