The Lost Art of Intensity…I’ve been saying this for years… “Fat people finish marathons all the time!” It’s not about the distance covered it’s about how FAST or INTENSE the distance was covered. I wish people would get this through there heads when January comes and they embark on the magic “run for weight-loss” kick. People see the Kenyan crossing the Boston Marathon finish line and actually believe that running made him/her skinny… The fact of the matter is that Kenyan’s body type had more to do with the selection of that runner’s mother and father than running 26.2 miles ever did. Some people are “built” for running long distances and some people are not… On average most people are not! You may ask why?
The large majority of our population is just too structurally unsound to run over long distances. Imbalances at the ankle and hip can cause havoc on the knees and low back… Just ask any local Physical Therapist who there number one patient is and more often than not they will say the long distance runner. Professional long distance runners are plagued with over-use injuries such as Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints, Anterior Knee pain, IT Band/Lateral Knee pain and hip and low back dysfunctions. I won’t even get into the subject concerning Free Radical damage and the actual “oxidizing” that occurs in the body from not only Pollutants in the atmosphere but just from running for prolonged periods of time. The Free Radical damage mentioned has been shown to increase the likelihood of many types of cancers especially that of the brain. Excessive running also increases a stress hormone called Cortisol. The hormone Cortisol is great in fight or flight situations like running from a tiger or getting out of a tight jam but elevated Cortisol levels for too long of period can flat out ruin health much less your fat loss program.
In all honesty human beings just were not built to run slow in a straight line for prolonged periods of time… On the contrary we as human beings are best suited for using our energy for short bursts of energy and than recovering like throwing a spear at an elk or deer, chasing it down and dragging it home to feast. Our body’s number one goal is Survival! Running for long stretches from a cave man perspective wouldn’t have been very smart… Think about it; would you want to fatigue yourself by running a 5k or 10k and than get chased by a potential predator? Could you actually manage to flee from danger with runner’s knee or a case of shin splints? How much sense would it make to go on a hunting marathon, SLOWEY running after dinner making all types of commotion, scaring off potential food while simultaneously making you more vulnerable to being eaten? If you really look at it more closely the only way to catch food is if you could actually sneak up on it. You know actually hunt for it. Don’t forget! Animals, yeah, they kind of sense things like danger, oh and they hear pretty well too. In order for you to catch dinner for your family you would have to be berry, berry QUIET like Elmer Fudd looking for that widdle wabbit… You would have to be cunning and keen, patiently (what do Americans know about patience) waiting for the right time to pounce… At the right moment you throw a rock or a sharpened stick, SPRINT and try to catch the prey before it darts off into the deep forest or open plain.
I know it sounds crazy because we no longer have to hunt for food; Burger King and your local supermarket actually do that for us. But before technology and processed food and refrigerators it really was SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST! No drive through windows, delivery options Nutri-System, Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. In fact the act of dieting from a survival standpoint makes no sense at all, ironic that the first 3 letters of the word diet are DIE! We Americans no all about dieting were the fattest people and the planet.
What’s the Secret?
I’m going to tell you a little secret… Would you like to know why there are so many fat and unhealthy individuals in our country? Aside from the fact that people live off of box foods, skip breakfast, work too much, don’t sleep enough and obviously just don’t move enough. People want results and don’t want to work for them. It just doesn’t work that way! So what’s the SECRET? The secret is INTENSITY. We have to work harder, not longer. If longer worked than you wouldn’t see fat marathon runners, but you do. If easy worked than riding on that bike while talking to your girlfriend would work but it doesn’t. The fact of the matter is that simple and easy is not the same. Easy implies no effort. Simple means not complicated. Achieving total health and lower body fat levels is simple, but it’s far from easy.
Stay tuned for Part 2! I’ll discuss the phenomenon of Chunky Aerobic Teacher Syndrome and how to combat it…
Matt Pack, NASM CPT, Nutrition Lifestyle Coach