Burn Me at the Stake, ‘Cause I Don’t Give a Crap About Running
The love-story of America and cardiovascular endurance bewilders me. The 20th century was the time to be a runner. What was so appealing about showing off one’s chicken legs in short-shorts and wearing ugly running shoes? Beats me.
I can’t lie, though. I was entranced by running when I entered high school. I thought the runners in my school looked awesome, and decided to give it a shot. It was all but successful, and I quickly hopped off that train. Hell, any time since then that I tried to pick it up again, I’d get hurt somehow despite how careful or modest I was. Yeah, screw that.
I’m a strength guy and have realized since that running is ultimately inferior as a training tool – hence, my conclusion that running sucks.
Running Sucks for Time Efficiency
A universal trait of traditional cardiovascular endurance training (and running) is that it requires a lot of time. The same goes with any other pursuit of mastery, but does everyone who runs really want to be an elite-level runner?
What if there was a way to get a majority of running’s benefits in a fraction of the time?
Well, we do have an alternative. High-intensity interval training (or, HIIT) has been the time-efficient competitor to traditional cardio. Plenty of evidence suggests that HIIT results in similar or greater adaptations in cardiovascular endurance when compared to traditional cardio (Zuhl, Kravitz). Plus, it is accomplished in much less time than traditional cardio.
My experience coincides with these findings. I recently participated in my first Crossfit workout in years, and it began with a one-mile run. Being that I only strength trained and performed weekly hill sprints for the past few years, I did surprisingly well and kept up with the pack of Crossfitters. Take that for what it is.
Running Sucks for Body Composition
At the risk of beating the dead horse, runners look like crap. Most of them do, at least. Let’s just look at the ever-popular and never-ending comparison of sprinters and marathoners.
Here we have an elite marathoner and an elite sprinter. Call me vain, but I’d much rather NOT look like a marathoner. This isn’t to take away from their hard work. I recognize that these guys specialize in a certain activity as to be elite, and muscularity isn’t a concern. But that doesn’t jive with me.
Coincidentally, sprinters traditionally strength train in their off-season, given that increased strength results in increased power.
Anyway, I’ve never seen a “runner” that has an impressive body. Sure, there are good-looking people who also happen to run. However, it’s always a football player, bodybuilder, or whoever who does a lot of strength training or explosive work, and then runs on top of it.
It’s always appeared to me that men who lift weights exhume more “manliness” than men who run. Interestingly, aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease testosterone in mice compared to a control group (Manna, et. al). Who gives a rat’s ass about rats, though. In humans, two studies have shown that long-distance running decreases testosterone, while another study shows that decreased training for long-distance runners does NOT increase already-low testosterone (Kuoppasalmi K, et. al) (Wheeler GD, et. al) (Houmard JA, et. al).
Looks like my little observation may hold some significance. How about let’s NOT make ourselves eunuchs from running, shall we?
Running Sucks for Strength
There are numerous conflicting studies that examine the effects of significant cardiovascular exercise on strength. Hell, there are plenty of folks out there who can pull off both running and lifting. Just check out Alex Viada, for example. The dude completes Ironman triathlons and is also a powerlifter.
It must be pointed out, however, that people successful in both long-distance running and strength sports have peculiar training requirements. The best way to train cardiovascular endurance and strength concurrently is to train them in separate sessions. I’m referring to two-a-days and the like. This is means that you need to spend a lot of time training to become advanced in both attributes. This is time spent not just training, but recovering, as your body will be crushed day-in and day-out. And then there’s the increased importance of sleeping and eating perfectly…
While I’m all for spending more time training and recovering, very few people actually have that much time to do it. If you are dead-set on becoming an amazing runner while being crazy strong, then consider the dedication required to accomplish such a goal. If you don’t do everything just right, your body will break down and your strength will go down the drain.
However, if you just want to become strong, you can do that without losing your life outside of work and the gym. And don’t forget my previous point about testosterone. Given that people inject exogenous testosterone to increase their strength, it’d be nice to not lose your precious natural T.
Running Sucks for Usefulness and Survival
In the great words of Mark Rippetoe, “stronger people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general”.
To illustrate, I’m going to list a bunch of scenarios. In each, think of who would be more likely to survive: a strength sport athlete (powerlifter, strongman, etc.) or an endurance athlete (marathoner).
- A group of men approach you on the street and attempt to mug you. You fight back but are stabbed in the process.
- Someone is chasing you (police, murderer, whatever) and you need to climb a fence and sprint as fast as possible.
- You are inside a car when another car collides with yours, crushing both vehicles instantly.
Without a doubt in my mind, the stronger person is going to have a better chance of surviving each scenario. The increased muscle mass and bone density will protect the body against external forces. Strength is incredibly helpful when overpowering others, as well as scaling the external environment. Explosiveness, which is derived from strength, will aid in sprinting and evasion.
Strength, hypertrophy, bone density, and explosiveness are all improved with strength training. Where does running stand? Well, it’s always been known that active people have higher bone density than sedentary people. However, it’s been observed in a group of 13 long-distance runners that the bone density of their low back was lower than a control group. This was despite high calcium-intake, as well (Bilanin JE, et. al). So, running still sucks and won’t help us there.
When the s*** hits the fan, you better believe I want strong people, not runners, in my pack. There’s a reason why the flight-or-flight response is named as such, and isn’t called the let’s-jog-at-an-okay-pace-and-pick-daises response.
And That’s Why Running Sucks
Call me one-sided. Call me vein. Call me whatever. But you won’t change my mind about how running sucks.
Muscularity, strength, time efficiency, and general usefulness all make strength training and HIIT better options than running and traditional cardio.
For the record, I walk for active recovery and do weekly hill sprints. That’s all my cardio consists of, yet I’m doing more than just okay. It just goes to show you that running sucks.
One final note: the Tarahumara people and African tribesmen who hunt their prey on foot are badass. They are totally exempt from any criticism and are specimens of human performance.
1. Zuhl M, Kravitz L. HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans. IDEAFit. IDEA Health & Fitness Association. Web.
2. Manna I, et. al. Intensive swimming exercise-induced oxidative stress and reproductive dysfunction in male wistar rats: protective role of alpha-tocopherol succinate. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. 2004 29(2): 172-185. PubMed. Web.
3. Kuoppasalmi K, et. al. Plasma cortisol, androstenedione, testosterone and luteinizing hormone in running exercise of different intensities. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation. 1980 40(5): 403-409. Web.
4. Wheeler GD, et. al. Endurance training decreases serum testosterone levels in men without change in luteinizing hormone pulsatile release. Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1991 72(2): 422-425. Web.
5. Houmard JA, et. al. Testosterone, cortisol, and creatine kinase levels in male distance runners during reduced training. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 1990 11(1): 41-55. Web.
6. Bilanin Je, et. al. Lower vertebral bone densty in male long distance runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.