I’m a big cardio advocate. I especially love walking and running for my lower body and boxing for my upper body.
Cardio helps me get into shape, keeps me lean and it’s fun :)
But over the years, a lot of you guys asked me if running is really good for you, so I wanted to answer that question in this blog post.
Yes, running is a great exercise and, depending on your goals, it can be an awesome way for you to get in shape!
Let’s take a look at why, how, and what you need to know.
DOES RUNNING BURN CALORIES?
YES! Running burns a TON of calories!
But the amount you burn depends on two things:
- your weight
- your pace
The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn. This is because you’re moving more mass with each step.
As you lose weight, you’ll lose fat and that will end up making you burn fewer calories during your workout. The smaller you are, the less calories you burn (increasing muscle mass can increase the calories you burn).
Don’t panic! It’s not a bad thing! It just means you need to change things up. Like adjusting your speed.
The faster you run, the more calories you’ll burn.
And if you really want to push things, you can add interval running. This will help you burn more calories.
Keep in mind that if you tend to bulk up easily (and adding a lot of muscle isn’t one of your fitness goals), you’ll want to stick with steady state running.
Also, keep in mind that running uphill will build more leg muscle than running on a flat surface.
WILL RUNNING HELP ME BURN FAT AND LOSE WEIGHT?
Okay, so this where I need to get a bit technical :)
When we exercise, our bodies create energy in two basic ways:
- aerobically (with oxygen) – FAT burning zone
- anaerobically (without oxygen)
To put it simply, when you’re in the aerobic zone, your body will burn FAT. And when you’re in the anaerobic zone, your body will burn carbs.
Your body will use the anaerobic pathway for:
- High-intensity exercise (including high-intensity cardio such as running)
- Weight training
- Interval training
So typically, your body will actually burn carbs when you are running. BUT, the fitter you are, the longer you can keep your body in the fat burning zone when running.
This is known as the anaerobic threshold: the point at which your body switches from the aerobic to anaerobic pathway.
When you build up cardiovascular health, your anaerobic threshold gets harder to reach. You’ll stay in the aerobic zone longer.
Running increases your cardiovascular fitness and your anaerobic threshold.
This means that you can exercise longer and at a higher intensity in the aerobic “fat burning” zone and as a result, burn more fat.
I’ve written in more detail about this in these blog posts:
WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU
The long and the short of it is, running is a GREAT way to lose weight and fat. And interval running is especially great for increasing your anaerobic threshold to help you burn fat longer.
But it depends on your body type. If you bulk up quickly, interval running can build bulk your legs.
Not sure what your body type is or how you typically build muscle? Take my body type quiz and find out more!
IS RUNNING GOOD FOR TONING MY LEGS?
Running does a lot of good. It helps you burn calories, improve your cardiovascular health, and keeps you lean.
But is it good for toning your legs?
The answer is a little bit complicated. Running can build muscle. And for some people, this will result in toned and defined leg muscles.
But for some women, running can cause our legs to bulk up, especially for endomorph body type.
That doesn’t mean you should give up running. You just need to be selective about how you do it.
Remember when I mentioned running on flat surfaces? Stick to it! It’s the BEST way to avoid building unwanted muscle.
A BIT OF ADVICE
DON’T AVOID RESISTANCE TRAINING
I know that a lot of personal trainers now prefer weight lifting over cardio but I think that a well balanced fitness routine should have both.
If all you do is running, you will be slim but you won’t have nice muscle tone. Both running and resistance training are important so make sure your workout program includes both.
The best way to get in shape and start burning fat is to ease into it. I know…you want to start shedding those pounds but you can’t push yourself too hard too fast.
If you do, you run the risk of injuring yourself, and you’re more likely to give up. Pain has a way of destroying your ability and motivation to get fit and get lean.
You’ll feel sore. That’s normal. But the soreness shouldn’t be so severe that you can’t go about your normal day. Take a rest day and reevaluate.
DON’T FORGET TO STRETCH AND REST
Stretch your muscles out and take an extra active recovery day and see if the soreness goes away.
This can make all the difference in your recovery and keep you motivated and ready to run at your best.