Getting in shape for a race obviously requires you to plan ahead and set up a proper training schedule, but what if you have the additional goal of trimming down? Will running alone suffice?
Many runners would like to lose weight or at least lose fat and gain muscle before a race as a way to improve their performance. If trimming down is part of your fitness plan leading up to a race, here are several strategies you may employ to see results.
Unless you plan on using a starvation diet to drop pounds quickly (never a good idea) you need to allow adequate time for weight loss. A motivated person could lose 1-2 pounds a week with a healthy yet restrictive diet.
However, it's more likely that you'll lose a few pounds immediately when you restrict calories and then slow to much more sedate pace, perhaps 0.5-1 pound a week. It depends largely on the calories you consume, the calories you burn, the nutrition and content of your diet, and your personal body chemistry.
Luckily, there are programs like Weight Watchers that can help you set goals, track progress, and remain accountable. You can also use free online services like SparkPeople which not only offer community support, but also handy tracking apps and charts to show daily and ongoing progress.
Changing your diet is never easy, but if you're looking to drop some weight as part of your plan to increase your performance and prepare for an upcoming race, chances are you'll need some help to get the job done. You'll also need an appropriate amount of time to reach your weight loss goals.
The tenets of dieting for weight loss can run counter to the nutrition needed to support a running regimen. For example, many weight loss diets severely restrict the intake of carbohydrates, but the energy they provide is essential for proper health and nutrition if you're running frequently.
Before you begin a new diet to help you trim down for an upcoming race, make sure you speak to your doctor, nutritionist, or weight loss program specialist about creating a diet that is tailored to your specific nutritional needs.
Running, in and of itself, can be a great contribution to a weight loss regimen. However, it targets specific muscle groups, and if you're training for a race, increasing your endurance and speed, you might not get the trimming results you seek without adding other types of exercise.
Interspersing running days with other activities like yoga, Pilates, weight training, kickboxing, rowing, or Zumba, just for example, could help you to achieve the overall toning and trimming you want, lose weight faster, or build muscle while reducing fat. Cross training is a great way to improve performance and more quickly reach your trimming goals.
It's important to understand that "trimming down" may not necessarily equate to losing weight. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, but the latter takes up more space in your body, pound for pound.
If trimming down entails turning muscle into fat, you could start losing inches but see absolutely no difference on the scale. The upside is that you're getting fit and strong in the process, improving your athletic performance even if you're not necessarily losing weight.
If you seem to have hit a plateau with your running and you're no longer losing weight, gaining muscle, or trimming down, perhaps it's time to kick it up a notch. A running partner, especially one that exhibits greater speed and endurance, could be just what you need.
This partner could motivate you to really push yourself. Whether you're the competitive type or you've simply grown comfortable and complacent with your current running routine (or both), a more experienced partner could help you to improve results and trim down before a race.
Every runner dreads that muscle cramp or sharp pain that signals the onset of injury and the derailment of a running program. If you want to prepare for an upcoming race and improve your physique along the way, don't forget to listen to your body and add rest days to your regimen. This is the best way to avoid the setbacks inherent to injury as you continue to work toward your goals.