Happy Monday people of earth,
I ran into a friend’s father at a fitness expo recently. Over the past year he has experienced his fair share of significant health obstacles and is in a much better place these days, but still “in recovery.” So, we got talking, caught up on life, jumped from one topic to another, and eventually breezed over on his current diet and exercise prescriptions from his physician. “[the doctor] wants me to do more cardio because of my age and what I’ve been through.” Hold the phone… doctors are STILL prescribing cardio to their patients as a HEALTHY form of exercise and a necessary path for surgery-recovery? I thought that whole 1980′s cardo-for-a-healthy-heart movement fizzled out by now? Obviously, by my inner dialogue you can tell that it really shocked me. I then gandered around the floor at everyone else who looked like they use cardio as a their go-to form of exercise, weight loss, and healthy living… and I was immediately put in my place that a majority of people still just don’t get it.
BURN FAT? LOSE WEIGHT? RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN… myself into the ground, develop dark circles under my eyes, lose a significant amount of the-highly-desired-highly-metabolic muscle weight, displace muscle with fat, down-regulate my thyroid (metabolism epicenter), severely decrease my metabolic rate and blood pressure and caloric demands (cool, I can eat less now!… ?), and invoke a stress hormone response that can promote fat storage, chronic pains, aches, sores, and possibly bowel, hormonal, fertility, libido, mental, or emotional dis-eases.
Yes, that can all be true. Yes, there are plenty-o-arguments that promote cardio as healthy. Yes, I am being a bit over-dramatic and pointing fingers at one thing when there always are many factors at play when it comes to being healthy. But this is a blog about distance/endurance running and that’s where my finger is pointed at right now.
Cardio burns muscle. I don’t care how you look at it. It will burn muscle for energy because distance running is a great energy demand and a body in distress will burn through sugar stores then convert proteins into sugars for energy; it will never touch fat stores because fat saves lives. Distance also kills the metabolic rate. Runners have to run almost every single day just to “stay in shape,” which also causes a greater stress hormone response and screws with ya if you happen to have a high-caloric meal because god-forbid if you eat a cheeseburger and fries. Long-distance runs do the complete opposite of what most exercising-folk are after… it increases fat storage, it burns muscle, it demands a higher workout frequency, and just degrades the body beyond what it can handle. “But, I feel great after long runs and I feel a rush of energy!” That is called adrenaline… and it’s sucking up your sugar stores and eating away on your muscle stores because your body doesn’t know if it’s running from a tiger or for sport and it’s doing what it is designed to do… keep you alive no matter what.
Google distance runner vs sprinter. Show me an athlete with a well-built, muscular physique that attributes it solely to distance running. Try to tell me that right-minded strength coaches or trainers don’t incorporate high-intensity, short-interval training in their program if they want a significant anabolic and metabolic muscle response for their clients. There is a time and place for cardio. I think it should be used sparingly as an endurance-building aspect of a training program and NEVER the foundation. I get the whole fad of distance running. I get that people lose [usually muscle] weight or turn their lives around because of the mentality-shift it provides. I just think there are much better, less-stressing, more positive, healthier ways to approach exercise… and in my friend’s father’s case… recovery.
If you’re a runner, here is the best advice I can provide if you really want to benefit your body from the inside-out: Run shorter distances and run them fast. The goal should not be to run further each week. The goal should be to run quicker each week because THAT incorporates fast-twitch muscle fibers, which “burn calories” or “burn fat” more efficiently; that is, it’s healthier, thyroid-supporting, and provides a longer rest period while still maintaining a higher metabolic rate! A marathon program has people increasing their distances EACH WEEK. If a weight lifter transposed that to a lifting program that would be utterly impossible to have that significant of a weight increase in such a short and quick time period… but people push their bodies with running and don’t realize how much damage their doing until it’s too late when they’re walking around with knee-braces, stress-fractures, poor sex-drives, shitty attitudes, flabby legs, and one hell of a fitness plateau.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.