I’ve been saying for years that fat people finish marathons all the time. What people need to realize is that it isn’t about the distance covered—it’s about how quickly or intensely the distance was covered. I wish people would get this through their heads when January comes and they embark on the magic “run for weight loss” kick. They see the Kenyan crossing the Boston Marathon finish line and actually believe that running made him skinny. The fact of the matter is that the Kenyan’s body type had more to do with the selection of that runner’s mother and father than running 26.2 miles ever did.

Some people are “built” for running long distances and some aren’t. On average, most people aren’t. “Why?” you may ask. The large majority of our population is just too structurally unsound to run over long distances. Imbalances at the ankle and hip can reap havoc on the knees and low back. Just ask any local physical therapist who his number one patient is. More often than not, he will say the long-distance runner. Professional long-distance runners are plagued with overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, anterior knee pain, IT band/lateral knee pain, and hip and low back dysfunctions. I won't even get into the free radical damage and the actual “oxidizing” that occurs in the body from not only pollutants in the atmosphere but just from running for prolonged periods of time. The free radical damage mentioned has been shown to increase the likelihood of many types of cancers, especially brain cancer.

Excessive running/aerobic activity also increases a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a necessity for fight or flight situations like running from a tiger or getting out of a tight jam. However, elevated cortisol levels for long periods of time can have negative effects on your health as well as on your fat loss program.

Elevated cortisol levels are no stranger to the average person. A typical stressful day usually starts with a “healthy” bowl of cereal with low fat milk and orange juice. This type of breakfast is notorious for stimulating or spiking insulin levels. Over a long period of time, the elevated insulin levels become a stressor to the body, which increases cortisol levels. We’re just getting started. After breakfast, you head off to work and into rush hour traffic. Now, you’re late for work!  More stress equals more cortisol. You finally reach work and find out that you’ve missed your scheduled Monday morning meeting. More stress and more cortisol. After a long day of work (stress), you feel the only thing that will relieve your stressful day is that 8:00 pm spinning class. More stress, more cortisol! Is it surprising that more heart attacks take place on Mondays than any other day of the week?

With a day such as this, the last thing your body needs is a spinning class or any long duration aerobics at all for that matter. A better choice is some sort of stress management such as a massage or getting to bed earlier. Your body doesn’t know the difference between insulin stress, work stress, or spinning stress. It only senses a fight or flight situation, and when your body thinks it’s in danger, the last thing on earth it’s concerned with is getting beach ready.

Wait! There’s more! Another problem with low intensity/long-duration running is that it just doesn’t work for fat loss. Yeah, I said it. It stinks. Is it good for weight loss? Sure, but what good is the lost weight on the scale if you’re destined to gain it back plus ten extra pounds? Forget the fact that it’s time consuming, places undue amounts of stress on your muscular skeletal system, and causes overuse injuries. It just isn’t an efficient strategy for long-term fat loss. The key word here is “long term.”

You see, it isn’t just running that’s the problem. It’s spinning classes, aerobics classes, cardio kickboxing classes, Zumba classes, body bar classes, and every other class that they offer at your local, big box gym. They all seem to work but then something interesting happens. Your results start to slow down or they magically come to a screeching halt. This usually happens around the beginning or middle of February—the same time you stop your New Years resolution every year. Is this some sort of a coincidence? I think not.

These classes are fun, and boy do they make you sweat! Unfortunately, you can dance in the mirror and laugh and sweat all over that pretty little abdominal mat, but until you realize that fun and sweat don’t always equal fat loss, you'll continue to spin your wheels (pardon the pun). I know, I know—spinning is hard! But is it really? How hard can something be if you’re able to make it through one of those famous two-hour Thanksgiving Day rides? We keep getting caught up in this “more is better” scenario. Let me explain why these timed-based, distance training sessions fail to live up to their promises.’

Survival comes first!
Let’s assume you’re eating enough calories to support those two hours of spinning, which you probably aren’t.  More often than not, you’re using your hard-earned muscle for energy. The last thing your body wants to do is use body fat for energy, especially when it thinks you’re starving. I know your doctor informed you that you should eat less and move more, but I respectively disagree. When your calories are too low and you engage in any type of physical activity, your body has to get energy from somewhere. That energy is coming primarily from muscle, the most metabolically active tissue your body possesses and that same tissue you worked so hard for in your “body pump” class.

This is really quite simple. Muscle burns calories at rest, but the crazy thing is that muscle also needs calories to maintain itself. So if you aren’t eating enough calories, muscle becomes a threat to your existence and long-term survival. If you’re running for your life on very little food (calories), your body’s best bet is to dump muscle because it’s literally burning calories that you don't have. Now comes the fun part! Because your body thinks you’re in a survival situation, when you do decide to eat that Jenny Craig or Lean Cuisine dinner, your body conveniently converts the food to fat and stores it on your inner thigh or mid-section. This becomes a downward spiral because the running was working. Frustrated, you increase the amount of time spent running, riding the bike, or dancing in front of the mirror. Or you just lower your calories even more (this never works) and you end up in an even worse situation than before.

This scenario plays out every year in every gym in America! It has successfully made billions of dollars from abdominal gadgets, diet pills, doctors, gym memberships, and fad diets across the board. It sounds good. “All you have to do is move more and eat less!” If this concept worked, Americans wouldn't be the fattest and unhealthiest people on the planet.
Are we really smarter than a caveman?
In all honesty, human beings just weren’t built to run slowly in a straight line for prolonged periods of time. On the contrary, we’re best suited for using our energy for short bursts and then recovering such as in throwing a spear at an elk or deer, chasing it down, and dragging it home to feast. Our body’s number one goal is survival. From a caveman’s prospective, running for long stretches wouldn't have been very smart. Think about it—would you want to fatigue yourself by running a 5K or 10K and then get chased by a potential predator? Could you actually manage to flee from danger with runner's knee or a case of shin splints? How much sense would it make to go on a hunting marathon, slowly running after your dinner, making all types of commotion, and scaring off potential food while simultaneously making you more vulnerable to being eaten? The only way to catch food was if you could actually sneak up on it. You know, actually hunt for it.

Don't forget! Animals, yeah, they kind of sense things like danger. Oh, and they hear pretty well, too. In order for you to catch dinner for your family, you would have to be very, very quiet like Elmer Fudd looking for that widdle wabbit. You would have to be cunning and keen, patiently (what do Americans know about patience?) waiting for the right time to pounce. Then at the right moment, you would have to throw a rock or a sharpened stick, sprint, and try to catch the prey before it darted off into the deep forest or open plain.

I'm going to tell you a little secret. Would you like to know why there are so many fat and unhealthy individuals in our country? Aside from the fact that people live off of box foods, skip breakfast, work too much, don't sleep enough, and obviously just don't move enough, they want results and don't want to work for them. It just doesn't work that way! So what's the secret? The secret is intensity. We have to work harder, not longer. If longer worked, you wouldn't see fat marathon runners. But you do. If easy worked, riding on that bike while talking to your girlfriend would work, but it doesn't. Cosgrove said it best—“Simple and easy isn’t the same. Easy implies no effort. Simple means not complicated.” Achieving total health and lower body fat levels is simple, but it’s far from easy.

Stay tuned for part three! I’ll show you what the best trainers in the world are using to attain extreme fat loss, and it can be done in less than 20 minutes!

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.