Rounding out a year in which I’ve run around 25 miles per week, I’ve realized that running involves much more than simply moving your feet above walking speed. There are different techniques to try, ceaseless mental obstacles to consider and bogus products to buy, but there are also a number of myths that this ancient activity can’t seem to shake.
Take “runner’s face,” or the idea that running in the sun causes your face to get all droopy and gaunt. Nope! Not real. Yes, you might lose some chubbiness from your face at a certain point, but the end result won’t be you looking like Skeletor.
Similarly, there’s the notion of “running your butt off,” which is pretty self-explanatory — that is, 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 they must have literally run their butt off. 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,” Lunger tells me. “So if you’re just focusing on aesthetics of the glutes, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
Basically, people assume distance running, because it’s an all-leg exercise, is great for getting a shapely bottom half. However, you’re really 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, your butt does deflate, but so does the rest of your body. 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. 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.
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.