Dieting is a Mistake !
“Losing weight” is an unhealthy goal to pursue. Using a weight scale as your measure of progress usually leads to muscle loss with fat loss, causing serious damage to your metabolism. Metabolism has to be healthy to maintain healthy weight, and adequate muscle mass is crucial. Conventional weight-metric calorie-counting dieting causes muscle loss, damaging your ability to maintain a healthy weight while making it more difficult to lose weight in the future.
A more sensible goal is:
Fat Reduction with Muscle Gain
Lose inches and body fat percentage
Increase exercise and fat loss capacity while improving metabolism
This summer I’ve lost 4 inches of belly fat off my waist with only a slight change in my weight. I’m not “converting fat to muscle,” but I am burning dangerous belly fat (organ fat, also known as thoracic fat – deposits around the heart, lungs, liver, etc) while building lean muscle tissue.
Organ fat responds very well to aerobic exercise.
Running is a great way to reduce or eliminate organ fat. If you haven’t been a runner, you may prefer to spend some months walking, work your way into it gradually. Develop a training protocol. Begin to inject running short distances into your walk. Increase distance and time spent, incrementally, until you’re able to walk or run for at least an hour. You’ll find that you’ll meet and exceed your prior training goals more easily as time progresses – if you stick with it.
Training is not necessarily comfortable, but it’s so well worth it that persistence and determination are very valuable to your process.
The fact is, as you train to increase time or distance, you’ll find a number of interesting things happen:
- Your appetite will decrease on the days you work out.
- Your body will derive energy from your stored fat for many hours after a workout
- Your skin will improve
- You’ll sleep better
- You will lose organ fat, visibly.
- You’ll crave different foods if you’re eating properly.
- You’ll get rid of most types of chronic pain (knee, back, shoulder, hip)
- Your blood pressure will decrease
- Your blood sugar numbers will improve, and you will become able to discontinue type II diabetes medication.
Negative thinking – “I can’t do this” can actually prevent you from succeeding, or even starting to run. Thinking at all should be avoided – concentrate instead on sensory phenomena such as breathing and footfall while working on your form and technique.
- Snap judgments are toxic. Don’t look in the mirror, lose patience and give up. Don’t judge others you see working out.. you’re seeing a snapshot of their life, not their whole life story – they are not demonstrations of the futility of exercise – they’re making an effort to improve themselves, as you are.
- Use constructive self-talk while running, “I can do this, I am doing this, I will do this, it’s a good thing I’m doing this.”
- Become “a person who exercises.” Identify with it.
- Get into a state of “person running” while you’re running. Make being in that state the objective.
- Suspend self-judgment and moderate expectations.
- Don’t expect to see results every day.
- When you do see results or get a surprised compliment from a friend, soak it up. You’ve earned it.
Develop “mindfulness” while running. Monitoring signals from your body while maintaining form takes concentration. Body awareness can prevent injury and increase control over your technique and posture. “Listen to your body” is a common phrase to describe this, although it’s always sounded odd – my body’s not “talking” to me 🙂 “Insight” is another possible word, but what we’re really looking for is something like “in-feel” – (“feel-in?” “feeling?”). Feeling your body from the inside, keeping track of sensations, taking an inventory of your muscles and motion, all help develop good habits while running.
After you get feeling more comfortable at your training level, your mind can be free to think, and it can be very creative. Generally speaking, though, thinking is the enemy – it inhibits mindful awareness of sensory phenomena that you need to improve technique and monitor your body signals to prevent injury.
“Just do it” is an effective slogan for a reason. It’s an attitude of unquestioning determination. Shoot for daily workouts, or, at least three times a week.
Some days you need to take off for recovery in training. It’s not only OK, it’s an essential part of training – just remember to start again after your break day(s).
Remember that your main goal is to increase your capacity to do it.
- Macronutrient balance requirements change when you’re exercising. If your workout is intense, you’re burning muscle glycogen (glucose stores). If your muscles are getting really tired, you need to add carbs to your diet.
- Protein intake is vital to prevent muscle breakdown from long aerobic workouts.
- Eating proper nutrients at the proper time is essential.
Working out in a fasting state is optimal for weight loss, first thing before breakfast if possible. Although the fasting state is the most ideal for weight loss, it carries the most risk for muscle breakdown. A fasting-state supplement such as HMB, taken before workout, might protect muscles from excessive breakdown. Early onset of exhaustion occurs if your muscle glycogen stores are depleted – be sure to add carbs to your recovery drink after workout. If you don’t want to “run on an empty tank,” a bowl of fruit before running can also be helpful in metabolic processes. Grapefruit is effective helping jump-start fat burning, and is itself burned early in the run.
The recovery meal is the most important of the day. A protein smoothie is ideal, especially with maintenance supplements and probiotics added to it. If you’re “running out of gas” on the run, it might be good to add some carbs to the smoothie as well. Your muscles need glucose – it’s a simple sugar (monosaccharide) that goes directly into cells for energy, while also synthesized into glycogen, the first resource for muscle power. If your glycogen stores get too low, you’re going to feel like you’ve got the flu when you’re running. Your daily protein requirement is going to be higher when you’re training or running. Women require 60-90 grams, men 70-110. One scoop of protein powder in a smoothie is 22 grams. After workout, a good dose of protein prevents further muscle breakdown. Distribute the rest of your requirement as you wish for the remainder of the day.
The Remainder of the Day
You’ll probably find you won’t be eating as much as you used to. What do you feel like eating? If you get a craving for meat, eat some. High-water-content foods (fruits and vegetables) and high-fiber foods are essential for health, and you can eat them unlimited. If you’ve reserved the remainder of your protein requirement, find something really tasty and enjoyable.
You might find yourself avoiding junk. As hard as you’re working for results, you’ll be making better choices.
How to Train
Increase your level of challenge incrementally – time, distance, speed, any or all the above.
- Approach the point of failure or exhaustion
- Rest in between. Run 2-5 days, rest 1-3 days.
- Get adequate sleep
- Be consistent in nutritional practices.
- Start slow.
- Incorporate higher-challenge intervals in your routine.
- When it becomes too uncomfortable, slow down, and just listen as you continue at an easy pace.
- Breathe, listen, feel.
- Monitor your technique.
Back and Knee Pain
Many people suffer from knee or back pain, using it as their reason not to exercise. This poor choice leads to voluntary suffering, self-imposed disability, and early death.
It can take awhile, but running can cure chronic pain.
The fact is, most knee and back pain originates from postural imbalance in muscle pairs, and responds very well to training, which eventually restores posture by rebalancing the muscles.
If one muscle in a pair is weak, stiff, or tight, it can cause the joint to go out of alignment, causing dysfunction in other muscles around it, which tend to work in systems around a joint.
The pain of postural imbalance is different than injury pain. It’s chronic and dull – and, as the muscles begin to rebalance and the pain lessen, it can have a peculiar deep itching sensation, which is a sign of recovery for that muscle pair.
Pelvic core muscles will likely be problematic for people with sedentary occupations.
The Tsoas, Iliacus, and especially the Piriformis are relatively small muscles that control the characteristics of gait while running, as well as the pelvic angle in posture. The so-called “Donald Duck” posture of butt out, belly hanging is common, and can result in weakness in this system.
These muscles are painful if they’re out of balance, but running can cure both the pain and the imbalance, and new posture can be learned mindfully by challenging these muscles – particularly the Iliacus, which crosses the top of the hip at the pelvis.
All of these will need to be strengthened to restore balance and improve running form.
Stretches are great for these at the end of the run, and may be necessary to repeat frequently throughout the day as these muscles strengthen and rebalance.
Lifelong habits of bad posture will be improved or corrected.
Find stretches for these muscles
Good Running Technique
Good running technique is worth aspiring for, but it might not come naturally, since most people have postural imbalances of one kind or another. Even long-term athletes can have bad habits and posture. Good technique is earned through training, corrective action and continued mindfulness. Changing an element of technique might require a restart of the training cycle, as (for example) smaller weak muscles are engaged in the running process, becoming inflamed and painful, needing extra attention in the form of stretching and supplemental resistance training.
Checklist for running technique
- Feet straight ahead
- Footfall is a rolling motion from back to front
- Footfall is under the body
- Foot reach is behind the body, not forward
- Keep soft toes except for speed bursts
- Knees are relatively close together
- Leg path is straight forward and straight back
- Hips and shoulders rotate slightly in opposing directions while also turning in small, opposite figure-8’s (up and down slightly while rotating from side to side)
- Shoulders are back, shoulder blades pulled together, back and downward slightly
- Elbows are up and slightly behind, exerting contrary motion lifting the opposite knee
- Hip rotation helps lift the knees and increase the size of the circle the feet travel through
- Opposite hip and shoulder rotation engage the abs and obliques, working core muscles
- Everything is moving in circles, big and small
After all this is working consistently, tilting forward slightly and reaching back with the feet and legs will increase speed and create the sensation of flying.
Running is so rewarding, and contributes to improved health and longevity in so many ways, that it’s well worth adopting as a hobby, or discipline, or routine. It’s so much better to start running when you can, rather than when you have to (under doctor’s orders, for example). I would never want to face a day of diagnosis that could have been avoided “if only I’d taken better care of myself.” As long as you can walk, it’s not too late to start. Do it before it’s too late, before you can’t walk any more. Don’t miss the last train to wellness.