One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

ASK RONI Q&A

Ask Roni: Is Running Enough?

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Sometimes I get into some pretty interesting conversations in email. This one all started with a question Brandi left on my A 5th Birthday 7 Mile Family Filled Weekend post last week…

When you run 2 or 3 miles in the AM is that your only workout that day?? I have just started running, I have completed 2 5K’s and I can run up to 5 miles. My pace is slow. I can run at a 5.5 to 5.7 on the treadmill. I just wonder if that is a good enough workout for me?? I feel like I need more cardio or something after I do only 2 to 3 miles? I have at least 35 more lbs to lose.

Hi Brandi – I usually run 2-3 and then do weights. In my opinion that is more beneficial then cardio-ing yourself to death.

I also don’t wonder if my workouts are "good enough" I do what I can when I can and that’s all. Once I cross the line into that type of thinking (like I have to do something or minimums or whatever) it’s not fun anymore. Again.. that’s just me.

Are you weight training at all?

I have just started to weight train. I say weight train, but I am not sure really what that means. I have started doing some of the weight machines at our local YMCA. In the past I have felt like I have "this much time" away from my family so I have always concentrated on cardio. But my weight isn’t coming off as fast anymore. I heard adding weight training will help me build more muscles which will help me burn more calories when I am doing my cardio. I have almost hit the 60lbs lost, but I still have a long way to go on my weight loss. I am still just above the 200lbs mark and I want so badly to be under 200lbs.

I would love any advice you can give someone like me. I love your blog, I found it right when I started my weight loss journey about a year and half ago. I do weight watchers, I don’t go to the meetings but a friend and I hold each other accountable. We have started to run together which makes the runs so much nicer!!!

I really enjoy running!! I am not real fast but I know I am increasing my time slowly.

Thanks for emailing me back so quickly. And…I like your new haircut!

Thanks!

Well you are weight training! I started on those machines too. Here’s the way I look at it… Cardio is good. It’s raw calorie burn but you can easily counteract that with what? 1 stinking cookie??

However, weight training has a more long term effect. You build more muscle and you will naturally burn more calories all the time. Not just at the time of the activity. Not to mention some of the side effects I experienced with weight trainings is more strength, confidence, muscle tone and a better body image.

Of course both is recommended and I’m not a trainer so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Now, when it comes to weight loss I’ll say this until my dying day… It’s more about what you eat then your workouts. At least that’s been my experience. Many will probably disagree but working out or not if I’m on point (pun intended) with my food choices the scale starts to budge.

I hope that helps.

For almost a year now I have felt like I have the working out down pat. It is routine now and I really enjoy doing it. My eating has always been an issue. I am so much better about eating whole grains, vegetables, drinking my water, and really watching what I eat. But I know this is my down fall. The holidays, the parties, the celebrations —- that is where I fail every time. But I also know if I can’t learn to make better decisions I will never reach my goal! I have enjoyed emailing you so much! Thank you so much! I know you have been there and I know you understand where I am standing today. I do have one more questions. How often would you suggest a person weight train? Does a Core/Strengthening class count as weight training?

Brandi,

That is where I fail as well. It’s always been about my "diet" and I mean that the true sense of the word as "what I eat" or rather for me how MUCH I eat.

As for weight training anything where you are providing your muscles "resistance" is considered weight training, I believe. So any class called Core/Strengthening would probably fit the bill. I shoot for 3 days a week which is a common recommendation. I also try to mix it with cardio. For example, I’ll run 2 miles and then do 45 minutes of weights. That’s just over an hour workout so I don’t have to spend too much time at the gym.

According to the ACSM… "Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week 8 to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week."

You got the cardio down. Now I’d just mix in 1 day of lower body machines and 1 day of upper body machines. That’s pretty much how I started. Oh! and I also try to vary the cardio now and then too. Try a spinning class or step. It could help your running too!

I stand by my philosophy that once it (all of it, exercise/eating) feels like work you won’t do it. So find a class you like that incorporates resistance or a friend that will brave the free weight room with you. I befriended a trainer. Best thing I ever did. ;) But in all seriousness don’t overwhelm yourself with a rigid schedule. Do what you can when you can. I just lifted weights for the first time today after a 2 week hiatus. Life happens. Do your best. And remember it’s your day to day choices that matter more then sticking to some program or plan religiously.

Again, hope that helps!!

— Does anyone else have any other advice for Brandi? Do you consider a morning run workout enough? How do feel about weight training?



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Discussion

There are 21 comments so far.

    Jen @ KUrunner

    June 22, 2010

    Completely right on, Roni… especially about the nutrition! It’s 80% what you eat and 20% what you do.

    Personally, if I only have half an hour or so, I do weights instead of cardio because the long term benefits are greater. And it’s definitely better to do a couple sessions a week for the rest of your life than try to work out 2 hours a day everyday and quit in a month.

    Sarah

    June 22, 2010

    I completely agree with you Roni – it’s all about what I eat to move the scale!!

    I’m also running and mixing in weight training. With a football coach husband, he has ingrained it in my mind that weight training is just as important as cardio. He lifts for strength, I lift for weight loss though – so I do less weight with more reps whereas he does more weight, fewer reps. I also do what you do – run 20 min or so and then lift legs or upper body, alternating every other day so you don’t do the same muscle group two days in a row.

    Nadine

    June 22, 2010

    Sure, a morning run is enough…for a while. But then, your body adapts to it (which is why the scale doesn’t budge after a while) — the same thing happens when you weight train…results at first, and then…nothing, because your body adapts. This is also true of your diet. Its like the saying, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you always got’ — so I think the trick is to shake it up.

    First of all, it is not good to run every day, the constant impact will eventually take its toll. If 2-3 miles feels easy, add a 1/4 a mile next time, or sprint, or add some walking lunges (body weight resistance training) — switch to the elliptical or a bike, take a spin class or kickboxing, do something different to get something different! Roni is spot on on her advice about building lean muscle to burn more calories, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and persistence!

    I think I needed to hear these answers today. Do what you can, when you can. I am trying to incorporate different types of cardio and weights. I feel like mixing it up works best, it keeps me from getting bored and it doesn’t feel like a chore. Of course, running is still my preference. :)

    Laura

    June 22, 2010

    I would recommend pilates to anyone who is intimidated by free weights or even weight machines (I know I am)! However you have to make sure your muscles are burning – it seems that pilates on a machine (called a reformer) is better than mat pilates overall, but I bet you could find some killer mat classes as well. You should NOT be able to get through your first class, and your whole body should be screaming at you the next day when you first get started. It’s a fantastic strength building workout.

    Laura Jane

    June 22, 2010

    First of all, I can totally relate to what Brandi said about having the workout part down but struggling more with the food side. I have realized that although it is has taken a long time, I am really getting the workout side of the equation done well. I’m enjoying exercise and actually look forward to it (never would have imagined that). It really and truly feels like part of my life now. And, (this is something that I think is very important) I’m not exercising solely because it will burn calories and get my too my weight loss goal faster (although, that is definitely still a huge motivator). I’m doing because I love the way I feel and I’m enjoying improving my fitness level in and of itself. But I’m still really, really struggling with the food side of the equation. And, as we all know, all the exercise in the world won’t result in weight loss if you’re not also controlling the eating. However, that said, for me exercise is a huge component of my weight loss. In a way, it actually helps me to control my eating and it allows me to still lose some weight even if my eating isn’t always exactly on track. For example, when I do 4-6 hours of decently intense cardio weekly, I can eat an average 1650 calories daily (33 wwp) and still lose some weight. (That’s all my allotted 28 points daily plus using all my 35 flex points.) However, if I eat that same amount without the cardio, I don’t lose a noticeable amount of weight. In other words, the calories burned through exercise, enable me some extra flexibility in my eating. (However, even then I’m still struggling with the eating.)

    deb roby

    June 22, 2010

    A lot of good points in your post and the comments. If you do the same cardio all the time – running at the same pace for example- your body gets more efficient at doing that, and the cardio benefits decrease.

    At this point, throw in Interval Training 2x a week. What a kick in the butt for fat burning! After a 5 minute warm up, go a comfortable walking pace for 2 minutes (for example, 3-3.5 mph). Then as the timer reaches toward minute 3 of the workout kick the speed up! If you can run at 5.8 mph – try starting at 6.2 or so. Don’t worry – you’re only doing this for a minute.

    After the minute, slow the pace back down. The pace for your hard part? Should be where the last 10 seconds are KILLING you and you want to quit. Or fear you won’t complete the minute. Experiment and find it.

    Continue this way for 18 minutes (6 intervals), then cool down for 5 minutes. You will continue to burn calories from this for the next 72 hours! And in a month you be shocked at how your endurance and speed have increased.

    And Sarah, I just read a research article today where they showed that lifting heavier with fewer reps (6 sets of 6-8 reps at 80-85% of your max) with a 3 second eccentric move – typically the gravity fighting/return motion -resulted in dramatically more fat burning over the next 72 hours than the classic light weight/high rep attitude.

    That said, diet is the largest part of weight loss. Limit your bad fats, limit your starchy carbs, eat lots of veggies, burn 500 calories than you take in and you’re well on your way.

    Studies show that it’s the calorie restriction that works the best for fat loss, but exercise that works the best for maintainence. So learn now to exercise regularly.

    Karen@WaistingTime

    June 22, 2010

    I so agree with what you said – about adding strength training to build muscle and burn more calories, about cross training to mix things up, about diet being a huge part of the equation. The only thing I might add… Brandi might consider adding interval training. And the older I get the more benefit I see in exercise that works balance, flexibility and the core.

    Jen@signifsmallerba

    June 22, 2010

    With 87 lbs lost, and about 40 more to go, I can’t stress the importance of food enough. Roni, you said 80/20, and I would say 90/10, if not 99/1. If I don’t work out I don’t lose as big, but I WILL lose, and so will most people, if my food is on point.

    With that said, if you wanna kick your numbers in the ass it’s all about the cardio. Weight training is important, there’s no doubt about it, overall, and if I have an hour to work out it’s a half and half of weight and cardio training. But if you’ve just got twenty minutes go for the run, go on the bike, elliptical, spin. Cardio is where we lose all the fat, and kick our metabolism hard into gear. The muscle is important, but when you’re short on time go for that cardio workout.

    The main reason I say this is from my own experience, so yes it can definitely differ for everyone. But I find that when I let my cardio lapse and say just weight training on my off days is enough, that’s when I start to see the scale slow.

    Conclusion : For best results, mix it all up. But when you’re short on time, reach for your running shoes.

    Bethlin

    June 23, 2010

    I have to say that while food is 80% or 90% of weight loss, working out has (for me) been 80-90% of lifestyle change. I run 2-3 days a week (training for a half marathon in November) and am trying to work up the motivation to lift 2 days a week, but more importantly, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with rowing. And on the water, with a team, not the rowing machine in the gym. Joining a team of other newbies who can’t get their workout in without me (missing an oarsman is a pain and lots of times it means all 8 other people on the team are stuck and can’t go out) made it fun and imperative that I show up for workouts.

    And being terrible at rowing made me loose more weight, and get in better shape. I realized that I needed to step up my game a little if I didn’t want to be the weak link on the team – so I started making sure that I drank my water on days when I was rowing. Then I started noticing how crappy I rowed when I ate crappy food, so I started eating healthy snacks before the row. That turned into healthy lunches, breakfasts, dinners the night before…bam, my “diet” had changed without me even focusing on it. Then I started running to build up my cardio (it’s embarrassing when the 50-somethings on my crew are all pumped up and my 30-year-old body is wheezing and has to ask for a break)…now I want to do some more lifting because I know it will give me more power and control.

    So, for me, starting with the workout led me to where I wanted to be. Now I have a non-scale reason to eat right, I have motivation to show up for a work out even when I’m tired and I am part of a community of life-long athletes and brand-new-to-working-0ut supporters. Oh yeah, and I’ve lost over 20lbs “without trying.” I used to weigh myself twice a day (bad habit) and now, I can go a month without REMEMBERING to weigh in. And when I gain, I’m proud because I know that it must be muscle.

    Working out made me strong and fast…and thinking of myself as “strong and fast” means more to me than thinking of myself as skinny. Dieting would definitely help me loose the last 10 lbs, but I’d rather spend the time getting stronger and faster. :)

    ROW ON! (btw, anyone living in Austin who is interested in rowing, head over to http://www.austinrowing.org/ )

    Jennifer @ shesafitchick

    June 23, 2010

    GREAT post!! I agree 100% that 80% of it all is what you eat! Just found your site & love it! :)

    Rita @ The Giggly Bits

    June 23, 2010

    Cardio is heart exercise and weights are for the other muscles. You kind of need to approach fitness as a big picture and look at all the parts of it. I would suggest hiring a personal trainer at least for a session or so and get an idea of how to use free weights properly. They can entirely reshape your body, that’s something cardio can’t do for you. But it’s important to use weights properly so you get maximum benefit out of them. Women tend to not lift heavy enough to do much.

    I found that cardio was most important in the first 60lbs off too and then the last 30 was a combo of strength training and cardio. It makes you work for it more. Also, the food is key. I didn’t get so big from not exercising, it was from eating too much! I just got really unfit from not exercising.

    Good luck Brandi, you so go this, congrats on your lose so far.

    Is it just me....

    June 23, 2010

    Is it just me, or does “fail” seem like way too harsh of a word for indulging? I think that you should still be able to go out for pizza and wings, and not feel like a failure. We have to live, and part of that for me is enjoying things like WINGS with fatty ranch :-) Labelling it as a failure just gives us more anxiety that we don’t need… it’s not going to help in the weight loss journey!! But, maybe that’s just me :-)

    roni

    June 23, 2010

    no I think you are right. It’s a poor choice of words and I should have caught it. It’s also in stark contrast of my all about balance approach.

    Alison

    June 23, 2010

    @Is it just me – I had the EXACT same thought as you! I do the same thing too though. I eat a piece of cake somewhere and I automatically think, “Oh, I’ve failed.” No we haven’t. We have one life to live, so why not eat a piece of cake at parties, or celebrations or holidays? As long as we’re not eating like that ALL THE TIME, I don’t see the problem. That’s why I like Weight Watchers so much. If you fall of the wagon one night, you can start over the next day, and not beat yourself up over it. I would not enjoy my life if I starved myself of everything I like to eat. And what’s the point of living if you’re not enjoying it? Moderation. That’s the key.

    RG

    June 23, 2010

    I don’t think 5.5 mph is that slow, and I know for my sedentary lifestyle, getting in a caloric burn through cardio is essential. yes it’s all about diet, but if I eat the protein, fruits, veg, dairy, fat that I should and nothing extra, I might lose 1 lb a week. Since small indulgences – bread, ice cream, extra fat in meat – are inevitable, having a 400-600 calorie buffer is huge. Sometimes it means a higher fat loss, sometimes it means a food splurge. I also find serotonin, endorphin, whatever – running makes me crave less food and more healthy ones. It’s also efficient since I just lace up the shoes and head out the door, no heading to a gym. Generally people with a lot of weight to lose have a good supply of muscle underneath, so not as necessary to do weight lifting in addition.

    Wifey

    June 23, 2010

    Great post! Sounds like you nailed it to me! Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

    Nina

    June 25, 2010

    Good post, Roni!

    Brandi: Congratulations on your weight loss, you are doing great!

    The most important thing is that you have fun and unstress you while running or doing weight training or whatever other exercise, or that you at least feel the benefits and feel good about yourself/your body because you have achieved something. And that you do it right so that you don’t injure yourself. Nutrition is far more important while dieting, exercise only helps you keep the weight off.

    But the most important thing is your image about yourself: If you start making science out of your exercise it is likely that you might start to beat yourself up if you can’t achieve your goal or that you feel not good enough – which is not helping you on your journey and which is probably part of your old ways before you started losing weight (???). Just a guess, because I found that many of us do beat ourselves up mentally a lot, especially when we are sad about or weight.

    very good advice, Roni, i can’t agree with you more! i’ve been running 25-30kms a week for years now, but my weight stays the same. why? like you said, one snickers bar later, and all those calories you’ve burned are back on. don’t get me wrong though, i LOVE to run. nothing beats a runner’s high. (well, except chocolate of course.)

    as far as strength training, i highly recommend core exercises. i used to think it didn’t matter, thought “what do i use that part of my anatomy for? i’m a runner dang it!!” but i was so wrong. the core stablizes everything, keeps everything below the waste in alignment. once i sucked it up and started core training, it took all of 2-3 weeks before my running increased ten-fold.

    Brandi, congrats on the weight loss! and i swear, give the core exercises a go! you’ll be shocked by the benefits, i tell ya!

    Kim

    August 4, 2010

    I’ve been going to a trainer a couple of days a week for a couple of months, trying to build lean muscle because I hear so much about muscle loss after 40 and how that contributes to weight creep as we age, even if we don’t increase calories… But I’ve been mostly focused on what to eat, whether I can still have wine with dinner, etc. I also bike and run and walk for movement a couple of times a week, at minimum. Yesterday, I asked my trainer about my thighs and what I can reasonably expect for reduction (genetics!), and he scolded me for not consistently working out 6 days a week like he’s asked. He said I focus too much on the food when I should be working out more.

    It got me thinking: obviously reducing the food/calories is important for weight loss, but years ago, the only way I ever lost a lot of weight and kept it off was when I exercised (ran) regularly. Gwyneth’s guru and others are all about the exercise to get and stay fit. Roni, you talk about how just moving your bum started you down the road to eventually training for marathons. Maybe I have been too focused on the food, and not focused enough on just moving my body every single day…? Maybe the ratio of importance is actually much closer to 50/50, food/exercise. I have the sneaking suspicion it is… :-)

    roni

    August 5, 2010

    Kim – I do think for overall health it is 50/50 but for some people with dieting baggage-I’ll call it–It may help to tackle one first. For me it was the food. I lost weight through diet alone while learning how to find a balance.. then I added exercise because in a way I was free from the majority of my food issues.