RUNNING FOR WEIGHT LOSS: TEN TIPS TO STAY ON TRACK
WHEN IT COMES TO LOSING WEIGHT, ANY KIND OF EXERCISE IS GOOD EXERCISE – BUT IT’S HARD TO TOP RUNNING. SURE, IT’S THE DRILL MOST OF US DREAD. BUT RUNNING IS ONE OF THE BEST BUTT-KICKING, CALORIE-BLASTING WORKOUTS AROUND AND OFFERS AN EXTREMELY EFFICIENT WAY TO DROP THE POUNDS. EVEN BETTER, IT’S INEXPENSIVE AND YOU CAN DO IT AT YOUR CONVENIENCE. WHETHER YOU’RE A BEGINNER DAUNTED BY TAKING THOSE FIRST STEPS, OR A REGULAR RUNNER LOOKING TO REDUCE YOUR WEIGHT, HEEDING SOME TRIED AND TRUE TIPS ON RUNNING FOR WEIGHT LOSS CAN HELP YOU HAPPILY LACE UP, AND HIT THE GROUND RUNNING TO LOOKING AND FEELING BETTER.
It’s the age-old, doggedly-advocated (and often grumbled about) staple of weight loss: Running. And for good reason – it actually works! Oh, reader, we feel you. Most of us don’t just tie up our laces because we love running. Like you, more than often, it’s because of last night’s decadent slice of chocolate cake, that bottle of red wine from the party, or the five-course meal (with extra side of cheesy fries) that we indulged in on Monday night instead of hitting the gym. So many unnecessary calories; not enough time *sigh*. Alas, it turns out that running is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, reduce body fat, and improve physical appearance. And hey, how could we possibly argue with a form of physical activity that promises a vigorous, full body workout and bang for your buck?
For those slightly sceptical, consider this 2012 study carried out by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the benefits of running on weight control. Indeed, it was found that compared to men and women who did equivalent amounts of any other form of exercise, runners were significantly leaner and lighter. The reason behind this? People typically burn more calories per minute when running than they do when swimming, walking, or riding a bike.
In fact, with the potential to burn up to 11 calories per minute when hitting the pavement (depending on individual pace, of course), it is almost unsurprising that in the pursuit of shedding kilos, about one in five Australians turn to their free outdoor treadmill at some stage of their life. While conventional advice on running for weight loss commonly dictates long, slow and steady runs, we understand that this can turn your fat-burning task into a tedious case of mission slimpossible. No doubt, reforming from running hater to running lover involves a lot more stimulation and creativeness. A little physical and mental assurance doesn’t go astray either – we all want to find ways to get better at running for weight loss and enjoy it. After all, wouldn’t it be nice if you could run, burn more fat, get toned, and take pleasure in it all at once?
So, here are some tips to make your running for weight loss more effective, efficient and enjoyable. Sure, it may not be a case of love at first run (well, not for everyone). But these sure-fire guidelines to burning those calories may just transform you into a fat-blasting machine and make your weight loss goals seem like a walk (or cruisy run) in the park.
TIP 1: CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE BEGINNING YOUR RUNNING FOR WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
Before beginning your running for weight loss program, it’s important to consult a physician about your current state of health and any problems that could arise throughout the course of your training. Specifically, consulting a healthcare professional is crucial to determining whether you are healthy enough for a running program and to understanding what changes to expect to your body as you progress. All too often, this vital first step is skipped, with many mistakenly believing that they can assess for themselves whether their body is ready for physical activity. However, self-diagnosis can be unhealthy, inaccurate and dangerous.
A check-up is particularly crucial if your medical history includes any pre-existing health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or arthritis. Such ailments will impact the types of weight loss strategies safe and suitable for your body and health. And let’s face it – we can always benefit from that extra check-up anyway!
TIP 2: SET "SMART" GOALS
So, you’ve consulted your physician and received the all-clear for your running for weight loss regime… Now what? Before getting started on your calorie-blasting endeavours, do yourself a favour. Establish some specific weight loss goals and set yourself up for success. This has the benefit of creating a benchmark of your progress. Furthermore, doing so will help you to strive towards accomplishment as you consciously draw closer to each goal. The Mayo Clinic advises an effective goal-setting strategy for your running for weight loss journey to keep you focused and motivated as you transition to a healthier lifestyle. Acknowledged as the “SMART” goal checklist, it recommends that your goals meet the following criteria:
Specific: Make your goals effective by incorporating specific details, including declaring what you will do, how long you will do it, and when you will do it.
Measurable: Your goals should be measurable so that you can objectively determine how successful you are at meeting them.
Attainable: Ensure your goals are attainable by making certain that you have enough time and resources to achieve them.
Relevant: In order for your goals to ultimately be achieved, they must be relevant and hence realistic. Setting unrealistic goals that do not align with your other responsibilities may result in disappointment or the temptation to give up altogether.
Time-Bound: Goals are best achieved if you set a deadline in which to complete the goal and a record of your progress. Keeping track can help you evaluate your progress and stay motivated. Instituting some “SMART” goals can mean the difference between success and failure in your running for weight loss journey. Coupled with a realistic outlook, the processes of working forward through effective planning will help you succeed in running and beyond.
TIP 3: START SLOW THEN INCREASE INTENSITY
Once it comes to lacing up and setting off for that first jog, it’s an all too common mistake for beginners to take off too fast. Sure, it’s tempting to rev up and shoot out the door at top speed. But let’s be realistic – running off like you’ve taken something from Liam Neeson isn’t going to last. Even professional athletes can’t sprint for that long!
Instead, begin your running for weight loss session with a five-minute brisk walk, and from there, gradually build up to a gentle jog. This process of warming up is essential to steadily raise the heart rate and release synovial fluid in the body, which lubricates the joints and prepares them for vigorous exercise.
Once the body is warm, increase your pace to a faster jog until you reach a comfortable running speed. Beginners should start with approximately ten minutes and add an extra minute or two to each session to slowly build up stamina. Alternating between running and walking during early weeks is an effective way to also progressively build fitness levels. Indeed, as you get fitter, you’ll be able to decrease the walking intervals and increase the running intervals.
TIP 4: PREVENT INJURY – STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH!
Alright, fellow runners, we’ve all heard this one before: Warm up before running, and incorporate plenty of slow and sustained stretches into your cool-down routine to prevent injuries. And yet, most of us choose not to care for our bodies and only run. Injuries are very easy to acquire for runners. And preventing them is essentially about what you do when you’re not running. That is, the crucial time before and after exercising. This goes regardless of the intensity of your workout. Giving your bones and joints a chance to loosen up before you enables you to ease muscle soreness, release lactic acid, strengthen your ligaments, and avoid getting injured. The same goes for stretching out muscles after your running session. In particular, it is important to cool down for three to five minutes following your run. To achieve this is straightforward. Simply bring the pace down from your run to a brisk walk and then a gentle walk. Following this, stretch out the body and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. After all, your muscles deserve a little TLC after working so hard.
When muscles are not stretched out, they only become tighter, leading to discomfort and more likelihood of injury. And in the case of an injury, you’re likely to terminate your run, feel depleted, discouraged and dreading your next running for weight loss session.
NB: Remember – don’t ignore what your body is telling you. If something is hurting, pay attention to it and find out why it is occurring by asking your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional for medical advice before returning to running.
TIP 5: CONSISTENCY IS KEY
When it comes to running for weight loss, consistency pays off.
The best way to do this? Try to avoid skipping on your running sessions for the week. And, if you do miss one, then don’t give up – make sure to fit the next one in sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, as fitness experts advise, it is better to complete, say, three short ten-minute runs per week every week, than to do five longer sessions one week and none the following week.
TIP 6: INCORPORATE STRENGTH TRAINING TO BOOST FAT-BURNING
While consistency in workouts is vital, when it comes to running for weight loss, the key to results isn’t purely to keep running like your name is Forrest. Sure, you can hit the track all week. But the problem with relying solely on racing down the open road to shed your unwanted weight is that the body adapts very well – and very quickly. Put simply: Initially, you may drop the kilos quite easily from resourcefully burning calories. However, as the body starts to adapt to its newfound fitness and metabolism, it is likely that you may soon enough hit a plateau.
The reason behind this? Your body is actually a very impressive and intelligent machine. It is designed for efficiency, meaning that if you repeat the same exercise over and over again, the process becomes more comfortable. As far as your runs go, not only will they start to feel more effortless, but your metabolism will also learn and react so that fewer calories are burned with the same exercise output. Indeed, that may signal great news that your endurance has increased. But with that comes the not so great news that you would need to keep running longer and longer distances to burn the same number of calories. Needless to say, endless hours of said endurance activity alone are certainly not going to give you the toned body composition that you are striving towards anyway.
This is where strength training comes into play! If you want to dump your rump, it is essential that you combine your cardiovascular exercise with lifting weights. The benefits are two-fold. Firstly, lifting weights increases your muscle mass, which shapes your body. Secondly, it also encourages the increase of your resting metabolism. And because muscle burns fat even while you are relaxing, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even at time out.
By incorporating strength training with your running program at least two to three days per week, it is possible to maintain and build lean body mass, whilst decreasing body fat percentage.
The best option is to go to the gym, warm up, and lift weights for about 20 minutes employing super slow reps. Following this, stretch out the body. And for variety to your resistance regime, alternate between free weights one day and machines the next.
(NB: If you are new to the gym, ask a trainer for some advice on lifting weights.)
TIP 7: MIND OVER PLATTER – ADOPT A HEALTHY DIET
We hate to break this one to you, but for those whom it’s a case of carbs for life, we suggest it’s probably time to put down that extra slice of cake!
Indeed, losing weight requires more than simply getting your cardio kick. Hand in hand with running for weight loss, the success of keeping those kilos off necessitates adopting a healthy diet. Even better if you can achieve an overall calorie deficit too. According to Professor Amanda Salis from the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders at the University of Sydney, anything that involves consuming fewer kilojoules than you need to maintain your weight is going to lead to weight loss. Furthermore, junk food needs to be cut out of the diet.
For evidence, look no further than an analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies. It was found that people see the biggest short-term results in their weight reduction when they eat smart. That is, opting for wholesome foods and eating less.
While there are a variety of diet strategies to achieve this, when it comes to suitable sustenance for runners, the best foods to eat are those that are nutrient-dense. And even better if they are also relatively low in calories. These include vegetables, fruit, legumes and grains. Not only are these foods nutritious, they also lessen the experience of hunger after runs. So, if you want to whittle your waistline, swap those cheesy fries for a quinoa salad or a fruit bowl!
Additionally, if you know you always feel ravenous after workouts, make protein a priority. Protein is critical for runners because it enables muscles to repair and build tissue after challenging workouts. Research also repeatedly confirms that eating protein increases your feelings of satiety. So, not only will you feel fuller for longer, but you will probably eat less too. And this, in turn, will help to reduce cravings later in the day.
For the best sources of protein, turn to fish, poultry and lean meats, or plant sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds. Include protein in every meal and particularly at breakfast. It is a healthy and substantial supplement that helps to kick-start your metabolism and control your appetite.
TIP 8: RETHINK YOUR SUGARY DRINK
Along with adopting a wholesome, low-calorie diet to keep your weight at bay, it is also important to rethink the sugary drinks you may be consuming. Many people do not realise just how many calories these beverages contain. Yet, the bitter truth is that with their high sugar levels, they largely contribute to your daily calorie intake and thus comprise a swift route to packing on the pounds.
Sports drinks provide a case in point. Sports drinks are frequently hailed a helpful beverage before, during, and after a strenuous running session. However, contrary to popular thought, they in fact contain too much sugar to consume regularly. More sugar means more calories. And over time, these calories can significantly add up to hinder your weight loss progress.
And it’s a similar story when it comes to energy drinks. Sure, it’s ok to have a little sugar in your diet as an occasional splurge. But the vast majority of energy drinks contain far more sugar than you should consume in a day. Worryingly, some even contain up to 20 teaspoons worth.
That said, if you really can’t help your craving for an energy drink, consider REIZE your go-to alternative. REIZE contains no sugar, so will reduce the number of calories you are drinking. Even better, you can mix the revitalising powder with water, much to your health’s delight. And, rest assured, it is so delicious, you won’t even miss sugar! Ultimately, for those running for weight loss, water should be your beverage of choice. Not only does it keep you hydrated to make running easier, one of its biggest perks is that it contains zero calories. As a guide, drink water at least 90 per cent of the time. And if you want to mix things up for variety, stick to unsweetened tea, coffee or other unsweetened beverages.
TIP 9: KEEP MOTIVATED WITH TRACKING PROGRAMS
With so many factors to consider from training strategies to diet, staying motivated when running for weight loss isn’t always easy. Especially if you’re not a fan of vigorous physical activity and post-workout panting to begin with. That said, measuring and tracking your progress is a recognised way to give you that extra boost to stick to your plan. And, this is where running communities come into play.
Running communities acknowledge that, as human beings, we are motivated by rewards and recognition. Accordingly, running community companies offer a suite of complementary tools and products that work together to help you stay on target. These keep your journey towards a healthier lifestyle progressing. And, in turn, these push you towards achieving your weight loss goals.
Running Heroes is one such running for weight loss community. It functions by encouraging, enhancing and rewarding runners as they clock up more kilometres. The company not only prizes avid runners for their dedication, but also inspires non-runners to start hitting the pavement.
Essentially, Running Heroes operates as a mobile-friendly web application that connects with the user's existing running app or activity watch. Users run at their desired level and collect activity points along the way. The more they run, the more points they collect. These can then be used to redeem exclusive offers. Even more encouraging, Running Heroes reassures running at your own pace. So, if a user is more comfortable partaking in long-distance walking than running, they will still be able to collect activity points.
Similarly, fitness expert businesses such as Running Fit Box and The HIIT Box by The HIIT Mum innovatively operate to get you excited about your next run. This is achieved through a box of products, picked to benefit your training. Such enterprises seek to give users the opportunity to discover essential running and nutritional products that will aid their running goals and optimum health. Each box is delivered straight to your door. They are designed to help runners on their fitness journeys. And it doesn't matter what level of intensity you wish to pursue - they cater for every type of runner. Talk about chasing your goals and running them down!
TIP 10: SIGN UP TO RUNNING EVENTS
Over the long term, the absolute best way to keep yourself running for weight loss is to find a race to compete in. Indeed, sign up for it and hand over the cash payment. It is a sure-fire way to stay inspired. And hey, who could say no to runner’s high and race-day excitement?!
You may not believe so, but picking out an upcoming race and following through with paying the registration fee is a clear path to weight loss success. Doing so forces you to adopt a running lifestyle and also sets you up to work towards bigger weight loss goals. Furthermore, paying cold hard cash upfront makes it more difficult to slack off on your training. Ultimately, with a fixed, paid-for race date in your calendar, you can force your focus and more easily maintain a regular running schedule. When it comes to running events, there are so many to choose from. These include local fun runs, marathons like the City2Surf, and hardcore obstacle races such as Tough Mudder. Committing to even one can get you into the frame of mind of race training, which is incredibly inspiring and fulfilling. After all, with a set distance to train for, it will likely keep you on track. Plus, it will encourage you to get out and run on days when you would otherwise probably resign to the couch.
Don’t believe it can be done? Check out this story from The New York Times about Jen Miller (pictured) who struggled with her weight. She began a running for weight loss regime and eventually ran a marathon. Weeks of training paid off and she crossed the finish line 25 pounds lighter. Even more uplifting was a new-found sense of confidence.
Totally impressive? We think so!
HITTING THE HIGHWAY TO HEALTH
So, there you have it! Running for weight loss doesn’t have to be a dreaded drill after all. By incorporating these ten tips into your exercise regime, you can hopefully see that running offers an effective workout. Plus, it can be totally enjoyable. Why not lose weight, reduce body fat, and improve physical appearance in the most efficient way possible? We're quite sure you'll hit the pavement and stay on track - even if you simply try! And as you do, we’ll be waiting to see just how many more kilometers your running shoes can clock up. We hope it will be more than your car! So, what are you waiting for?
AUTHOR: SAHAR ADATIA
Sahar is a word scribbler and vibrant storyteller (with a proficiency in randomness). She has an infatuation with cheese, fluffy animals, and life’s peculiar whimsicalities. When she's not writing, you’ll find her sweating it out at the gym, laughing with friends, and enjoying long, romantic walks to the fridge (obviously for cheese). Sahar’s favourite REIZE concoction is soda water with a splash of Ribena. Try it. (Really.)
Sahar can be contacted on Twitter at @sahar_adatia.