September 7, 2011

Running vs Weight Lifting

Several of my girlfriends declared September to be “Improve Yourself Month.” Each of us picked a certain goal for the month, and we’re checking in on a weekly basis to get support. My goal for the month was, of course, workout-oriented: to run at least 10 miles each week.

It’s funny how little 10 miles a week is, compared to when I was doing a marathon every weekend in peak season. I reasoned that it still feels like an easy run for me to bang out 4-5 miles, so if I just do that two or three times a week, I’m covered. I also have made the mental distinction that while I can count miles on the treadmill, I will not count elliptical miles – for this challenge, we are talking pure running.

Unfortunately, so far things are not quite going according to plan. Last week I started off strong, running 2.1 miles on Wednesday and 1.9 miles on Thursday. I figured that was perfect – I was planning on heading up to Van Cortlandt Park for the Labor Day Marathon, where I planned to run the 10K, bringing me to a nice 10.1 miles for the week. However, weekend partying and sleeplessness ensued, and when I went to bed on Sunday night, I decided not to set my alarm – if I woke up in time to get to the 9am start, I’d go; if not, I’d write it off. It was really about a 50/50 shot, given that I usually wake up around 7am or so, but on Monday, I slept till 8:30am. So much for the race!

I could have easily made up for it by running on my own either Monday or Tuesday. But last night, after getting back from work around 8:30pm, I decided to forgo the running and lift weights instead. Running (at least at the comfortable 9 minute or so pace that I do) just doesn’t feel like as much of a workout as lifting weights, mostly because I don’t get sore after running but I really feel it after lifting weights. And after all, no pain, no gain, right? And isn’t building muscle (to burn more calories) better than just burning calories?

Well, this is where it gets interesting. A recent study concluded that aerobic exercise is better than resistance training if you want to lose belly fat. For this study, they had one group run 12 miles/week, and the other do three sets of 8-12 reps three times a week. By my count, that’s about 108 minutes of running (at a 9 minute pace) compared to 45 minutes of weight lifting (assuming 5 minutes per set). The researchers found that the running burning 67% more calories than resistance training… but the runners worked out more than twice as long. Of course they’re going to burn more calories if they’re working out twice as long! For now, I’ll stick with the conventional wisdom proven by many, many scientists: aerobic exercise burns calories, while weight lifting burns calories and builds muscle that burns more calories.

Unfortunately, that still doesn’t get me out of my “Improve Yourself” month goal. Back to pounding the pavement today… but more weight lifting tomorrow. Because ultimately, it’s not about “what burns the most calories”; it’s about what gets you moving.


4 thoughts on “Running vs Weight Lifting”

  1. This is just what I needed to hear this morning! I read the same article with that study I think, and it definitely was the kick in the butt I needed. I need to suck it up, write down workouts, and stick to them. The hardest part for me is always restarting! Running seems like a chore to me right now, but I know once I get over the initial hump of awfulness, I fall right back into it. How are you holding up in the NYC rainy grossness!?

  2. Amy – I’m in Charlottesville for work, but it’s a bit rainy here as well. I’m coming back to NYC tomorrow and hoping it clears up for the weekend!

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