Previous: Reasons why our training efforts may not work! Next: Vegetarians – The right idea but the wrong application!

Run yourself – FATTER!!!

“Right, that’s it, I’m turning into a bit of a porker. I better get a grip and do something”. This thought is normally followed by a surge of so called ‘cardio’ and cutting back the calories. Hit the treadmill and cut out fats! Fair enough, except this is not the best and most efficient way of reducing body fat.

Here in Exeter, Devon, people have just completed the Great West Run (half marathon) and I suspect that one of the reason most people are running it is as part of their health and fitness campaign and to lose fat. This is commendable and I admire them for doing it, after all, I am an ex soldier so I used to run these type of distances very often.


1. So why is it that as I stood near the finish line today and watched people finishing I noticed that so many were carrying excess body fat and this fat was generally in the legs and bums of the women and the bellys of the men. Remember that I have nothing but admiration for the people that finished it, but the fact still remains that a large percentage of the amateur runners crossed the line very happy but alas, still fat!

2. Go to a gym and look at the physiques of the people doing hard weight training and compare them to those doing so called ‘cardio’. The fattest people are on the cross trainer / stepper / treadmill doing endless steady ‘fat burning’ cardio and the leanest people are doing the lifting.

3. Talk to the people in the ‘cardio’ section and they will talk about ‘calories burnt’ and skimmed milk! Talk to the people doing the lifting and they will talk about pain and protein.

4. Generally the runners that come to PFP to train are structurally imbalanced and among other issues have weak glutes. Weak glutes means excess stress on the knees. There is more to this point but not for this article.

5. From a personal point of view, I used to run around 20-25 miles per week and was much younger. Now that I am ancient, I hardly run at all but I am much leaner!

Surely by now everyone is aware that ‘steady state cardio’ is not the most efficient way to get lean. Not to say that steady state training hasn’t got it’s place, of course it has, but not constantly and certainly not at the expense of all other types of training. If you are a distance runner and that is the only training you do, I would guess that you may be weak, have structural imbalances, have oxidative stress and probably don’t sleep very well. Oh and you are probably still carrying a layer of fat that no matter how far you run you can’t shift.

So if you are running / jogging and one of the reasons is to shift fat and it’s not working then what the hell can you do!? Naturally if a person is new to physical exercise and they start to do some ‘cardio’ they will lose fat. This is because anything that gets a sedentary person off the couch will help. However this initial loss will soon falter…then what?

Below is a collection of facts and thoughts to be aware of if you are a cardio – ahloic:

1. That ‘feel good’ factor we get when we run or do a steady state cardio session is partly due to a release of endorphins. Unfortunately these endorphins mask the fact that steady state stuff also releases the stress hormone cortisol. A constant flood of cortisol is detrimental to our health and especially to fat loss (see ‘stress it’s a bit of a drama’).

2. Do you jog on a treadmill and are you are surrounded by a bank of other treadmills or electrical machines? Do you have an ipod strapped to your ears playing your ‘cardio power tracks’ to take away the mind numbing boredom? Do you have your mobile phone in the cup holder and a TV screen in front ? If so then the electromagnetic stress (EMS) that emits from these things adds to the release of cortisol which it turn makes your fat loss efforts much less effective. This phenomenon is known as ‘dirty electricity’. If you really must go for a run, why not do it outside and get some sunlight (vitamin D3) and fresh air. Remember, cortisol up = testosterone down! (Granted, listening to an ipod doesn’t make you fat…but I hope you get the point I am making)

3. We very often redistribute where we store our fat. You will often see runners endlessly jogging along and a lot of them eventually get lean on top but their lower halves get / remain fat. Women are especially prone to restoring fat from thier upper body to their legs and bum. It has a lot to do with the female hormonal profile and estrogen ratios. However it is also where woman tend to have their most stubborn fat cell. This fact and the fact that excess low intensity, high repetition (steady state cardio) forces the body to store inter muscular triglycerides (fat) where they are most needed for fuel (legs and bum). Triple wammy – damn!

4. Steady cardio types are also often carb fiends. Their logic being that they must fuel their efforts with carbs. Or the old chest nut that ‘fat burns in a carbohydrate flame’! From a fat loss point of view this is extremely counter productive. They are also obsessed with ‘burning off those calories’. If fat loss was solely about burning calories all those people that finished the Great West Run today would be lean! Counting calories is a flawed and unsustainable approach to fat loss. There are some notable exceptions, like during the final stages of a periodisation for a body builder / figure competitor or a weight class athlete. see ‘Carbs – who needs them’

5. It is better to get your nutrition right and your training wrong, than your training right and your nutrition wrong. A natural figure model that trains at PFP who is currently 9.4% body fat with 9 weeks left till her competition current does no cardio, except a specifically designed version once a week. At the moment she only trains 5 x per week, of which 4 sessions are with weights. This isn’t excessive by any means and I suspect some people reading this may in fact do more. But what she does do constantly is eat. Her watch is set to alarm every 2.5 hours and she then eats. She eats the correct stuff, no rubbish (see my blog ‘carbs – who needs them’). In case there is confusion, she also has her training right!  Again there is more to this subject but too much for this blog. See PFP athlete win figure competition

6. ‘Cardio’ can lead to a depletion in trace minerals and vitamins which if not replaced will increase oxidative stress, cause aching joints, increase our acidity, disrupt our sleep, reduce our libido, increase our risk of injury, fog our brain function, increase our likelihood of illness…and will curtail our fat loss efforts. Get some multivitamins and omega 3 down you as an absolute minimum!

7. When we jog, look at the angles of flexion and extension that happens at the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder, these joints will not go through a full range of movement (ROM). This will lead to those imbalances I mentioned earlier. Our limbs are designed to go through a full ROM which ensures full flexion and extension of opposing muscles (agonist and antagonist). A full pelt sprint in a healthy individual will, on the other hand show full flexion and extension in these joint.  But if we jog we are only going through ½ to ¾ of their designed ROM. This causes tight / short muscles, sore joints and weakness. If a jogger suddenly gets a mad rush of blood to the head and sprints, often they will injure something. See blog ‘Stretching – must we?!

As mentioned, I do not agree with some zealots who insist that so called ‘cardio’ is totally bad. After all it can makes us feel good, can give us a sense of achievement, makes us happy, gets us off our bums, improves our cardiovascular efficiency, will even make us lose some weight initially and so forth. The point I am trying to make is that if you do steady state cardio training and don’t supplement it with other robust types of training like resistance and interval training and if your goal is to lose fat, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

By the way, those that think weight training is not a good cardiovascular training option, should experience a full body resistance workout at 60-75%  (approx 8-12 reps) of your 1 rep max with 30-45 seconds rest between sets…after puking you may think again!!!  ‘Why our training may not be working’

Do yourself a favour, don’t run yourself fat!