1. Running = The Exact Same Workout Every Time
Your body has been designed in such a way that if you perform the same task again and again, it becomes much easier. The same thing goes for running. Over time, running will become effortless and even if you sweat, your metabolism will get used to it and will burn fewer calories.
A University of Tampa study found that steady state cardio like being on the treadmill for 45 minutes at the same pace (that does not require maximum effort) does help with weight loss, but only during the initial period (1). Once the first month is over and you’ve lost a couple of kilos, you won’t notice any further weight loss as your metabolism will adjust to this routine.
To say the same thing in another way, a low-intensity 30-minute cardio session will help you burn 200 calories. Or you can just eat 200 fewer calories and it would amount to the same thing. This is why supplementing your workout with weight training is important.
2. Running More But Not Going Faster
Intensity is the name of the game when it comes to any type of exercise, including running. While running, most people adjust their pace to one that they can sustain longer. So, when on a run, the general rule is to work hard for 30-60 minutes and then go home. This might increase your endurance, sure, but it won’t help in weight loss
According to a study published in the Journal of The American Medical Association, which analyzed the exercising patterns of 34,000 women, it takes only 1 hour of moderate exercise (running 4.8kmph) to maintain current weight (2). You should bear in mind here that this is not weight loss and 4.8kmph is not a lot of speed. So now you know why you weren’t becoming lighter!
What you need to do is to increase the intensity of your run. University of Western Ontario’s team of researchers drew a comparison between long, low-intensity cardio and short, high-intensity exercises to conclude that the latter category of people ended up burning more amount of body fat as compared to the former despite working out for a lesser amount of time (4-6 sessions of 30-second sprints as compared to 30-60 minutes of cardio) (3).
The reason why this happened is because when you sprint, your body undergoes the same changes as it does during weight training. These changes require your body to work harder in order to carry out processes such as conversion of lactic acid into glucose and restoring energy and blood hormone levels. This causes more fat burning.
3. Focusing On The Number Of Calories Burned
One of the biggest myths is that you burn a huge chunk of calories purely through exercise. Everyday activities such as thinking, sleeping, standing, etc. consume the majority of your energy (4). In fact, the number of calories you burn when working out is nothing compared to the number you burn doing these everyday things!
However, that does not mean you don’t need to work out to lose weight. Exercising is healthy and helps in determining how many calories you burn throughout the course of the day. Running may help burn calories but if you want to lose fat and gain muscles, weight training is of utmost importance. More muscle mass is equal to more calories burned doing ordinary things.
4. Not Trying Other Types Of Cardio
Having learned about the importance of muscle gain in weight loss regimes, you should try exercises that help achieve this goal in the shortest time possible. So, instead of going for lengthy, low-intensity cardio such as endurance running, you should try high-intensity cardio such as cycling. Anyway, as per research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, endurance running can decrease your muscle growth and strength (5). So, you might want to stop with that.
5. Running Way Too Much
Weight loss via running might be happening because you may be running too much! If you’re aiming to shed a few kilos, this might not be a problem for you. But for everyone else, too much of exercising can actually stunt fat loss. When you exercise too much, the level of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase in your body, thereby stopping fat loss as your body begins to conserve fat to combat the stress. A study from the Hormone Research journal backs it up, stating that endurance runners experience an increase in cortisol, which leads to fat build-up, inflammation, impaired immunity, and slow recovery (6). An hour of cardio a day is enough.