We’ve all heard it, “The only way I lose weight is when I run.” Although it’s true that running is a very effective way to lose weight, there are some golden rules to follow for those using running as a weight loss tool. While these rules are directed primarily to first time runners or those returning to run after a year or longer hiatus from it, several of them still apply to all runners looking to shed a few by pounding the pavement.
1) Define your running goal, not just your weight loss goal. What this means is be more specific than saying you want to start running in order to lose ten pounds. Instead, clearly state how much running you want to be able to do (how many times a week, for how long, the type of workouts) and how long you expect it to take to get there. For example, “I am running 4 times a week for at least 3 miles each run by July 1, 2022.” Next, define how you will get there, such as “I build up my runs each week with a run/walk program.”
2) Distance first then speed. Intervals are all the buzz right now as the most effective way to lose weight, but don’t put the cart before the horse. If you want to develop a weight loss program that’s going to stick and won’t injure you along the way, set aside enough time to build up your running before diving in to intervals. If you are starting from scratch, we recommend at least 10 weeks to build up to 30 minutes of continuous running at an easy, conversational pace, before introducing interval work. Then you can begin to add one interval workout into your weekly routine. For a sample workout, warm up at an easy pace for at least 10 minutes and then alternate running for 1 minute at a faster pace with 1 minute at an easy pace. Repeat this 6 times. In addition to the interval workout, slowly increase the time of one of your other runs each week. Work up to at least 60 minutes by increasing your time by 10% each week.
3) Incorporate strength training. Beginner runners often need strength the most because their joints, bones and ligaments are not used to a high impact activity like running. Without sufficient leg and core strength, your knees, hips, shins, and other areas of the body will likely feel more than the healthy post-workout soreness that reminds us we got a good workout in. Whether you already work with a trainer or are new to the concept of strength, make sure to add in exercises that target major running muscles such as single leg deadlifts, calf raises, planks, bridges, squats and lunges. See video demonstrations of each of these exercises here.
4) Patience pays off. It’s easy to get discouraged when you are starting to run for weight loss and following our rules because it takes several weeks to build up your running to see results. The upside is once you get there, your body is ready to continue the intensity and distance indefinitely so the rewards are much more long term. You will start to shed pounds as you increase your running time, commit to interval workouts and add in strength training.
Jessica Green is a certified running coach and personal trainer and co-founder of Hot Bird Running, a fitness-focused running company. Jessica’s coaching philosophy focuses on a comprehensive approach towards designing customized goals and training plans that not only achieve your personal fitness goals but also inspire you and prevent injuries throughout the entire process.