One of the things we often hear from new clients is their frustration with weight loss. Despite putting in the hard yards and going the extra mile to lose those extra pounds, they’ve reached the end of the road. But there’s often a very simple reason why the weight is going nowhere (the clue’s n the puns!). It’s relying on running, and running alone, to burn fat.

After we’ve adjusted people’s workout plans accordingly, the kilos naturally start dropping off. But to give you a head start, we thought we’d share some common workout mistakes when it comes to losing weight – and how to put them right.

Your Workout Is Always the Same

Ever noticed how cardio sessions get easier? Running the same circuit becomes a breeze? It’s because your body is a machine designed to function efficiently. So whether it’s running or training, if you do the same thing day in day out, your body will quickly work out the easiest and most efficient way to do it. Like traditional ‘steady state’ running, which falls short on a long-term weight-loss plan.

In fact, research by the University of Georgia found that people who did steady state cardio, like running on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a consistent pace, lost a few pounds during the first week and after that… nothing. That’s because within a week, their metabolism adjusted and learned that it doesn’t have to work as hard to burn fat.

One of the biggest problems with running at a steady, moderate-intensity, is that the calories you use up (burn) are limited to the time you spend sweating. So once your body adapts to the training, the benefit is limited. That’s why resistance training, weight training is better than running alone for weight loss.

Lifting weights impacts your metabolism by causing mini-micro tears that need to be repaired. The healing process requires energy (usually from fat stores), which means you’re burning more calories a process that can sometimes last for two days after your training session. Which means you’re burning calories at rest.

Put simply: with cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories, or you can just eat 200 fewer calories per day. It’s the same thing, I know what I would do.

You go for longer, not faster 

One of the most important variables with any type of exercise, whether it’s cardio or resistance training, is intensity. If you look at the average gym user who does a lot or cardio, they pick a pace they can maintain for a long period of time. If you think about it: when you jump on a treadmill, elliptical, or bike, you’re starting with the intent to be on there for a quite some time. Whether it’s 30 minutes or an hour, the goal is to push yourself to a manageable pace that you can sustain, work hard, feel shattered, then go home. While this is great for improving endurance, but it’s not so great for fat loss.

A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the exercise habits of over 30,000 women. It concluded that an hour a day of moderate exercise, such as walking at 5kph, did not aid in losing weight.

Now imagine this: instead of a time-tracked exercise routine, you focused on pushing yourself to a higher level of difficulty. If the 5kph on a treadmill was ‘3’ on a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, what would happen if you pushed yourself at 8 or 9 for a shorter period of time? Yep, you guessed it. More fat loss.

Similarly, a team at Birmingham City University compared a group 10,000 men and women they divided into groups of short but intense exercise and long less-intense cardio. One group performed four to six 30-second ‘sprints’ while the other group did cardio for 30 to 60 minutes. The results were nothing short of incredible. Despite exercising for a fraction of the time, those in the sprint category burned more than twice as much body fat, than those that did longer less-intense cardio.

This is because the process of sprinting causes similar internal changes to your body as those that occur during weight training. Your body needs to replenish its ATP (energy), convert lactic acid that’s produced during exercise into glucose, and restore your blood hormone levels after an intense workout. All of those processes make your body work harder and burn more fat. Neither of which happen during steady-state aerobics.

You focus too much on calories

The most common weight-loss mistake that people make is believing that the majority of the calories you burn is from exercise. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of how the energy is used. Simply breathing, being alive – sleeping, standing, eating, thinking – requires a tremendous amount of energy. The amount of calories you burn at the gym is nothing in comparison to what you use in everyday functioning and non-exercise based activities.

This isn’t an excuse to skip the gym. But the type of exercise you perform in the gym will influence how many calories you burn outside of it. Running will burn calories, but sprinting or lifting weights will build more muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn just functioning. And ladies, before you start worrying about getting big and manly, that’s not the kind of muscle building we’re talking about.

You don’t try other types of cardio

If you’re a fan of the slow, long cardio session, prepare yourself for some bad news. Studies have shown that ‘endurance’ running and walking impairs strength and muscle growth.

What’s more, even if you increase the intensity and run on an incline, researchers still found that cycling is still better for gaining muscle and burning fat.

We’re not saying to stop running or walking, but if you’re looking for the most efficient weight loss strategy and are short on time, you might be better off cycling – preferably at a high intensity – rather than going for a long walk or relying on jogging.

You run too much

This might sound bonkers, but stay with me on this. I’ve worked with thousands of people and have seen hundreds of other case studies where fat loss has been stunted by doing too much cardio.

Exercise is an indisputable part of a healthy life, but it does put the body though high amounts of stress. The demands of that stress impacts your hormones, which also controls your ability to lose fat. More specifically cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released when you exercise. Releasing cortisol isn’t all bad (despite what those supplement ads might say) but chronic stress and chronic cortisol can lead to insulin resistance which can force you to store fat.

Research published in the journal Hormone Research found that long distance running, like that done in endurance runners causes a sustained increase in cortisol. This increase in cortisol for long period of times can lead to more inflammation, slower recovery, breaking down your muscle tissue, building up fat, and even harming your immune functioning.

In the same way, if you’re suffering from too much stress – whether it’s the result of exercises for too many hours or not recovering with the right nutrition – you can harm your thyroid and lower your metabolic rate, making weight loss even more difficult.


If you’re doing 30 minutes of sprints a day, that’s more than enough for fat loss. But remember, this isn’t for endurance training. If you start running 2 to 4 hours a day and aren’t losing weight (or even gaining it), you might be better off reducing your running frequency, adding some resistance training, and seeing what happens. Chances are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

– Team Anarchy45