Where the heck are you running?

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ostia-marathon-romeI’m not a massive fan of long-distance running.

Back in the old days, when we had to do it at school, I was bored. Every time I sign up for another charity ‘fun run’ event of 15-20km straight line jogging, I can’t wait until I am done with the run and just have the well-deserved beer at the finish line. I’m the type of person that loses motivation when I can’t see the finish line.

So what’s my motivation for training?

To paddle through a clean-up set, duck-dive a bomb and get in back in the line-up to catch another wave. To lift something heavy, sprint a short distance, to climb a rope up to the ceiling. That’s when I’m willing to work hard – even if my hands are hurting, or I’m trying to catch my breath while it is pumping out there. But I don’t feel like monotonously jogging 42 195 metres so that somewhere bloody far, I’ll see the finish line (that was already crossed by a bunch of Kenyans hours ago). I’m not willing to run 4 hours in a row unless Freddy Krueger is chasing me.

As you can see, this blog is not for fans of long-distance running. If you are a professional marathon runner, I am not sure if you’ll get much value here. At the very best, it might raise an already high level of cortisol from your long runs. Save your kidneys. If you really love it, then why stop running?

But if you are, like me, reluctant to run for an hour or two every day, I have good news: there is an alternative to be fit. To look great. To score more waves on your next surf trip. To be in a good shape – both aerobic and anaerobic.

More Bang for the Buck

From my experience and point of view, a cleverly-built fitness and strength training is a much better investment into your health than a purely running or purely swimming training (or any other monotonous training for a long period in a constant intensity). So if you can dedicate a few hours per week just for yourself and train, I recommend: Train hard, train well, and do not overdue it with running.

This way, you will simply kill more birds with one stone. When you work out correctly and efficiently, you will perform the basic primal movement patterns that Paul Chek talks about in his book “How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy”. It is the following 7 primal movements and their variations that you want to master:

  1. Squat
  2. Lunge
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Bend
  6. Twist
  7. Gait

Our body is built to perform these basic movements and whether you are a surfer, athlete, hunter or just someone that wants to be fitter and stronger, you will want to work on these basic movements. You will want to master the technique so that it becomes your second nature. Your body wants and needs to function well in the surf as well as your daily life.

So do I have anything against running? It is one of the basic movement patterns!

No, nothing much against it. If it is just a complementary, but not the main part of your fitness training. However, if your training consists purely of monotonous aerobic activities without any strength training, there are a few reasons to re-think your current strategy:

  • this kind of monotonous aerobic training increases the risk of losing your muscle mass. I mentioned cortisol above: too much of it decreases your body’s sensitivity to insulin. It also decreases the ability to utilize amino acids to produce protein. As a result, you lose your muscle mass and strength. Have you noticed how all marathon runners have thin, skinny bodies? Strength training decreases that risk.
  • Strenuous aerobic exercise induces oxidative stress. Severe or prolonged exercise can overwhelm antioxidant defences, which include vitamins E and C and thiol antioxidants etc. So why would you spend an hour or two exposing your body to oxidative stress, when you can be done in 15-20 minutes of high-intensity interval training? (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18362686
  • then, once you decide that you still want to keep running, don’t forget the age-old saying: YOU CAN’T RUN TO GET FIT, YOU NEED TO BE FIT TO RUN. So if you are overweight or unfit, I wouldn’t invest into running shoes just yet. First of all, you will want to start walking, and improve your diet. Then you can decide if you do strength training (gym or at home) or running. But don’t forget – running (or swimming) also have a certain technique to do it.

As an alternative, I offer you the following:

End your strength trainings with short, high-intensity ”finishers” such as rowing machine combined with a few minutes of boxing into a bag (or pads, if you have a partner). Or a few rounds of farmer’s walk combined with KTB swing. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme like cross-fit. Do it just for 10 minutes.

You don’t have to go running every single day to keep in good shape. (unless you are going to run half marathon). To get fit for your surf trip, get in a better shape and be able to catch more waves and extend your time in water, or just to lose fat, you don’t have to spend 60+ minutes running long distances.

No, I didn’t mean to attack those who love running. Or suggest that running is bad for you. But as an alternative to a well-set up strength and high-intensity cardio training, it just doesn’t have as many benefits, and certainly can be counter-productive (http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/728/The_(Many)_Negatives_of_Aerobic_Training.aspx)

So go ahead and download your PRO Surfing Fitness Blueprint. Work out with free weights, incorporating the basic movement patterns. And yeah, feel free to go for a morning jog in the nature or on the beach. Just for fun. As long as you don’t over-do it.

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