Have you started feeling frustrated due to lack of progress and evident results? Here are some simple adjustments you can make to make sure your running approach is not one giant weight loss mistake.
1: Your Workout is Always the Same
Your body is an amazing machine. It’s so incredible—and designed for efficiency—that if you do the same thing over and over again, the process becomes easier.
In the case of running, not only will running feel more effortless when repeated workout after workout (even if you’re still sweating and pumping your legs), but your metabolism literally learns and reacts so that fewer calories are burned with the same exercise output.
One of the biggest “problems” with just running at a steady, moderate intensity pace, is that the calories you burn are limited to the time you spend sweating.
Once your body adapts, the benefit is limited.
That’s why weight training is oftentimes viewed as better than “just” running. Lifting weights impacts your metabolism by causing mini-micro tears that need to be repaired. That healing process requires energy, which means you’re burning more calories—a process that can sometimes last for nearly two days.
To put it more simply: With cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories—or you can just eat 200 calories fewer per day. It’s the same thing.
2: You Go Longer, But Not Faster
One of the most important variables with any type of exercise—cardio or other—is intensity. If you look at the average person who runs, they pick a pace that they can maintain for a long duration.
Think about it: When you jump on a treadmill, elliptical, bike or trail, you’re starting with the intent to be there for a while. Maybe it’s 30 minutes or an hour, but your goal is to push at a pace you can sustain, work hard, feel tired, and then go home.
While this is great for endurance, it’s not so great for fat loss.
If the 3.0 on a treadmill would be a “4” on a scale of 1 to 10 of difficulty, what would happen if you pushed yourself at an 8 or 9 for a shorter period of time?
There’s no need to guess, I’ll tell you: More fat loss.
3: You Focus too Much on Calories Burned
The calorie- trackers built into cardio machines that inform you how many calories you burn are misleading and oftentimes do more harm than good. You see, a common weight loss mistake has nothing to do with what you’re doing in the gym, but instead how much you think your workouts influence the calories you burn.
Believing that the majority of the calories you burn results from exercise is a dangerous misunderstanding. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Does that mean there’s no need to hit the gym? Of course not. Exercise has many health benefits, but the type of exercise you perform in the gym will influence how many calories you burn outside of it.
Running will burn calories, but sprinting or lifting weights will result in more muscle. And the more muscle you have on your body (no—not the “bulky” muscle of bodybuilders), the more calories your body burns just functioning.
4: You Don’t Try Other Forms of Cardio
If you’re a lover of the slower, longer duration cardio, I have some bad news: “Endurance” running and walking longer duration, lower intensity impairs strength and muscle growth, according to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Again, the point here is not that “running doesn’t work” or that there aren’t any benefits.
This is about losing weight the most efficient way possible. And if you have limited time, you might be better served by cycling (preferably at a high intensity) as opposed to going for a longer walk or jog.
5: You Run Too Much (Yes, Too much!)
This might sound crazy, so just hang with me.
Exercise is an undisputable component of a healthy life. However, exercise is still stress of your body. The demands of which impact your hormones, which also control your ability to lose fat.
Specifically, the hormone cortisol is released when you exercise. All cortisol is not bad, but chronic stress and chronic cortisol can lead to insulin resistance and force you to store belly fat against your best-laid plans.
If you’re doing an hour of cardio per day, that’s more than enough for fat loss. (Remember, this isn’t for endurance training.)
If you start running 2 to 4 hours per day and aren’t losing weight (or maybe even gaining), you might be best suited to reduce your running frequency, add some resistance training, and see what happens. Odds are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.