‘Sad Sally’ is a story that we like to tell again and again, as it illustrates the effect that excessive cardio can have on your body.
Lately we have received quite a few questions about whether or not we recommend running before a workout. A couple of you have asked specifically whether or not running before a workout makes you a Sad Sally?
For those of you that don’t know the story of Sad Sally…
Sally wanted to lose some fat and change her body shape. She wanted a curvier booty and more toned look overall. Sally went about achieving this by doing what she thought was right: increasing the amount of cardio she had been doing and decreasing her calorie intake.
Committed to her goal, Sally upped her cardio sessions to running 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) four times a week and doing an hour on the cross-trainer at the gym once a week. She also decreased her calories by eating about a third less than she normally would.
At the end of the first week, Sally weighed herself and was excited to see that she had lost 3 kilos (6.6 pounds)! This motivated her even more, so she kept on with her cardio sessions and reduced calorie intake.
At the end of the second week, Sally weighed herself and was surprised that she had only lost 500 grams (1.1 pounds). She thought she must not have worked hard enough, so she increased her running sessions to 7 kilometers (4.4 miles).
At the end of the third week, Sally weighed herself and was shocked to see that she hadn’t lost any more weight at all.
At the end of the fourth week, she still hadn’t lost any more weight. And worse, when she looked in the mirror her tummy looked a little flatter but her booty did too; she didn’t look how she thought she would look after doing so much exercise. Disheartened, she gave up her cardio sessions and ate her normal amount of calories.
At the end of the fifth week, she weighed herself out of interest and was stunned to see that she had GAINED back the 3.5 kilos (7.7 pounds). She was a very Sad Sally!
SO, WHAT HAPPENED?
Excessive cardio workouts and calorie restrictions burn away muscle. The weight loss that Sally experienced in the first week was due to losing muscle, she didn’t lose any ‘fat’.
And worse, by burning away her muscle, her body lost its fat burning effectiveness. Which is why she didn’t lose any more weight. She was a naturally lean girl to start with, so her body got to a point where it wanted to conserve muscle, it plateaued in weight.
As soon as she stopped working out and resumed her normal calorie intake, her body gained back the weight as fat, not muscle. It happened so quickly as she had reduced her body’s ability to effective metabolise her food intake. In other words, she had slowed her metabolism by burning away her muscle.
So, does running before a workout make you a Sad Sally?
Unless you’re running more than a couple of kilometres, it doesn’t. However, you don’t NEED to! And for some of you (depending on whether or not you have weight to lose), it can be working against your goal.
All of our workouts incorporate High Intensity Impact Training (HIIT), which is the best form of cardio as it gets your heart pumping and burns A LOT more fat than running will. You don’t need to run before our workouts, everything you need to achieve your goal is already built into the workout!
If you are running before a workout because:
- You want to workout for longer – you are better off repeating a circuit a couple more times
- You think it will help you lose more weight – stop, because depending on the distance you are running, it can work against you for the reasons outlined in the Sad Sally story (instead, do more of our workouts; you’ll get better results), or
- You want to warm up – ok, go for it, just go for 5 minutes as opposed to a set distance.
Simon & Karina xx