If your primary interest in exercise is to get a great body, you probably should be at the gym lifting weights and downing expensive powder supplements.
I notice that the weights room at the gym is always over-represented by blokes working on getting that nice cut look. I also know a lot of teens and guys in their twenties who only do weights, and become obsessed with getting a body that presumably will attract girls and do those slim-fit suits and shirts justice.
Most of these guys are not aerobically fit, though. Lifting weights alone does not provide this service to your body. If these guys had to run to catch a bus, they would struggle. And that wouldn't look as good.
Why don't they do cardio workouts, too?
Two reasons: One, because strength training alone delivers a different outcome. These guys are into exercise for a different reason – it's all outward, achieving changes to their physical appearance. It makes them feel good to look good.
For many runners, their beauty is on the inside. They've got an inner peace, self confidence and a strong heart.
All shapes and sizes
You can spot a person who spends hours lifting weights, but you can't always pick a fit runner. The body you get from making running your focus is nothing like a weights room body. So if you're into it just for the look, why would you bother getting aerobically fit? Besides, runners can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You only have to scan the starting pack of a half-marathon.
There's plenty of people who can run 21.1km non-stop who have that thing called the 'Dad Bod', the body that has a soft coating around it but muscles underneath. The body that speaks of a well-rounded life, so to speak.
The second reason a lot of blokes don't supplement their weights workouts with any cardio training is because while strength training is tiring and requires discipline, getting aerobically fit is really hard work. And there are no mirrors.
Body and mind
A cardio workout that really exhausts you, pushes you and hurts is a mental challenge as much as physical. I think a lot of people are afraid to go there. They don't like the process and the fact that it takes time. Pumping iron is definitely fatiguing and hard work, but it's just not the same as getting outside and slogging out some kilometres.
However, if you can make a habit of running regularly, the benefits of doing so will become apparent very quickly.
Running exercises the heart muscle. That's what's going to count most as you go through life. That's what's going to help you handle the stresses and strains of work and relationships. Indeed, this is one of the key benefits of aerobic fitness - it manifests itself in so many other ways.
Know it and glow it
When you're aerobically fit, you know it and you glow it. Fit people, like runners, carry a certain confidence that is born of having put themselves into a state of discomfort and come out the other side the better for the experience. They have got a better sense of perspective on life because they've managed to bring some balance into it by getting out for a run, doing something for themselves. They've often got lots of friends because running can be incredibly social. Which is another motivating factor to keep at it.
And if you do choose to run a lot, the body will look after itself. Runners do enjoy the side effect of getting leaner. It happens if you run often enough - the corollary being that the desire for fatty foods diminishes the more you do it. When you run, you're carrying the unnecessary kilos you eat and drink - nothing drives the point home quite like that feeling. And you don't have to buy expensive powders, either.
Getting a nicely toned body, one that you're proud to take to the beach, is just as achievable through running. And there's the added bonus of being physically able to run along said beach - in front of a whole lot of girls, if that's your choice. Surely that's an attractive proposition?
The bottom line is that for many runners, their beauty is on the inside. They've got an inner peace, self confidence and a strong heart. That's definitely worth training for.
Do you run for fitness or for the way you look?
Pip Coates is a running tragic who knows the euphoria of training for and completing a major race, but also the heartbreak of injury and every bend in the long road back. In between runs she is also the deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review Magazine.