If you’re past the point of realizing running involves different techniques, ceaseless mental obstacles to consider and bogus products to buy, you might be moving into the realm of all the myths around running too much. For example, is it true that running makes your butt smaller?
Whether it’s called literally “running your butt off,” deflating your butt, or simply shrinking your butt, the idea is that if you run too much, you’ll lose your beautiful, bodacious ass. In fairness, it makes sense on the surface. People who run tend to be skinny, and skinny people usually don’t have voluptuous asses, so it must be true that running makes your butt smaller. Right? RIGHT?!?!
According to Katie Lunger, certified strength and conditioning specialist and creator of the butt-sculpting gym Bünda, however, that’s not exactly right. “Distance running isn’t very glute-dominant and burns muscle mass, so it’s not great when someone is trying to make glute gains,” she explains. “So if you’re just focusing on aesthetics of the glutes, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Basically, people assume that because distance running is an all-leg exercise, it’s great for getting a shapely butt. In reality you’re doing the opposite: In order to run long distances, your body tends to burn more muscle than fat, so distance runners tend to become what’s called (yes, problematically) “skinny-fat.”
As a result, yes, running makes your butt smaller, but technically the rest of your body has shrunk too. It’s no different than if you want to lose weight via running while maintaining giant biceps — you’re going to have to chow down on some protein and knock out some hammer curls after your 5K.
To maintain a shapely behind, Lunger says runners need to “commit to a proper resistance-training program that focuses on lower body strength,” which may include squats, lunges and leg presses. Since running makes your butt smaller, you need to counter that with things that build muscle.
That said, if you’re just not into doing squats or other glute exercises, Lunger points out that sprinters actually have great glutes. As such, switch up your distance runs with occasional wind sprints. Where distance running isn’t very glute-dominant, sprinting utilizes a different group of muscles (including your glutes), while your body burns energy for short bursts, not muscle mass like distance running. In other words, the idea should be that distance running makes your butt smaller, whereas short sprints make your butt bigger.
Plus, Lunger adds, it’s not all about the looks either. “Glute strength for runners is especially important to maintain longevity of the knee joint because the glutes stabilize the knee.”
In other words, a great ass equals great knees. Which might not be as sexy in the long run, but will definitely keep you moving as the years roll by.