I hate endurance running, and I know I’m not alone. If my clients come to me and tell me they hate running, I will never make them run. I am a strong believer in making fitness NOT torture, so I will never force clients to do something they absolutely have an aversion to. My own personal reasons for making running my absolute last choice (and I mean LAST, like this is if I was stuck on some desert island and all I had to work with was a track to work with. Actually, not even then, I would just do some sprint/walk intervals instead of running for straight 45 minutes) of cardiovascular activity go much further than just my own personal distaste for the sport. Here are some reasons why the only time you’ll see me run is chasing after a 6’4 emotionally unavailable man.
1. Endurance Runners Have A Higher Chance Of Injury
I think running itself is so high impact in nature, that the prolonged impact on joints is bound to cause some kind of injury sooner or later. This particular systematic review shows runners can have up to 79% greater incidence of a lower extremity injury, with evidence suggesting that long distance running is a risk factor.
I mean, I’m not surprised. All it took for me was a single incidence of shin splint to reaffirm my faith in my non-running ways and say adios to pavement pounding forever. Currently, my cardio routine consists of the elliptical, walking on an incline (hill walks or hikes gives you the same benefit if you want to take this outside) or walking the stairs with nary an injury in sight!
2. Endurance Running Raises Cortisol Levels And Belly Fat Storage
Cortisol is the product of your body’s response to prolonged stress. It is a hormone released by your adrenal glands, and because endurance running (and any other activity that is taxing on the body for a long period of time) is a stressor to the body, the body reacts to this by releasing cortisol.
Now, cortisol is not always a bad thing, but chronic elevated levels of cortisol can actually lead to storage of belly fat, which will end up being counterproductive if you’re running to try to get in better shape.
Huge disclaimer here: this is not exclusive to running, as ANY type of exercise for too long will also cause this stress response. However, because running is an activity perceived by many (including yours truly) to be a very stressful form of exercise, and this stress response is most studied in runners.
3. Endurance Running Can Make You Lose Muscle Gains When Done Wrong
Okay. Let’s get a little technical here, I’m going to bust out some kinesiology basics for you guys. Your body has different types of muscle fibers. They have different qualities, and they all actually end up looking different, because one is more prone to hypertrophy than the other. Different types of training will work and develop different types of fibers. Endurance activity such as long distance running will develop these leaner fibers that are fatigue resistant but have less power. Explosive activities, such as squatting, sprinting, or box jumping will developing these thicker fibers that are fatigue prone but are more powerful.
Now let’s say you want to build a butt. When you run too much or too long, you’re developing the leaner muscle fibers that aren’t attributing to any muscle fiber size growth, which is key for muscle mass gaining. You’re also depleting the energy stores in those muscles to be able to lift heavy enough to build muscle, because to gain mass in muscle, you need to reach that point of fatigue during lifts. So if you’re already pre-fatiguing the muscle by training the leaner type of muscle fibers, there’s nothing left in the gas tank for you to even train the fibers that contribute to size gains. Better options are instead of endurance running on flat ground, add some incline to the routine so that there’s a natural resistance focused on your glutes, hamstrings and quads. If you want to add even more incline, then you don’t necessarily have to even run. Try walking, and try focusing that tension on your glutes.
4. Running Might Make You Look Older
All current evidence I’ve been able to find on this has been anecdotal so I’m not saying this is a fact, but as someone who recently spent $250 on skincare at Sephora, I felt I should give it a mention anyway. There’s something called “runner’s face” where apparently the repeated running motion can actually cause your skin to sag and wrinkle prematurely. You mean I wasted all that money on La Mer’s “miracle broth” bullsh*t just to run it off, literally, into the ground?! IT’S A COLD WORLD OUT HERE.
Like I said, though, I’ve dug around on the internet for any type of scientific evidence of this phenomenon, and I haven’t found it. So while I mentioned it, take it with a grain of salt. Honestly, I think skin care should be a huge deal if running outside is a part of your routine because that’s a lot of sun exposure. The hyper-pigmentation, Lord! Enough to stress me out! Please put on some sunscreen if you run outside.
I may sound like a huge hater, but please note: cardio is still an amazing component to an exercise routine. Just because I agreed to not make my clients (and you readers) run for miles, that doesn’t mean I’m giving you a hall pass to skip the gym. I’m just saying there are better options to work with. I understand the appeal of running: you can kinda just zone out, it’s free and you don’t need any equipment, you can do it almost anywhere. But you could get in just as good a cardio session if you just walked the stairs. You could get in just as good a cardio session going on a hike. If you’re limited to the gym you could get just as good a cardio session using any other machine that’s less taxing on your joints. This article was meant to inform running haters that running isn’t your only option for exercise and it shouldn’t feel like it has to be. If you LOVE running and that’s your steez, don’t burn me at the stake. Do you and prosper! You have my full support, just make sure you are in a safe environment, especially if you’re running outdoors, and make sure you taking proper precautions to avoid injuries.
Images: Seth Macey / Unsplash; Giphy (4)