• Peter Turnbull

Are YOU running yourself ragged? - Why running alone wont get you the body you want.

I would classify excessive running as running without a clear set or balanced program, running for running’s sake, without knowing the full facts about the activities impact on your body.

Hitting the hard miles, day in, day out without the adequate de-loading or recovery, rest and nutrition.


Excessive running and cortisol – runners high vs runners lows

There’s no doubt about it there are loads of health benefits to be gained by running, that is, if you are doing it in a well-balanced way and not mindlessly. The irony here is that it’s a very popular way to de-stress and clear your head, to become mindless and empty headed is a much needed break from the modern stresses of society.


The runners high associated with the activity is due to the endorphin release after the run and later on post workout, this leads to a sense of relaxation and satisfaction throughout the day and into the evening improving our sleep quality.


On the flip side of this though is the tendency for runners to become hooked and have to run daily and for increasing amounts of time and mileage, constantly looking to beat personal best with endurance day in and day out, the next hit of endorphins

A high that can be achieved with other methods of training.


This can leave you with excessive and elevated levels of cortisol, as numerous studies have shown that constantly high cortisol levels are counterproductive to fat loss.


Cortisol is required by the body for various bodily functions and is a main component of the fight or flight response, triggered by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is a background service if you like in our nerve reaction pathways that react automatically on our behalf without the need for us to think about it, saving us mental energy for other higher operating tasks such as what’s going on in our social life or what the stock markets are doing.


However if we are constantly triggering the SNS with activity on a too frequent basis then the SNS can get stuck on ON, and in doing so you can get what is known as adrenal fatigue, a horrible situation in which despite all your best intentions your body just has no juice left, you feel like you have no get up and go, almost paralysed, there are of course various levels of this state, I would say that most people are either in a mild state of adrenal fatigue or even a severe state without even knowing it.


Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which means that its primary use is to break down tissue, this means fat (Yay!) but also muscle and bone tissue (uh oh) when I say muscle I also have to remind you that is anything made of protein, including our hearts, brains, skin, when it comes down to protein catabolism the body can be quite indiscriminate and broad-spanning meaning it will just break down a little bit of everything.


Maybe this is why there are higher incidences of fatal heart attacks in endurance training as opposed to strength and high intensity training.


Joint Damage by running, what’s the toll on your joints?


There are numerous studies that have found running to be heavy duty on your joints mainly on your knees and hip joints, this is due to the compounding impact stresses over time during the running sessions, this is why we would refer to running, even recreational running as high impact.


This is especially true on pavements.


Even if you don’t have osteoarthritis, or at risk of it, this is a factor to not be taken lightly as high impact training can wear and tear even the strongest and healthiest of joints eventually, without proper technique guidance and protocol for rest and recovery.


Damaged hips or knee joints spells disaster for everyone, it means that your whole lower body becomes inefficient of out of action entirely, which means no more running, and can make other methods of training more complicated (but not impossible) .


Read more on this here > Risk factors and mechanisms of knee injury in runners.


Skin sagging – what happens to our connective tissue with excessive running

The accumulative upwards and downwards motion can have a distorting effect on the bodies connective tissue, especially the skin, this is undesirable if you want to reduce any skin sagging and want to tighten up skin fold areas,


however the effect of the gravity motion on the digestive system and lymph is great so it really is a trade-off between those factors.


Increase in overall appetite and psychological demand for food – Runners munchies and the thought patterns that go alongside.

No one is immune from this, professionals and newbies alike, you have just done a really long run , beat your previous distance and then you come home have a shower and the hunger sets in , like a ravenous beast you seek to consume anything that is in your way, heading for the highest calorie foods you can find first. Often without even consciously realising it, like a calorie seeking zombie.


You’re definitely not alone there as it has been proven in research and I can vouch for this with observation of myself and clients, we can grossly underestimate the amount of calories burned in a running session,


it’s something like 1,300 kcals per 26 miles (a marathon) and the feeling of intense hunger following can lead us to mindlessly and unknowingly consume much more than that after a run,

So if we consumed 2000 Kilo-calories in one sitting which is easily done in a pig out session then we are more than back to square one,


in fact square -700 from where we started, not taking into consideration the time and energy spent and muscle tendon, joint damage accrued,


So unless you plan to run a marathon every day and also regulate your calories in everyday and stick to it as a deficit, time to think of another plan!


Read more on this here > Cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between different exercise types and food cravings in free-living healthy young adults.





Low calorie burn = massively inefficient at burning calories

To burn ever increasing amounts of calories per training session, you need to be using the method of progressive overload, that essentially means making your training sessions harder each time, you can do this by changing the intensity volume load or frequency or exercise type, these variables can be changed to prevent plateaus caused by your body adapting, essentially getting better at handling the training.


With running training, the variables you can change are definitely less, if you are time limited, or don’t want to run with extra weight in a backpack, if you are not a skilled runner already or have the time to learn running technique to keep up the adaptation.


"Your body is a machine, and it just wants to do things as efficiently as possible"


As your body learns to adapt to your new running regimen, you start burning fewer calories jogging your go-to neighbourhood loop than you did before. Also, when you start to lose weight, your body won’t need as much energy to function as it did when you were heavier—so your basal metabolic rate (the energy your body burns at rest) will actually start to decrease.


This is partly because your overall mass is decreasing, but also because when you're running but not strength training, research shows that you'll most likely lose both fat and muscle mass—the latter of which requires more energy for your body to maintain. A decrease in muscle mass can reduce how many calories your body burns at rest.



Just Running and cutting calories can make you “Skinny fat”


If you are mindlessly running without a set plan and accompanying resistance program alongside you more than likely will burn muscle and body fat , making you thinner all over, worse still your body could even hold onto your body fat making you both skinny and still the same level of “fatness”


"Resistance training is needed alongside your running training otherwise you will not have the stimulus to retain or gain muscle needed"


I can definitely personally vouch for this one, I used to be more like the guy on the right and now I’m more like the guy on the right, my half marathon time is the same though (near enough) in fact I’m looking to beat my personal best this year from when I was 65 kg and “skinny fat” I’m now 90 kg and have much more muscle, I’m happier and healthier too!



Takes up so much time!!

Running can be an incredibly inefficient use of your time especially if your main goal is to increase muscle and to lose fat, which is the primary focus of my training program, you can do the lengthy endurance training when it’s more appropriate.

If you are really busy, which most people are, you just don’t have the time to run for ten hours per week.


If you are looking to gain muscle and lose fat in a short space of time, check out my fitness programs over here



References

Muscle triglyceride utilization during exercise: effect of training.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3512511

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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1986 Feb;60(2):562-7. Muscle triglyceride utilization during exercise: effect of training. Hurley BF, Nemeth PM, Martin WH 3rd,

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