I was at a barbecue this weekend and found myself in conversation with a friend whom I haven't seen in a few months. He'd put on a bit of weight since the last time I saw him and was really wanting to get back into shape. "So I think I'm going to join this new gym and start running on the treadmill to get back into it", he said.
Funny, but to most people, there wouldn't really seem to be anything wrong with that statement.
But for me, I felt like I wanted to pull my hair out.
So I put down the rack of ribs I was eating, wiped my face and took a deep breath.
See, running, as common an exercise as it is, isn't the best answer to lose weight for someone who was sedentary and wants to now drop a few pounds. Now, I'm not knocking running or "cardio" for that matter (even though I'm not a huge fan), because if it's between doing cardio and not doing anything at all, I'll take the "cardio". But there are more efficient and safer ways to "get back into it".
Safer, because running on a treadmill (or even worse, on pavement), can lead to injury if you're "just getting back into it". If you're 10, 15 or 50lbs over weight, imagine all that extra weight pounding down on one limb at a time. When your foot hits the ground, it puts 3-4 times your bodyweight on 1-leg. Multiply that over hundreds of repetitions and my knees are starting to ache just writing about it.
Not only that, but running can cause a lot of muscle imbalances and can magnify existing ones. If you've got a muscle imbalance, then chances are something isn't working right and other muscles have to overcompensate for the lack of function. That overcompensation is what leads to things like muscle pulls & strains, thus resulting in the runner having to give up the activity and become sedentary again until he heals.
To (over) simplify...
Sedentary & Fat -> Running -> Muscle Imbalance -> Overuse Injury -> Sedentary & Fat (again)
So what do we do about the extra pounds then, if running isn't the answer?
I'm a big fan of bodyweight circuits. (When you think about it, running, is just a bodyweight exercise.) Combine a bunch of different bodyweight movements (upper body, lower body & core work) in a circuit and you'll probably get more "in shape" that if you were to run for an hour. Here's a bodyweight workout that I like to use a lot if I'm pressed for time...
1) Jumping Jacks x 40
2) Prisoner Squats x 20
3) Chin-Ups x 10
4) Split Squats x 10/side
5) Spiderman Push-ups x 10 (Click HERE for the Spiderman Push-up demo I did on TV)
6) Burpees x 10
Save your money and train at home with your own bodyweight (especially if you're "just getting back into it").