So Does Running Burn Fat? Well, some commentators would have you believe it doesn’t but the real answer is – it depends.
Many of us take up running for a variety of reasons, mostly related to personal achievement goals. Years later we wonder why after hundreds of hours treading tarmac, we still carry body fat surplus to requirements.
So maybe you’ve been uncomfortable with your body long enough and you’ve decided it’s time to do something about it. Well good timing, because in this week’s article I’m going to take a look at 7 factors that will influence your ability to reach your goal.
The Psychology Behind Body Image
Does Running Burn Fat? State of mind is the precursor to everything, so let’s deal with that first.
Many of us harbour a secret unease about our bodies, a secret anxiety about how we look in the nip. We have an idea of how we “should” look according to some outside benchmark we’ve picked up along the way.
That’s not to say setting a benchmark and having aspirations for better is a bad thing. On the contrary, a benchmark can help us decide what we want. Without that contrast goal attainment is not possible.
The problems start for us when we get caught up in other people’s opinions. Motivation based on what we believe others think about us rather than what we want for ourselves, often leads to discouragement and failed attempts.
Body image is a big deal for many of us, even elite athletes struggle with how they look. For example: A recent study by NCAA in the US reported in their paper that college athletes had feelings of being fat when they were actually a healthy weight. They found this was a significant precursor to common mental health issues in students.
In truth, how we see ourselves is a state of mind, and that state of mind can have either a positive or negative effect on us physically and emotionally.
Psychology Today says;
Body image is subject to all kinds of distortion from internal elements like our emotions, moods, early experiences, parental influences, and much more. Nevertheless, it strongly influences behavior. Preoccupation with and distortions of body image are widespread among women and, to a lesser extent men, but they are driving forces in eating disorders, feeding severe anxiety than can be assuaged only by dieting.
The “I’m Ok How I Am” Trap
Be careful not to fall into that trap of thinking that it’s ok to carry excess body fat, when really in your heart you feel the exact opposite. If you believe you need to lose the fat, then you need to lose the fat.
You see, there can often be a discrepancy between what we say to ourselves and others, and what we really feel. The reality is there’s no getting away from the truth so best to accept how you feel and do something about it.
Momentum of current undesirable habits can be very strong. However, if you’re not happy with how you look, then you can reverse the trend. Maybe it’s time to accept this will be a challenge, eyeball yourself, and make getting what you want a priority.
Which leads us to Thing #1…
Thing #1 Make A Solid Commitment To Losing Fat & Getting In Shape.
Note that I said losing fat as opposed to losing weight. Hanging around the diet aisles and lifestyle magazine stands can condition us to believe that “weight loss” is what we’re after.
Like as if weight has something to do with it. Weight has nothing to do with it.
In fact if you’re doing a strength training program and eating the right foods then it’s likely you will gain weight in the form of muscle. If you’re doing it right you’ll likely see that fat loss does not have a direct correlation to weight loss or gain.
A 35-44 year old male, 5′ 10″ could have what’s considered a normal weight of 83kg and have body fat of 25%. I fit the category and if I had 25% body fat I wouldn’t be happy at all! (and either should you). According to some sources, the ideal body fat % for this male is 13.5%.
My advice is to avoid the tabloid press and cheap & nasty lifestyle magazine articles. These publications are designed to sell issues and advertising space rather than give you the information you need.
So now that you’ve decided to shed the belly and look better (for yourself and not others), you need to do one thing – Make A Commitment!
Making A Commitment Feels Different
It’s hard to put into words, but when you finally make a commitment it’s almost like the decision is being made for you. It feels different than any attempt you’ve made before.
You might have been trying for years to make the necessary changes but failed over and over. You might even have had irrational thoughts of inadequacy as a result of failed attempts.
But this time it’s different, your mind is set. You’re ready to go, quietly, confidently, you’ve set your intention and this time nothing is going to stop you.
Here’s A Couple Things You Can Do To Aid Success
- Have a good sit-down with you. – Take yourself aside for a couple hours, get some alone time and ask yourself what do you really want. Make a decision and commit.
- Tell few of your plan. If you’ve made many attempts before and failed, it’s likely those closest to you will take a “believe it when I see it” attitude. So consider going quietly for now so as to avoid any negativity close to home.
- Join a group that will support you. Support will be important for you so getting involved with a group or hiring a personal coach that will encourage you to succeed will benefit you big time.
- Join a group that will challenge you. Support is good, but too much will leave you dependant. You need to find people who will challenge and support you in equal measure. Stimulation will help you succeed.
- Plan ahead of your start date. Pick a date maybe a week or two ahead to plan things out. Go for detail in your plan if it feels right. If you find you’re trying to hard to figure things out, just back off for a bit and take a general approach. The detail will come when you’re ready for it.
That brings us to Thing #2…
Thing #2 Preparing Your Fat Loss Plan
Preparation is one of the keys to fat loss success, and so doing your homework prior to taking on the new regime is very important. Pick a date a few weeks ahead of when you’ll begin establishing your new habits and use the interim to educate yourself.
There is tons of information out there and it can often be overwhelming trying to decide what’s good advice and what’s bad. So, here’s what I suggest you keep in mind;
- Trust your own judgement. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is. If it sounds like hype and appears unrealistic then hold off applying it and seek the advice of someone you trust.
- Go for the long haul. You already know from running marathons that trying to find the finish line or the next mile marker before you arrive is counter productive. Stay present with what you’re doing now. Take a sure and steady approach and you’ll get there.
- Keep a workout and food plan – Strength and conditioning are another key to success for you so know what you’re doing every day. Set a food plan too, and if you have trouble cooking eat salads with a healthy serving of protein.
- Write a diary – Record how you feel on a daily basis and make sure you start and finish on a positive note. Spend as little time as possible on negative feelings. Acknowledge them, sure, but move on quickly to something positive.
Thing #3 Use Visualisation To Pre Pave Your Way
I mentioned earlier the power of momentum. Momentum will work in your favour to the degree you direct your positive effort towards what you want. The starting point for that is visualisation.
The force that drives momentum is thought, and when our thoughts have been working on autopilot for a while, we can often end up in situations we’d rather not.
Accept that it will take time to turn the ship around, but turning it around is very possible. You just need to change how you think. So if you’ve been talking yourself down for years, now it’s time to fix that.
Here’s how to do it…
- Take 30 mins to visualise – In the morning and the evening before going to sleep, use your imagination to visualise yourself as you wish to be. See yourself smiling and enjoying yourself in your new skin. See in your mind the end result you wish to experience.
- Write in your diary – Tell your new story in writing. Write in the present tense about what you achieved and how you now feel having trimmed down and lost the fat.
- Talk to yourself outloud. When we were kids we were told that talking to yourself meant you were crazy (lol). Self talk is a huge factor in creating what you want. You’ve got to shut the old negative voice up and introduce a new one that talks of what you want.
- Record yourself. Take your smartphone and record yourself talking to you from a future date. Say hello to yourself and congratulate you on reaching your goal. Play it daily to yourself when nobody is around! I do this, it’s very powerful.
Thing #4 Eat A Clean Wholesome Foods
Eating clean and removing as much processed foods from your diet will help you reach your goals. Paleo is my basis for my nutrition with the addition of sweet potato a couple times per week to meet my carb requirements.
I honestly don’t know how performance will be affected as my miles increase, and to be honest I’m not too concerned. My body will have adapted to burning fat by that time I expect, so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
If I find that I’m deficient in any way I’ll make the necessary correction. The way I see it, marathon runners like you and me can obtain the necessary fuel we need without heavily processed foods like pasta and bread and I hope to provide evidence for that.
Nutrition Rule of Thumb – Keep your diet clean – If it comes in a packet with an ingredients list then don’t eat it
Here’s a couple of things you can do to make sure you stick to the right foods
- Clear out your cupboards. – Leaving food stuffs around that you used to eat can spoil your efforts so clear out your cupboards of all processed foods.
- Get your family on board. – It will be difficult for you to stay on track, especially when things get tough, when there are constant temptations in your way. Temptations can be avoided with the whole family on board.
- Pick the day before to go shopping. – Go shopping the day before you start your new eating program. By this stage you should have a good understanding of what foods are good and what are not. Fill your fridge and cupboards with the right foods.
- Avoid eating out. – Don’t go eating out for the first month until you establish a new eating pattern. Eating out puts all kinds of temptations in your way that you can do without. So accept that you’ll need to be a hermit for a short period.
- Don’t give yourself cheat days. – Cheat days are a cop out and I am not a fan of them. Cheat days are for part timers and you’re not part time, you’re committed. Committed people are full time on their goal.
- Keep your food list to hand always. – The Paleo for Endurance Athletes food list is a valuable document that you should keep to hand for easy reference. Pin a copy to your fridge and keep another in your car.
Thing #5 Keep Well Hydrated
Staying well hydrated is important so your body can flush out the impurities of your former diet. When you see your urine clear or a light straw yellow colour then you can be happy you are adequately hydrated.
I like to keep a 2ltr of still water with me during my day. That’s a habit I picked up many years ago and it’s just automatic now.
Here’s a couple of things that can help you stay hydrated
- Filter your tap water. – Tap water can be full of impurities and it’s always a good idea to filter it I think. Excessive fluoride in tap water might also be good reason to filter.
- Processed juices are out. – If you’ve established a habit of supping down cartons orange or apple juice then it’s time to stop. You don’t need cartoned processed fruit juice so leave it out.
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the am. – This helps you get the digestive system lubricated after a night’s sleep. I find that eating straight after I get up is difficult and so I like to drink water first then do a workout to wake things up.
- Drink 2ltr water per day. Experts suggest 8 glasses of water per day is ideal for active adults. Marathon runners are likely to need more than this so use it as a minimum.
Thing #6 Train At A High Intensity
You might be running regularly, even clocking up a number of marathons each year, but if you’re just going through the motions you can actually plateau. High mileage doesn’t necessarily result in fat loss.
The trick is to increase the intensity and get out of breath a couple of times per week. Interval training, hill sprints, fartlek, repeats and so on are a great way to stress the body and raise your set point.
Also, short high intensity strength and conditioning workouts will help you achieve this higher set point. Combine running training and strength and conditioning and you will achieve the results you want.
Here’s some tips for training at high intensity
- Embrace the work. – You’ve got to embrace the work regardless of how stressful you imagine it will be, and it will be stressful on your body. But your body is intelligent, and when you introduce stress it knows how to build itself stronger.
- Do 15 mins per day. – That’s all it takes, 15 mins. Do a HI workout every day for a month without any days off and see the great results you will achieve.
- Get up early. Get up early before your day starts and get the workout done. I find it best to make more day for it, rather than trying to fit it into an already busy schedule.
- Make it complementary to running. Keep up whatever running training you’re doing. Your high intensity workout shouldn’t replace your running.
- Get out of breath. – Your daily workout should really test you so max it out to the best of your ability.
Thing #7 Focus On Your Goal, Not The Lack Of It
I’ve spoken of momentum a lot in this article and it pops up again here. Momentum will take you where you want to be and also where you don’t want to be. So you’ve got to decide where you will give your attention and focus.
Looking in the mirror and feeling bad about what you see perpetuates what you see. No champion ever became a champion by focusing on second, third or tenth place. They focus on coming first, they focus on their goal.
Applying your focus to what you don’t want doesn’t serve you so finding ways to remain positive about your progress is vital.
Here’s some things to help you with that
- Remember conditions are temporary. – Understand that how things currently are is a temporary situation and remind yourself of that daily. Remind yourself that you’re going in the right direction regardless of apparent circumstances.
- Keep record of your stats. – Take note of what you eat, your weight, body fat percentage, muscle mass percentage, body water percentage and your workout times on a daily basis.
- Get an accountability partner. – Partner up with a training buddy who can support you and you them. Pick a time to talk daily about your progress. Be careful where your conversation goes, keep things positive and don’t spend time on your problems.
- Meditate daily. – Use some quiet time during your day to clear your mind and meditate. Meditation has been accepted by medical professionals as being highly beneficial to athletes.
The Final Word
So does running burn fat? Yes it does, but you’ve got to give yourself the best chance possible of success. By following the above I believe you can do just that.
The thing to be conscious of is; what plays out in your mind and the conversation you have with yourself daily, will affect your progress. Before doing anything you must first get your head right.
Be determined and focused and stick to your plan. Don’t be afraid to change your plan if needs be, but above all keep your end goal in mind.
You don’t need to know how to get there, you just need to know where you’re going.
How is your training going? Are you struggling with excess body fat you’d rather not have? Join me on The Smart Runner Facebook Page every morning at 06:30 am for about 20mins where I’ll introduce you to a new way of training and eating that will get you results. Get your questions answered and get training, nutrition and mindset advice to help you succeed.