Running is an excellent option for weight loss because it’s accessible. You can run anywhere, in any weather. You don’t need any special equipment. A pair of comfortable shoes and you’re good to go.
Can Running Help You Lose Weight?
Yes – within reason. Running isn’t a magic cure.
Ideally, you’d combine running with a healthy diet and strength training regimen.
Running to Lose Weight Tips
Tip #1: Watch what you eat
This is the most common sense and widely cited weight loss tip. That’s because it’s the most important.
Weight loss is going to be 80% (or more!) diet.
Do you know how many calories you’re burning (and eating)? There’s a good chance that you’re wrong.
It is so common for people to overestimate how many calories they burn. This leads to overeating. Don’t do it. A general rule is 100 calories for every mile you run – if you’re walking, you’re burning even fewer calories.
Tip #2: Fight runners hunger
Any form of exercise will increase your appetite but running is often the worst offender. Many people claim to feel ravenous after a good run. What can you do? Avoid processed and sugary foods.
You’re not going to starve runners hunger away. You’re going to have to feed it. Choose high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, like vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, meats.
Tip #3: Work your way up
Don’t rush into running. Start with walking, then add in some short running intervals. Slowly increase your running time and decrease your walking time.
Tip #4: Take a day off
Don’t run two days in a row for the first several weeks. A good marker for when you can begin running consecutive days is when you can comfortably run (not run/walk) a 5K.
Tip #5: Increase your distance gradually
Adding too much distance or time too quickly is going to result in injury and exhaustion. You should keep all increases (time and distance) to no more than 10% a week.
For example, if you run for 30 minutes this week, don’t run for more than 33 minutes next week. Or if you run 4 km this week, keep it under 4.4km next week.
Tip #6: Reward Yourself
Reward yourself. You’ve worked hard, you deserve it. But, don’t reward yourself for running with food. One more time: Don’t reward yourself with food!
Reward yourself with things that will make you enjoy running more. This will not only increase your enjoyment of running, it will make you run more. We’re far more likely to do exercise we enjoy.
Reward Options and Examples.
- Reward yourself with a new album every ## of runs
- An average album costs $12. If you buy yourself a new album every 12 runs, your reward is costing you $1 per run.
- Buy a pair of nice headphones if you run ### times.
- Apple Airpods cost $159 USD. If you want to stick with a $1 reward per run, it would be 159 runs to earn them. At 3 runs a week, it would take one year. Plus tax, which varies.
- Go out to ___ if you run ## times.
- This is a great option for people who run with others, you can make it a group reward. Choose an activity – like the opera, a concert, the movies, an amusement park – instead of a meal.
- Run to relax.
- Make the beach or a nice park your halfway mark. When you get there, relax for a half-hour and read a book or sketch or do whatever will relax you.
I’m Running and Not Losing Weight! WTF?
There are many reasons that you might not be losing weight. But don’t worry, you can correct the problem!
Reason #1 – Post-Run Kitchen Rampage
You just came back from running 5K and you’re famished. Starving. Ravenous. Obviously, it’s important to eat for post-run recovery, so you eat half a PB&J.
Then you hit the shower. But when you’re done you’re still hungry. So you eat last nights leftovers. There wasn’t really that much. But you’re craving something sweet, so you’ll just have a bowl of berries. Berries are healthy, right?!
And on and on it goes, every time you get back from a run.
On a 5K run (assuming you run the whole time), you’re burning a max of 500 calories. Half a PB&J sandwich will have at least half that many calories – probably more if you aren’t accurately measuring your peanut butter and jelly.
You have two options (which can be used by themselves or together):
- Run right before you eat a full meal.
- The advantage of this method is that you’re skipping the post-run snack. So you can enjoy a bigger meal. Or enjoy your meal and then have your post-run snack in an hour.
- Prepare a bunch of zero (or very low) calorie snacks for the post-run munchies.
- There are a lot of vegetables you can snack on that have very low calories (celery, cucumber, cauliflower, kale, radishes). But, they’re only low calorie if you skip the dip.
- Popcorn is a low-calorie option that you can snack on when you feel ravenously hungry.
- Broth (or stock) based soups can be low in calories and feel filling. This isn’t a zero-calorie snack, but if you choose your soup carefully it could be an excellent addition to your post-run snack.
Reason #2 – Not Enough Exercise
To lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume. Running can help you do that, but only if you do enough of it.
What can you do? Exercise more. Add more running, or add alternative forms of exercise.
Reason #3 – You’ve Hit a Plateau
If you do the same thing day after day, week after week, eventually your body is going to become more efficient at it. Running is no exception.
You need to mix up how you’re running – add in speed drills, include hills, run on different surfaces (dirt, grass, pavement, etc). This will keep your body guessing and help you avoid hitting a plateau.
You should also vary your running route – either by doing a variety of different ones regularly or by changing to a new one every few weeks.
Reason #4 – Muscle vs Fat
Maybe you haven’t lost weight but that doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. Stop weighing yourself. It’s a terrible method of determining progress. Instead, get a measuring tape.
Once a month (or as much as once a week), measure your body. Strip naked! Measure the following places (ideally in cm):
- Upper Arm: measure around the biggest part of each upper arm.
- Forearm: measure around the biggest part of each forearm.
- Bust: measure around right at the nipple.
- Chest: measure just under your bust.
- Waist: measure at the smallest part (or about half an inch above your belly button).
- Hips: measure around the largest part (probably near the center of your butt).
- Thighs: measure around the biggest part of each thigh.
- Calves: measure around the biggest part of each calf.
You Can Lose Weight by Running
If you’re looking to lose weight, running can be a great addition to your lifestyle.
It’s easy to do, can be done by anyone, and it burns calories.
Be sure to watch what you eat and don’t overdo your exercise.
Let me know if you use (or have used) running to lose weight in the comments!
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