Is running the answer to your weight loss woes?
41% of Americans make new year resolutions, with exercise and weight loss topping the list of desired changes. That's perhaps not surprising when you consider that over 45% of Americans aren't getting enough aerobic exercise and 2 in 3 are overweight.
But what's the solution?
For many, running for weight loss is a great way to burn some extra calories, build endurance and get out into nature. But while running sounds simple enough, if you want to stick to your goals in the long-term, there's more to it than simply hitting the track.
So here's our complete beginner's guide to running for weight loss, that'll help you smash your fitness goals and keep you looking in tip-top shape for years to come.
Let's run it.
Fat reduction doesn't happen overnight, so if you're planning on using running for weight loss, you're in it for the long-haul. And unless you're already a keen runner, your body will likely need some time to adapt to the new regimen.
Be conscious of this, and don't try too much, too soon.
In fact, start by running slowly. Very slowly. Takes breaks and alternate your running with periods of brisk walking. The goal here is simply to get you active and get your body familiar with the increased workload.
Right now you shouldn't be concerned with burning a crazy number of calories or breaking a personal best, just get out there and do it.
Oh, and if you're 40+ or unaccustomed to any exercise, it's always best to consult with a physician before jumping straight into a running program.
So you got out there and started running. Good for you. But if you want to keep progressing, you'll need a running plan that you can build on.
Whether you opt for aerobic interval training (mixing sprints with recovery walking) or a continuous pace, progressive overload should be an essential part of your schedule. Just don't increase your run distance by more than 10% in any one week.
Increase your volume too much in a short timeframe, and you're likely to face injury. With that in mind, we suggest running no more than 3x per week, and never on consecutive days.
Remember, you control the pace. So don't become fixated on the perceived rigidity of a schedule. If you think things are a little easy, feel free to ramp things up. If the program is taking its toll, there's no shame in dialing things back, either.
This is your schedule, for your health. When you're running for weight loss, you're only ever competing against yourself. So, as long as it's for the right reasons, you should feel free to make adjustments when needed.
Your body repairs itself at rest, not during activity. If you don't take the time off that you need, your body will never be able to recover, and you'll struggle to stick to the progressions in your schedule.
On your rest days, it's ok to keep active with other (light) exercises, such as walking or swimming, just make sure it's an activity that's gentle on the knees.
After all, running is a high-impact activity, meaning that it's more likely to cause overuse injuries, compared to other forms of cardio. This is particularly true for heavier individuals whose bodies are not yet adapted for running.
If you don't control your diet, running might help boost your fitness, but it won't make a shred of difference to your waistline. If you want to use running as a tool to lose weight, you'll have to watch what you eat too.
You may even find that all that running increases your appetite, making it difficult to reduce your food intake. The best way around this is to focus on satiating foods that will fill you up, without overloading you on calories.
If you want to calculate things precisely, calorie-counting is a proven method for weight loss and will supplement your running well. If you feel like this is unrealistic for you, it's fine to start with the basics - just cut out processed, fried and sugary foods.
Running is actually a great way to ensure a healthy caloric deficit. A 2012 study found that runners are leaner than those doing other exercises, due to the increased calories burned. Interestingly, distance-based running seems to be better for weight control than time-based running, too.
Research shows that enjoyment during exercise is a significant factor in people sticking to their exercise program, so anything you can do to increase satisfaction while running would be a big help.
Go for your run on a scenic route instead of at the gym? Take a friend? Listen to music? The choice is all yours.
Losing weight takes time, but trust in the process, and you'll start to notice subtle changes, both in the mirror and in your fitness levels. While the first few months can sometimes feel like a chore, once you start to see a change on the scales and in your figure, it gets easier to lace up your sneakers.
A word to the wise though, watch out for holiday periods. These are the times when it's easiest to slack off and create excuses to stay indoors. Unfortunately, holidays are also the periods in which you're most likely to overeat.
Seeing the weight that you worked so hard to lose, start to pile back on, can be a real motivation killer. So plan ahead and check out our advice for staying motivated over the holidays.
So that's the basics covered, you should have all the info you need to get out there and shed those extra pounds!
For your first few runs, some old sneakers and a worn t-shirt might suffice, but as you progress you'll need some new gear to supplement your program. Check out our store page to get geared up for the next time you plan to hit the track.
Then, On your next rest day, why not check out our next article with further hints, tips, and tricks for starting running for weight loss.