Cardio isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and with good reason. It’s not particularly enjoyable to be huffing, puffing, and out of breath with minimal gains to show for your efforts. However, running remains a fantastic form of cardio and can have many benefits for our health. This article will cover how exactly running changes your body, how it affects your muscle quality, and if it’s for you.
Changes to Expect with Running
The first and probably the most sought after effect of running is fat loss. You see it all the time in Hollywood films, people running to lose weight, get fit, and burn fat. Fat burning basically refers to the ability of our bodies to oxidize or use fat as energy instead of carbohydrates. Greater fat burning typically occurs during a low-intensity and long duration workout—aerobic activities like running fall under these workouts.
Cardiovascular exercises encompass a wide range of activities, including swimming, running, and walking. It is not limited to these exercises, though, as any strenuous activity that raises the heart rate and increases blood pressure may be considered a cardiovascular exercise. These stimulate your metabolism, helping you burn calories even after your workout.
Builds Lower Body Muscles
Of course, it should go without saying that the muscles in the lower body will develop once you start running. When the image of most runners come to mind, the chances are you won’t picture someone who’s exceptionally toned with bulging muscles. No, you’d picture someone like Mo Farah, whose skinny body is efficient for long-distance runs. However, studies have continually shown that running does increase muscle mass, reporting skeletal muscle hypertrophy in the muscle groups most utilized during which. Muscles such as the lower back and core, which stabilize the body, quads, hams, glutes, and calves are most involved during running.
Improved Mood and other Mental Benefits
You’ve probably heard of the term “runner’s high,” and this phenomenon is more than just a runner’s made-up fantasy; in fact, runner’s high has been well-studied and reported through scientific research. Starting out a run can be tedious, to say the least; your breath gets heavier, your heart starts pumping more rapidly, and you can feel your muscles begin to flare up with activity. However, once you finish your run, your body may produce endocannabinoids, biochemical substances that are similar to cannabis, only naturally produced. This leads to a relaxed, joyous state following an intense workout session.
But that is not the only mental benefit of running. Cardiovascular exercise sparks the growth of a whole host of new blood vessels in the brain, leading to improved cognitive performance. Some mental benefits include improved memory, better multitasking ability, and an elevated disposition overall.
But Does Running Kill Gains?
One thing that stops most bodybuilders from running is the fear that they will lose their gains. To understand how running might kill gains, it’s important we learn about the concepts of anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism and catabolism comprise the broad types of biochemical reactions our bodies have with regard to metabolism.
Anabolism involves building more complex molecules, while catabolism does the opposite by breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones. Simply put, anabolism is the process that stimulates muscle growth, causing what we commonly refer to as “gains.” To support muscle growth, we need to supply our body with ample amounts of energy and nutrients.
However, when our bodies don’t have enough of these nutrients and energy, that’s when it undergoes catabolism. This nutritional deficiency forces the body to break down its own muscles to supply the body with the energy it needs. This is simply unacceptable for bodybuilders, having put in countless hours at the gym pumping iron, only to have it wasted.
Running is an extremely demanding sport, and a common mistake many runners make is not providing their bodies with ample fuel to operate. It’s crucial for you to adjust your food intake according to your physical activity to prevent catabolism from taking place.
So, should you add running to your training program?
Running isn’t for everybody; some people just can’t stand the idea of the activity. However, cross-training by incorporating running into your program could be extremely beneficial. That being said, you can’t haphazardly go out and start running without a plan, though.
The main benefits bodybuilders and powerlifters might get from running is an increased VO2 max level. VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen your body can process. Think of it as your body’s horsepower: the higher it is, the bigger the engine you possess. This will translate into more efficient movement with your muscles, as they can extract oxygen more easily for strenuous activities. The best way to increase this is by training as close to your VO2 max as possible through a higher intensity run than just a light jog.