BY Joseph Palumbo, IFBB PRO
There is a misconception that being able to run a marathon or 1.5 miles within 8 minutes entitles you to be called “physically fit”. Whether you are a sprinter, long-distance runner, or a marathoner, running itself develops only modest muscular strength, primarily in the lower body.
Running is far from being a perfect form of exercise. I know this may sound harsh and may not sit well with some hard-core runners or some “old school” running addicts. However, it is a common misunderstanding.
Someone who runs for exercise will become a better runner but not a better weightlifter. A sprinter who always does high-intensity, short duration training will not be a good marathon runner. If you want to be “all-around fit”, you need to do a variety of types of exercise.
Let’s start with a definition of physical fitness. It is the capacity of the whole body to function at optimum efficiency. This is determined by the condition of the heart, circulatory, respiratory, and muscular systems.
It is also a measure of flexibility and percentage of body fat. No disrespect intended to the sport.
Running receives high marks for improving the efficiency of the circulatory system. This allows you to exercise longer with greater effort.
Running is only a cardiovascular exercise. The term “cardio” is often used interchangeable with “aerobic”.
Aerobic exercise is any repetitive activity performed long enough and hard enough to challenge your heart and lungs. I know many hard-core runners who truly believe themselves to be optimally physical fit. Unfortunately, they’re only fooling themselves. Running is only an ingredient to total physical fitness.
Total physical fitness requires a combination of strength, speed, stamina, flexibility, coordination and endurance. In simpler terms, you need to combine aerobic exercise with anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic literally means “without air,” referring to the energy exchange in muscles during short, high-intensity workouts. In all fairness, there is no single exercise that can give a person optimum physical fitness. Resistance/weight training represents the best and the closest exercises needed to achieve optimum physical fitness.
Endurance athletes, such as runners and cyclists, have traditionally shunned intense weight training. Those who incorporate weight training into their program usually perform high repetition sets using lightweights.
At least some benefits are achieved using this method.
Recent studies have found that lifting heavy weights with fewer reps and lifting explosively improved endurance and race time.
Resistance/weight training is the foundation for most sports. It is the back-bone and one of the basic tools. It’s not just obvious sports like football and rugby that require well-developed strength. Endurance athletes, like marathon runners, can benefit from a suitable strength program. Keep in mind that ALL Pro athletes use many different methods of training to maximize their potential.
Circuit training has become increasingly popular. It provides an efficient one-stop exercise session, combining cardiovascular activity, toning and resistance training. With circuit training, you can perform more work in the same time because of better fatigue management. In a series of classic studies by LR Gettman on circuit training back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, researchers found that circuit training was an efficient and effective method of training for improving aerobic and muscular fitness. These studies are still being cited today as evidence that circuit training is an excellent workout. Moderate amounts of exercise and following a healthy lifestyle means you can be both fit and healthy.
Extremes in exercise or poor lifestyle choices can significantly impair your health. For example, the benefits of high-volume running could be canceled because the training may cause a suppressed immune system. High-volume runners may suffer early onset osteoarthritis and have poor posture due to the repetitive running action. Regular, moderate, and varied exercise will take care of your fitness. While running is good for the body and mind, it’s just one part of a complete healthy lifestyle. Be safe, train smart.