by Neil Anderson

Running is cool. It puts health & fitness onto you in ways that are unparalleled. It's weird. There is nothing like it. You can do other forms of cardio if you want, but nothing will shape you up like running will. Maybe it's the impact. Maybe it's the jostling. You just can't get the same bang for your buck with cycling, rowing, swimming, or ... anything, really.  Even if you do these (cycling, rowing, etc.) at HIGHER intensities.

But, for all it's advantages running has limitations when it comes to weight loss. In fact, if you aren't careful, running when used exclusively for weight loss, can add to your workout time, decrease your overall health and cause weight gain.  

Here is how it works. Many started running and loved what it was doing for them in terms of shaping their bodies, so they just kept going and going.  Now a couple of years into the venture they have found that running isn’t doing what it used to.  And in fact they have to keep adding mileage and intensity just to keep your weight where it is right now.  This seems like a never ending loop and it is starting to take away from quality of life.  So, what should you do?  

Try this.  Get dead on consistent with your training.  And reel back some of those miles.  Some of you need to reel back a bunch of your miles.  Your body needs to know you aren’t going to keep killing it.  If you are a long distance runner, your body is constantly preparing for when you are going to make it go for 2-4 hours at a stretch.  To prepare for this it knows it must store plenty of water, electrolytes, and fuel for when you spring your next kill fest on it.  The fuel it prefers, is the stuff the looks the worst on!  Carbohydrates.  We have found with our dancers that carbohydrates make you look puffy.  Especially around your middle and your face.  When we pull the carbs away from our dancers it cleans up their appearance greatly.  

But because you are running so much your body is starving for carbs to fuel it.  In fact, many of you couldn’t walk past bread, pasta, or sweets if your house was on fire.  And it is no wonder.  You have toyed with your system so much over the years that you have convinced your body that were you to walk by a carb, you’d probably die.  You need to realize that you are in FULL ON storage mode.  Unless you send the signals for your body to calm down, you are just going to keep packing it on.  Year after year you will get bigger and more swollen looking.  

Consistency is key when reprogramming your body.  And know this - It will fight you.  When you start slowing down, telling it you are going to be kinder and gentler to it - It won't believe you.  It remembers all the hurtful things you’ve done to it in the past and it thinks any day now you are going to spring a ultra run at it, and it wants nothing more than to be prepared.  Self preservation is its job.  So this is going to take some real effort on your part.  

I suggest you find another line of exercise.  May I recommend GPP?!  Short, 20 minute workouts that hit you from every angle will keep your body in shape and spending calories.  It will also place new demands on your body that it is unfamiliar with.  If you are already doing GPP workouts, attack them harder.  Many times you have pushed through a workout at 75% while saving a little in the tank for your long run.  Pound a workout at max intensity and you’ll reprogram your body to allocate more energy to those specific workouts.  

Next, ground yourself.  You are no longer able to perform more than 30 minutes of cardio (running) per day.  Yes, make it 30 minutes.  I know you are used to running for miles, but remember, we are reprogramming here.  The more you reprogram the sooner your body will fall out of its bad habits and rhythms.  

Now, clean up your diet.  Start with water.  Lots of it will help flush excess storage of electrolytes and etc.  You’ll need to back off the carbs dramatically.  Proteins and raw fruits and veggies are the keys.  Raw fruits and veggies are not as calorie dense as your body is used to. It takes a lot more work to harness their energy than the breads, pastas and sweets you’ve been feeding it.  You want it to work for its energy.  It slows down the storage process.  Proteins will regulate blood sugar.  Your high carb lifestyle has been wreaking havoc with your blood sugar and insulin levels.  This is contributing to all the swelling around your midsection and face.  Take your protein consumption up to .9 g per lb. of lean body mass.  This will regulate blood sugar and calm insulin overproduction.  

That takes care of your physiology.  Now for some psycology.  All that running has been contributing greatly to one, or many of your personal payoffs.  By “personal payoff” I mean, you have been getting a lot more out of your running than just a good calorie burn.  Humans are funny.  We can take the most negative, hurtful and painful thing and turn it into a positive payoff.  Ever hear of Stockholm Syndrome?  

Running is very painful, at first.  But you get over it.  Soon you start associating the pain of a hard run with very positive attributes.  After a while this association might go from a mere pleasant experience to a need.  Eventually, this can escalate to a sickness for some.  Now, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been rendered ill by the obsessive need to run/exercise - you are not completely out of the woods when it comes to reversing course.  You'd do well to keep that in mind.  

To take something as painful as running and turn it into a positive aspect of your life, will have taken some deliberate action on your part to accomplish.  Chances are, you have some healthy value statements in life wrapped up into your running.  In other words, you might think consciously or subconsciously, “I’m pretty good at running.”  “Running has made me more confident.”  “The confidence I gained while running helped me to get my new (fill in the blank, house, spouse, job etc.).”  

Careful now.  This is the danger zone.  This is often accompanied by the fear, that it was the running that did this - not you.   

If you let this train of thought seep into your actions, you are likely to blow it for yourself.  Blow it on a lot of levels.  Not just gaining weight through running.  If you find this mindset creeping up on you.  It might be wise to seek some counselling.  Professional help with a qualified individual will go a long way here.  You’ll want to steer clear of certain non-supportive spousal types, codependent friends and fitness hacks pecking on a keyboard.  Anyone with a potential agenda for helping/suppressing you should be avoided.  Just sayin...

What you need to do is re-channel that high you get from running into something more productive.  This has to come with the recognition that YOU are the kingpin here.  This running thing didn’t just happen.  You did it.  You became good at it.  You achieved great things inside and outside of your running.  Now YOU can take what you have done and learned and do more great things.  Take some of the energy you have put into running and begin putting it into other things that interest you.  Or put it into things that have been left on hold, due to your running.  The important thing is to keep DOing.  RE-channel your efforts.  You’ll find you get a lot more done.  It’ll be more rewarding, too.  

One last thing - going back to nutrition here - watch that appetite.  Once you stop running so much, you aren’t that much different from a collegiate or professional football player.  Ever see what happens to those guys after they get out of competitive sports?  Most of them blow up to the size of a house.  All that running had the effect of glossing over many of the mistakes you were making with your diet.  You won’t have that much leeway anymore.  You’ll need to be more careful, or you’ll end up looking like an old, retired NFL linebacker.  The very thing you were trying to avoid when you backed off the running in the first place.  

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