Running & Spinning Backwards
Every time I ask a newbie to write out her goals when she signs up with me I can almost always prognosticate what she’s going to say.
Time and again I get the obligatory, “Get leaner, more toned, lose 15-20 lbs…..”
But that’s not all.
It’s quickly followed with “I also want to run a marathon in 3 months.”
or do a 80 mile cycling race
or a triathlon
or a tough mudder.
My response is always the same. “So which is it?”
This always throws them for a loop. You see, a fitness fanatic woman isn’t going to be able to separate an athletic event performance goal from an aesthetic goal. She just can’t view them as two different pursuits.
Never use an athletic event to achieve an aesthetic goal.
And this my friends, is one very tough pill to swallow for cardio addicts and fitness fanatics of all ages.
The problem is that when they prioritize an athletic event, long duration aerobic work will always fall first in the pecking order, followed by some hodgepodge of circuit training followed by shakes/bars/energy drinks and tagging along last and unfortunately least, like the runt of the litter, is their diet.
Before I can even get these words out of my mouth I can already hear their petulant little voices screaming at the top of their lungs now….
“Not so fast you prick! Suzie Six-pack here does all that and she still looks awesome and I will too! I’ll prove you wrong!”
The number one rebuttal I always get from the marathon, cycling and warrior dash crowd is they will immediately point to some crazed fitness chick on face book that runs 25 miles a week, does 4 spinning classes a week and lifts for 2 hours 6 days a week.
You guessed it. They will use an outlier to try and prove their point.
And by doing this they unknowingly just waived the white-flag of surrender.
What you don’t realize yet junior is that you can’t use an exception-to-the-rule to make your case. For ever bikini-ready babe who clocks in 10 hour weeks in the gym there are 1,000 other women putting just as much blood, sweat & tears as her who look like a deflated birthday balloon or are skinny fat with nary an ounce of muscle definition to be found on their figures.
Just because someone else got away with doing something wrong doesn’t mean you can too!
“But if they got good results running 50 miles a week then how can you say it was wrong?”
This brings us to Law of Leanness # 11
Just because someone else got away with doing something wrong doesn’t mean you can too!
Just because someone survived a car crash unscathed without buckling up doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear your seat belt!
They’ll grab an outlier and find an exception-to-the rule and cling to it with with all their might.
This concept will fly miles over the feeble mind of an exercise addicted woman who longs for her daily 6 mile pre- dawn runs just like the junkie down on Broad Street craves his next hit.
Now if you don’t understand the why behind the fanatical love fest women have with their exercise events then you’re not going to understand the backlash you’re confronted with every time you try to set them straight.
It’s prudent you understand these next three reasons or else you’re not going to be able to connect the dots.
The first reason is the endorphin rush that floods your sensory units and has your brain swimming in feel-good sensations. Ever heard of the “runners-high”? Well now you know what it is.
“What’s wrong with that!?”
Because it’s progressive.
It all starts with a mile jog 3 x week. You lost a couple pounds the first month so you decide to shoot for the stars and do a marathon. You’re now running 3 miles every day of the week you’re appetite has shot through the roof and you’re eating a more food than ever. The scale won’t budge.
Only instead of eating whole food with balanced nutrition you decide to be hip and scarf down a cereal bar on the way to work and munch on a bag of raisins & peanuts mid-morning when your belly starts to growl. Mid-afternoon you grab a granola bar which you swear is healthy because the wrapper clearly says “All -Natural.”
You join a running club and meet some other cardio junkies who are addicted to running just like you. You sip coffee with cream and sugar before each run with your comrades while you stretch and then eat a banana and cereal bar afterwards to help re-fuel since you’ve tripled your distance, again.
Then something unexpected happens. A month later you step on the scale and it has budged.
But in the wrong direction!
To your horror you’ve gained 6 lbs.
The endorphin rush that you bathed in 3 months earlier now requires triple the distance just to squeeze a drop. The fat loss you saw early on now has slammed the brakes and gone in reverse!
You’ve got a nasty exercise addiction on your hands now sweet cheeks!
And breaking it is going to be tougher than relinquishing your evening glass of wine.
The clear answer is obvious! Drop the copious, chronic cardio, lift heavy weights and focus on nutrition!
You’ll never survive another day of your dreary life without your feel-good chemical high from the endorphin rush you rely on every morning you get from your 6 mile jog.
You know better than that! In fact you already know the answer is to UP THE DOSE! You clearly aren’t running enough, so you start doing doubles; running early morning and after work.
Because after all, there is no traffic on the extra mile!
Only, you’re running your extra mile in the wrong direction.
Many athletic events serve also as recreation and carry along with them a tremendous social aspect. In a small clique or even in a community, the camaraderie from cycling in groups along a course on a Saturday morning is a treasured event for those involved.
I had a client several years ago who was ostracized by her buddies when I told her to stop doing her bi-weekly spinning class they all did together. After her first month she had slashed 80% of her cardio, ate more food and had dropped 1.5″ from her waist and lost close to 4 pounds of body fat. (Let it be noted she was over 30% bf when she started)
She must have been thrilled, right?
Her spinning class buddies had booted her from their little clique. Despite her immediate success she felt rejected and all alone.
And blamed it all on me.
Unable to stand such a desolate life, like the prodigal son ( or daughter) she returned to her spinning class. And within a month she fell off her program and gained everything back, and then some.
When I tell a regular cyclist who’s 28% body fat to drop her 30 mile ride she goes on every other day with her friends, it’s like stepping into a lion’s den. I’ve just tried to snatch away from her what she values most; her recreational time, bonding with her closest cronies and of course the chemical high caused by the endorphin rush.
And it’s always met with resistance.
Look lady, no one’s saying to never set foot on your cycle again for the rest of your life. I’m just saying give your eating program a chance to work for the next month. Let your food actually do its job for once.
But of course that’s not what she hears. The way she interprets it, is that she’s going to have to hang up her 10- speed for good! She just isn’t going to comprehend how in the world an athletic event she loves could possibly be making her fatter.
And this brings us to Fat Loss Life Principle # 18
You cannot serve two masters. Not in life and not with your fitness goals; at least not simultaneously.
Either pick a triathlon or pick a bikini body. Because you ain’t getting both.
“Not so fast you judgmental prick! Everyone knows that cardio burns calories, so the more I do the leaner I will get! This is common knowledge everyone understands whether you like it or not!”
You’re right, unfortunately, about that being a common belief.
But wrong about more cardio equaling more fat loss.
While doing a ton of cardio doesn’t necessarily preclude leanness it certainly isn’t a slam dunk either.
The general populous and especially fanatical fitness minded females, believe that getting lean requires an overload to the cardiovascular system. Stimulating the heart & lungs will certainly increase your energy expenditure but it will also improve your metabolism efficiency.
Now here’s where the problem starts.
The more metabolically efficient your body becomes the better it gets at storing body fat.
“Wrong again asshole! Everyone knows that metabolic efficiency refers to improving the body’s process of burning body fat! Try to get something right for once!”
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t strive for cosmetic ideals like we do, it strives for survival.
One of the reasons us humans have been around for so long is because the body values storing body fat more than burning body fat. That’s why the more cardiovascular stimulation you perform, the more efficient your body becomes at storing body fat.
An efficient metabolism is one that is well adapted to supporting very high body fat levels while performing chronic cardiovascular overloads simultaneously.
In other words, the more you do, the less you burn.
“You’ve got it backwards! How could you ever say someone like her had an efficient metabolism?”
Another reason us humans have been around for so long is because of the body’s remarkable adaptability. Just think back to the hunter-gather times when a drought or famine hit and the locals had to make long treks through forests, deserts and over mountains. Sometimes without food for days.
The body doesn’t want fat loss.
It want’s survival.
Your body gauges metabolic efficiency by survival standards not aesthetic standards.
And hoarding body fat by any means necessary is how it ensures this. Your body doesn’t know that hour long jog you did was for fun, it thinks you were trying to find a more fertile land to occupy. While you went for a jog to get rid of excess adipose, your body is desperately trying to hold on for dear life.
Once you realize this you can see why the human body strives for metabolic efficiency by energy conservation, it wants to burn the least amount of calories possible when you go for a 8 mile jog or 100 mile cycling event.
If your top priority is to decrease body fat, you don’t want an efficient metabolism.
Several years ago I knew a figure competitor who joined a running club in the off-season to help her “stay in shape”, as she put it. She ran between 3-4 miles, five days a week for the first two months and then increased it to 5 miles, six days a week for the last two months.
Now what do you think happened to her body composition since she took up the jr high XC team? She got weaker and gained weight.
Typically in the off-season a competitor strives to get bigger and stronger.
So at least she got it half right.
However upon further review since she actually managed to get weaker even while packing on the pounds. This proves that she actually lost muscle in the off-season. So instead of giving her partial credit she gets a big fat Zero for her off-season assignment!
Now, what do you think happened when she started her competition prep?
Where do you go from running 30 miles a week? 40 miles? 50?
She had actually lost muscle so her basal metabolic rate was lower than ever and her cardio vascular efficiency was through the roof so she couldn’t stimulate any fat loss despite loading up on Starbucks and fat burner pills twice a day.
“Bu bu but I wanted to improve my cardio in the off-season!”
You should have improved your diet and training and let your nutrition take care of body fat. Let your aerobic system decondition a bit so when you re-introduce energy systems work again down the road when prep starts your body will have a more profound response. Fat loss will come much easier.
That’s what you should have done.
Speaking of early morning running groups this brings us to the final barrier of resistance that will evoke a furious rebellion from the cycling and marathon crowd.
If you’ve never experienced this you won’t understand the meditation-like ambiance of the sun peeking over the eastern sky while the endorphins flooding your brain create a quasi- spiritual experience.
On an empty stomach of course.
It gives you a chance to center your thoughts, focus your day and has almost a therapeutic effect on lowering stress. It’s your prized time of the day that is just for you and you alone that no one else can touch. It’s your private time away from the whimpering kids, nagging husband and disgruntled co-workers.
It’s not a workout it’s relaxation. It’s not for fun, it’s for maintenance. You need this to function; you need this for your sanity. You don’t just want this; you depend on this to make it through your day.
And now I’m telling you to stop.
I’m no longer the guy who wants to help you lose 25 lbs of non-functional mass; I’m the guy who’s trying to make your life miserable.
First it was your addiction, then your friends and now I want to yank away your early morning alone time.
Those 20 miles you crank out on your cycle before dawn with nothing less than half a pot of coffee coursing through your veins might be your private time but it’s also the reason you can’t get rid of your muffin top.
After all who wants to give up the camaraderie of cycling groups, the chemical high from a 5 mile jog and the therapeutic alone time of a cruise at dawn.
In the end people are always going to choose what makes them feel good in the moment in lieu of long term fulfillment
And since most people are unfulfilled in other areas of their life they succumb to reasons above. The clutch is just too strong to break.
“Fine by me! Forget fat loss! I’m keeping my spinning class!”
I’m not surprised.
Because emotions will always win in the end.
About the Author:
Jeff Kuh is a former full scholarship collegiate football player and strength coach, private sector personal trainer turned published writer, webinar presenter and whistle blower who specializes in fat loss nutritional program design. He is currently the purveyor of www.theomep.com