I’ve written in the past about how much I love to lift weights.
So, what gives? Why am I all of a sudden a cardio gal?
Short answer: I’m not. I still love weight training. I just love them both.
Longer answer-- Well, that’s what this blog post is about, right?
Okay, I want to start by dispelling the myth that you have to be one or the other. You’re either a weight lifter or a cardio queen.
I really dislike this mentality because I feel like there’s a disconnect between both sides-- either you think that you’ll get bulky if you lift weights or you think that running is a complete waste of time and no one should ever do it ever in their life. Ever.
And also, I wrote another post about running if you want to check it out, but it’s more about my personal experience with it.
Here’s the thing: a lot of people hate running because in the past, in an effort to lose weight or get in shape or get abs they’ve forced themselves onto the treadmill and trudged away. In short, they do it to burn calories.
Anything that you do for the sole intent of punishing yourself for eating or trying to “make up” for calories that you’ve consumed is going to leave you feeling pretty nesty. There’s a whole cycle of guilt and shame that goes on in this, and I’ve found in my own experience, which I’ll probably cover in a later post, that overly restricting myself and punishing myself makes emotional eating a harder and harder pattern to break.
And also, while I’m at it, I want to talk about the dreaded topic:
I feel like tons of gals these days go through a phase of calorie counting, and I think that it’s just not a sustainable way to live.
First of all, calories aren’t a perfect system. You could track the calories you burn and then try to eat less than that, but I would argue that it’s not always going to produce the intended results. We’re more complicated than calculators.
Believe it or not, counting calories doesn’t bring me joy. I am much happier when I eat enough and listen to my body’s hunger signals than when I try to break my food down into science and try to change my body, because honestly, at this point I’ve realized that my body has the ability to carry me through life, and it doesn’t need visible abs to do that. If abs means a life of calorie counting and needing to think about food all the time everywhere, then I don’t want abs.
After all, who am I trying to impress? Myself? I’m more impressed by my abs when they help me sit up in the morning or support my posture during the day than I am when I’ve starved myself so that I can see them. And to be perfectly honest, and this isn’t based on any science at all, some bodies just aren’t meant to have a six pack. Some are. Some people just naturally have really defined abs. But a lot of people don’t, and then they try to force themselves to have them, and that’s just not what’s right for their body. They think it will make them happy, but it takes them until they’ve starved their body of food to realize that it won’t.
I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t have goals or try to pursue a healthy weight, but if your goal is unhealthy or unsustainable or only comes from feeling pressure to look a certain way, then I don’t think that goal will work out as well as perusing wellness and sustainability.
People of every single body type struggle with this every day, so don’t think that you’re alone. People worry all the time if they’re too fat, too skinny, if their legs are long enough, if their muscles are defined enough, if their muscles are too defined… No matter what you look like, you can keep looking for something that you don’t like about your body-- Can’t we all just be happy with the one beautiful, capable body that we’ve been given?
Can’t we look in the mirror and stop focusing on what we don’t like instead of appreciating the person in front of us?
Can we stop punishing ourselves for being unique and special and beautiful?
Okay, that was kind of a little off topic, but if you’re interested in learning more about why I don’t count calories, check out this article by Paleo Leap that pushed me away from calorie counting. And then they also have another article on it, too.
Bottom line: It doesn’t make me happy, it would add to any problems I have, not subtract, and I don’t think it’s sustainable (or very accurate).
The Benefits of Running
Alright, if I like running so much, there must be a benefit to it, right?
Right. Although the main reason why I love running is the energy it gives me and the anti-anxiety and other mental benefits that I’ve experienced, there are several other benefits that I want you to be aware of.
Prevents Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is a big killer, and it seems to me that the prevalence of heart disease partly goes back to basic lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, stress, and sleep.
If you have ever run before (which I bet you have), you know that running makes your heart work hard. That’s one of the things that I enjoy most about running: I really feel like I got something done afterwards. I get really sweaty (especially in the summer), and my heart rate sometimes gets into the 170s and 180s.
Improves self esteem
Lack of self esteem is an EPIDEMIC. Seriously. Lacking self esteem can cause you to not do things you want to do. It can hold you back from making things happen and doing what you feel passionate about because you don’t have enough self esteem to not care what other people think about you.
We need to be doing things to boost our self esteem now more than ever. (I find that resistance training is good for that, too.)
Improves Your Mood   
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get irritable.
I guess that’s kind of a normal teenager thing, but it never hurts to make it a little better.
I find that about twenty minutes into a run, I feel FABULOUS. Running helps me to feel good, and it makes it easier for me to manage my anxiety (for articles on anxiety check out this page).
This isn’t a physical benefit, but it’s definitely true. Although there are plenty of ways to get started with resistance training at home, running is arguably even easier to start doing. Just grab your running shoes and go.
Improves all-cause mortality risk
That sounds kinda fancy so I’m gonna rephrase that: running lowers your risk of dying. 
That’s pretty neat.
Helps prevent diabetes and high blood pressure 
That sounds pretty good to me!
Can help with stress management
This one is mostly anecdotal-- I have a natural tendency to be stressed. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been an anxious person. Stress is prevalent in all of our lives, though, and running is a great way to help manage it.
For more ways to manage stress, check out this article.
The more the better?
Not necessarily. Exercise is a stressor. You don’t become stronger while you are working out, it’s in the recovery that you become stronger. As with all types of exercise, you should include plenty of time to rest and recover from each run.
In fact, even as little as 5 to 10 minutes per day and going under six miles per hour have proven to be beneficial, so don’t feel pressured into overdoing it.
In my experience and in the experience of a few other runners I’ve heard from, things only get good after mile two. If you “hate” running, I’d be curious to know if you’ve ever run more than two miles at a time, because that’s when the magic really starts to happen. I love running, but I still don’t love the first two miles all that much.
I know it seems painful to run along for two miles just to get that runner’s high, but honestly, once you’ve felt it, you know it’s worth it.
Does running make me lose muscle?
Alright, keep in mind that this is just my opinion, but running is not going to make you lose muscle as long as you properly fuel your body and incorporate strength training.
Have you ever been on a run? If so, you know that it challenges your legs. What happens when you challenge your body? It adapts and gets stronger.
I know people who love distance running and who are not sticks and seems to have pretty decent amounts of muscle. That being said, I would definitely recommend a combination of resistance training and running to ensure that you maintain and even gain muscle. Keeping in mind that balance is important, add plenty of protein to your diet for optimal recovery.    On a given day, I typically eat well over one hundred grams of protein, and I’m five foot four.
I don’t really find food tracking to be all that fun, but you can get a good estimate of how much protein you eat by punching your meals into a food tracker one day. This could help you be more mindful of how much protein you’re eating. Also, getting a basic idea of how much protein is in certain foods can be helpful.
In short, be honest with yourself: are you not running because you’re worried about losing your muscle or because you just don’t want to? If it’s because you’re worried about losing muscle, don’t let that stop you. I seriously don’t think it’s gonna make a very big deal, especially because the people who are worried about losing muscle are likely the ones who are going to the gym and lifting weights regularly anyway.
But tell me… should I run?
That’s a good question. And yes, after all of that, I’m going to say this:
It’s up to you.
Running is fun in my opinion, and I think that unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so safely, you should give it a try. But I honestly think that you could be pretty healthy and functional without ever going on a run in your life.
And also, here’s the thing: running is challenging. I never said that I enjoy it because it’s easy. I pretty much never enjoy the start of a run, but the more I run the easier it gets to get over that initial discomfort. That mental challenge can make you mentally stronger.
Running has powerful mental and physical benefits. Although I’ll always love my weights, I find running to be a healthy way to be more energetic and to manage my anxiety.
Don’t shy away from running for fear of losing muscle-- with the perfect balance of running, resistance training, and fueling your body, you’ll be able to keep getting your precious gains.
Overall, I think that running isn’t something to shy away from if you enjoy it.
Lemme know your thoughts in the comments. 👇
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