Resolutions of all kinds seem to go hand in hand with the New Year but our number one resolution every year, according to Health Canada, is to lose weight. This month, gym memberships will rise, exercise equipment sales will skyrocket and many will sign on for popular sports like swimming or cycling to whip their guts back into shape.
As usual, looming behind these enthusiasts are the fitness gurus who are looking to cash in with products that promise to fight flab in a no-frills way. You’ve seen them on infomercials, trying to peddle quick fixes like the butt-be-gone or the ab-roller.
One infomercial you will never see however is on the weight loss advantages of running. That’s probably because losing weight through running is not something you can do in a short time span.
“Running is not like some new piece of equipment- there is no get slim quick promise in thirty days,” says Puck McMurphy, a personal trainer and former NHL player. “It is perhaps the only activity where you can’t cheat and get away with it. In thirty days a new runner should be increasing distance by ten per cent to increase metabolism. Lose-weight-fast schemes promise quick weight loss, something no running advocates would ever promise.”
When it comes to running, the advice from most experts is to take it slow. “Our expectations are just too great-especially in the New Year” says McMurphy. “People have eaten too much over the holidays or have begun to take stock of their lives. Many people pay me and then end up six weeks later dropping out.”
According to McMurphy, those who stick with running see results in three to four months- not as fast as most who are eager to lose pounds would like. “When compared to other modes of aerobic exercise when intensity and duration are equal, running is the absolute best exercise for burning calories,” says McMurphy. “Since you are fully bearing your own weight in an upright position, all the major muscles of the body are engaged.”
Generally, you burn calories based on transporting weight over distance. So if you use the same muscles to transport the same weight over a ten kilometre run versus a walk you burn about the same number of calories.
“You burn more calories when you involve more muscle groups,” McMurphy explains. “Running tones the shoulders and arms, the legs, the postural muscles of the abdominal and back and most importantly, the heart and the entire cardiovascular system.”
Today’s runner will advocate a running lifestyle which includes everything from healthy eating habits to injury prevention. One of the most popular running enthusiasts, John “The Penguin” Bingham even suggests a new runner should forget everything they have ever believed about running.
“Everything you think running is and everything you think runners are is almost certainly wrong,” says Bingham, author of No Need for Speed: A beginner’s guide to the joy of running, and a regular contributor to Runner’s World magazine. “If its not wrong, its probably no longer accurate,” he asserts.
Bingham should know. At 43 he weighed in at 240 pounds. A dedicated couch potato, he smoked for 25 years, drank often enough to worry that he might have a problem, and enjoyed overeating. The truth was that Bingham didn’t want to be active. That is, until a friend was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes. It was at that time he promised his friend that if she changed her way of life, he would also.
It wasn’t that simple, and Bingham discovered that he resented change. After much injury, pain and mistakes, Bingham has lost 80 pounds and is able to run marathons several times a year. What may surprise many is that he usually finishes these marathons in about five hours, and insists on enjoying every minute of it.
The health benefits kick in once you achieve a regular routine of running at least every other day for 30 to 60 minutes. For runners, this means five to 10 miles a week. You’ll feel better, look better, and live longer.
The revelation that you’re living a running lifestyle won’t hit you all at once. It edges into your consciousness over time. In his book, Bingham writes that the running lifestyle is an on-going process.” One of the things that runners learn is that you are always running – even when you are sitting and eating”.
One place to start your own running program is at the Concordia Running Club (CRC). CRC is designed for runners of all abilities. They will create a detailed, personalized training regime that will help you get in shape and have some fun along the way. If you are just starting out, CRC will provide a group to motivate you.
For information on equipment and shoes visit the Running Room at 4873 Sherbrooke West. You can subscribe to Runners World at www.runnersworld.com, or check out the Concordia Running Club at www.concordiarecreation.ca.