This is a sponsored post.
If you’re looking to slim down, running is one of the most effective ways to do so. Running is a full body, intense exercise that not only burns a high amount of calories while you’re doing it, but creates a higher afterburn effect than other lower intensity activities. Because of this, it is very time-efficient as well as convenient. Only have 30 minutes to exercise? You can be up and running (pun intended) as soon as you’re out the door, no commute or set up time required!
Another big plus is the expense, or more accurately, the lack of expense. Sure, you can drop a good amount of money on the latest watch, shoes and gear, but a mile untimed in an old pair of shorts and last years Nike’s is still a mile.
Running has a whole host of benefits outside of weight loss, including; reduced blood pressure, stronger bones, reduced body fat, improved overall cardiovascular health, improved immune system, increased HDL cholesterol (the GOOD kind!), and improved mental fitness just to name a few! Read more details on those and other benefits here.
But I digress. You are here with a weight loss goal, so let’s look at the 3 pillars to successful weight loss through running:
Think of your body as a machine; much like a car, if you use the wrong fuel, things aren’t going to work their best. There are two components to the nutrition pillar; quantity and quality.
The mistake I see most runners make that derail their weight loss efforts, is overestimating their calorie burn. You burn roughly 100 calories per mile (for a person of average weight) whether you run a 6 minute mile or a 12 minute mile. While this is high calorie burn compared to other activities that can boost your weight loss, it also means your 5 mile run doesn’t mean you can eat a burger and fries and be in a calorie deficit.
After a tough 10 mile run, you’re going to feel you should be able to eat a whole pizza and wash it down with 2 beers, guilt free. This is fine occasionally, but if you reward yourself with indulgent food after every run, you’ll maintain your weight at best.
You will have increased hunger, and you do need to eat enough to support the extra activity, but instead of eating with wild abandon because you’re running, focus on boosting your complex carb and lean protein intake especially on higher mileage days/weeks.
Generally, a diet full of whole foods with a mix of carbs, protein and healthy fats will support your running and recovery. By focusing on what fuels your exercise and what repairs your muscles, your body will be prepared for your workouts and will recover quicker. Plus, by routinely eating healthfully before and after your workouts, you create a healthy eating habit that will influence your choices the rest of the day!
Bananas are probably the food most associated with runners (I have yet to cross a finish line without them being readily available!), but there are many more foods to stock up on that will increase your energy and help keep your weight loss on track. Sweet potatoes, low fat dairy like cheese and yogurt are excellent ways to ensure you’ll have the energy to finish your workout strong, and whole grains with fruit are perfect to aid in recovery. For a more detailed list, check out this post!
We all want quick results. I see many runners discouraged when after running 3 times a week for 2 weeks, when they haven’t dropped any weight and can’t see changes. Positive changes are happening – lower blood pressure, improved mood, reduced stress, to name a few – but in order to see results you need to be consistent in the long term.
If you’re first starting out, aim for 3 days a week of 20-30 minutes each. If you can’t run continuously for 30 minutes, add walk intervals; everything counts! If you can run continuously for 30-45 minutes, focus on consistently doing this 3-4 times a week, then add intervals (next pillar!) as opposed to adding time. (Unless you are training for an endurance event, it is not necessary to run – or do any type of cardio for that matter – for longer).
Stick with it. If you can only fit in 20 minutes and you usually run 30, go out for 20! Anything is better than nothing, and keeping the consistent habit of running will not only help with weight loss, but it will make running easier, quicker.
In order for your body to change, it must be challenged. If you are just beginning, it will be challenging to continuously run without walking for 20 minutes. But – with consistency – you’ll soon find it easy, and can work up to longer runs.
Once you’re able to run for 30-45 minutes straight, adding speed intervals – speeding up for 1-3 minutes, then recovering at a slower pace for equal time – will give your body the challenge it needs to change.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a great tool for weight loss and increases lean muscle mass while simultaneously increasing cardiovascular fitness. For athletes in training and highly fit individuals doing HIIT 3 times a week is OK, for occasional exercisers or those just wanting to switch things up, doing 1-2 sessions a week will enhance your fitness level. More than 4 times a week and you increase your risk of injury.
Have fun with these challenging intervals! They make time fly by only focusing on short segments at a time, and pushing yourself in these short intense bursts is a great stress reliever.
Running is a great way to lose weight, and with these 3 key pillars in place, you’ll get results more efficiently than lacing up and hoping for the best.
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com and gearweare.com. He has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.