Does running make you fat?

17 Oct

 The Grit Doctor’s Response

What an absurd title for an article – courtesy of Sophie Morris at the Independent. Of course running doesn’t make you fat. Food and drink make you fat.

Running a marathon has never been billed as a ticket to getting thin, especially if you enter it already fat. I, like Sophie, gained weight running my first marathon. I had entered it before I started running and didn’t have a clue what it was all about. It was only after the marathon that I became a ‘runner’. And therein lies the crucial distinction between what Sophie Morris says and what the body of every ‘runner’ will scream at you in rebuttal. Thousands of fat people run marathons – and I take my hat off to them all – but running a marathon (and indeed training for it) is fairly meaningless in the ‘getting slim’ stakes if after you cross the finishing line you celebrate with six months of sitting on the couch eating pies. Or indeed train for it with the sort of eating that Sophie and to an extent, I, did.

Where running does become your ticket to getting slim is when you have gotten into the habit of running at least three times a week for at least 45 minutes over a long period of time. Interestingly, Sophie Morris quotes a dietician, Laura Clark, who suggests that for exercise alone to make you lose weight, you have to do it at a high intensity for at least three hours a week, and not many people can fit that in. BINGO. This is why running is the solution for most of us super-busy types; running from your own front door and back again three or four times a week. High intensity? TICK. Time-savvy? TICK. Job. Done. No faff. We are mere mortals after all, with jobs and friends and kids. We don’t have access to personal trainers, expensive gyms or have dumbbells knocking around the house.

It is only when you run regularly at this sort of level of intensity that you stop being an Oh-I’ve-done-thirty-minutes-on-a-treadmill-in-the-gym-it’s-time-for-a-milkshake sort of person and morph into a zen-like warrior, rejoicing in the natural high produced by her thrice weekly run, who delights in celebrating winning a 5k race with a baked potato . . . But seriously, if you live life thinking that every time you exercise you deserve a sugary treat afterwards, as some sort of reward for your labour, you are onto a sticky wicket. Food should never be thought of in those terms and neither should exercise. Exercise should be a reward in itself, or certainly the feeling of well-being experienced afterwards ought to be. Gritty?  I bloody well hope so. Exercise is what is missing from so many of our lives and is the cure, or at least part of the cure, for so many of our ills. Just ask Jo Brand.

I run three times a week. I have twin one-year-old sons, born at full-term with a combined weight of about 13lbs, and I am now the same weight as I was before I had them with a flat(ish) stomach. I have not been to a gym, nor have I done any ‘resistance training’. Those three runs are the reason why I can still squeeze into my skinny black jeans.  I can and do eat burgers, curries, fish and chips and chocolate, but not every day, not even every week. (Ok, but that pain au raisin fetish is OVER).

Morris seems to back-peddle towards the end of the article and sensibly quotes Andy Dixon, a personal trainer, as saying, ‘ . . . the reason I put my trainers on when it’s raining [is that] running is EASIER than going to the gym or engaging in team sport. Its ACCESSIBLE, EASY TO GET INTO, CHEAP and a VERY EFFECTIVE MODE OF BURNING FAT.’ (Emphasis my own!) A recent study supports the blindingly obvious fact that running does indeed burn fat more effectively than weight training.

Morris reminds us that ‘running for 40 minutes does not buy you 2 doughnuts’. Well, thank you for that gem.

The Grit Doctor says:

No shit, Sherlock. NOTHING BUYS YOU TWO DOUGHNUTS. Never EVER buy yourself two doughnuts unless you are:

a) Diabetic and about to have a seizure.

b) A sugar addict on death row on the eve of execution.

If Jo Brand can do it – run, that is – we all can. It is simple, and it is free. You don’t need to learn any new skills or get somewhere else first to be led through it all by an instructor. You don’t need an isotonic drink or a snack beforehand and you never EVER need a doughnut. Running may not be the perfect workout, but the truth is – unless you are Gwyneth Paltrow or Madonna, with money to burn and five hours a day set aside for body-sculpture – NOTHING IS, and in looking for the perfect solution to your weight/fitness dilemma you are wasting valuable time. You are missing out on burning away that spare tyre through the simple act of stepping out of your front door and putting one foot in front of the other.

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4 Responses to “Does running make you fat?”

  1. TheUrbanMum October 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Ha – loved this. I also ran a Marathon ten years ago – and was about 5 kilos heavier than I am now. I always joked I was the only person ever to be thiner when they started Marathon training than when I crossed the finish line..
    I wasnt a runner then but am now – like you say – its consistency that pays dividends.
    Oh and a fridge plastered with photos of bodies I am never going to have – stops me from reaching for the ice-cream and gives TheDad something to perve at while he does…x

  2. gritdoctor October 18, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Ha – glad you enjoyed it and are also a ‘runner’! Love the photos on the fridge idea – cheese and pastry are my weaknesses…x

  3. kirsten Nesbitt February 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Hi I’ve came across your book this week whilst waiting for me teenage daughter to buy god knows how many in Waterstones (she’s a proper bookwom) anyway I’ve just completed week 6 of the NHS couch to 5k after being a couch potato for as long as I can remember (I’m 43 now) anyway I love it…it’s hard but I’ve been pushing myself to go out and do it and when I do I feel wonderful! Looking forward to two of your books arriving via amazon on Monday! My grit doctor is called Dr dete (for determined) and I love your whole philosophy…i am a fat bitch but I won’t be by the end of 2015! 😀 xx

    • gritdoctor March 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      Good luck with it all – keep me posted! ruth

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