Ultimate Guide to Running & Weight Loss

Posted by Florian Hosner on

The problem with losing weight

Losing weight is actually easy! Eat less and do some sports for god sakes! That's it. There is no scientific approach and you do not need to count calories in the third decimal place. 

The problem is not that we need a high sophisticated strategy to succeed, the problem is us. Losing weight hurts. And we don't like pain, so we avoid it and we tell ourselves a nice story about how heavy our bones are or about our genetic predisposition going back to our great grandpa from Mexico who was actually an overweight midget... and by the way we don't lose weight. 

So the appropriate question is indeed how can we make losing weight more comfortable and reduce the pain for us. And the answer is again simple. It is balance and persistence. We want to go step by step, with a soft calorie deficit, keeping the pain as small as possible and we want to do it every day again and again. 

Running is your perfect add-on for your healthy diet if you want to lose weight. I will tell you why and I will show you how to start from scratch.

Why should you run to lose weight?

There are many studies on the effect of running on weight loss. The National Weight Control Registry keeps constant track of people who lost at least 30 lbs (13.6 kg) and kept their weight loss for at least one year. Currently there are more than 10.000 members enrolled in this study. That is quite some significant statistics, is it?

Guess how many of these people exercise regularly? It is 90%. Nearly all of these people do regular exercise. This is a strong argument to go out and do some sports if you want to lose weight.

Why should you choose running then? Could you bike to lose weight? Yes absolutely. Could you swim? Why not? Aerobic? Sure! If it increases your pulse and makes you sweat you will lose weight. Actually they never found out if these swimmers sweat under water but they say swimming apparently works too.

Running is one of the simplest ways of losing calories. You do not need any equipment beside your good pair of shoes. You can do it anytime during the day, you do not need a gym and you can do it all year long. Yes, you can run when it snows. No, you don't die if you do that ... well most of them still are alive. 

Besides that running is very efficient when it comes to losing calories. You will lose ca. 100 kcal per mile (65 kcal per km) as a rule of thumb. That gives you a decent loss of ca. 300 kcal for a thirty minutes workout. That is more compared to swimming or biking for example. 

Your checklist before starting to run

- Health condition:

The first thing you should do before starting to run from scratch is to meet your doctor. Check if you have some medical problem before you run. It is your health so take the time to check. If you already do regular fitness and you know that you are in a good and healthy condition of course you can skip this point. 

- Shoes:

So important! This is the only thing where you definitely should spend some cash. We are speaking between 100-150€ (120-180$). Go to your local running store and check some good shoes. And I don't mean these big sports shops where they sell you the big brands without having a look at your feet before.

I like to go to my small local store. This shop is owned by a guy who ran in the Austrian championship on 800m years ago. He knows all about running. Every time I come to his shop (normally once per year) he lets me run a minute on his treadmill and he takes a video of my feet during running. Then he analyses the video and choses the perfect shoe for my feet. I tend to stress the outside part of my feet and sometimes when I get tired I twist to the outside. With his shoes I am perfectly supported and I never had any problems!

You should consider taking the time and effort searching for such a shop. 

- Track:

Search for a good track before you start to run. It should be flat and there should be no traffic and not too many people. Don't overcomplicate. Just don't run on a mountain or on a highway! 

- Clothing:

Good running clothes can surely be helpful. They should fit tight on your body. If your shorts hang lose and you sweat you can get sore and this can really hurt. I used to wear plasters on my nipples when I was training for half marathon. It works too, but tight clothing is less ... irritating to other people. Don't ask.

Just don't spend hundreds of dollars. It is not necessary. You can get good stuff for less than 100 bucks!

- Time:

Start with 20-30 minutes three times per week. Dedicate these time to running. No excuses. That is what they call persistence. No persistence - no weight loss. Period!

Your first run

By now you should be located somewhere outside of your home town dressed up in a tight running dress and highly motivated to give it a go! Now, of course there are more questions popping up:

- How fast should you run?

There is  simple rule of thumb. Start running with a speed where you are able to speak to a running mate without losing your breath. If you have a pulse meter you will see that this is a speed where you have a pulse between 100 - 130 rpm. 

You don't need to run faster if you just want to lose weight. If you have problems running even with minimum speed don't worry! Start with walking and squeeze in some minutes with running every now and then. If you get out of breath stop and walk again. 

- How long should you run?

Start with 20-30 minutes. If you feel comfortable after 20 minutes go for another 10 minutes and then stop. No need to push to your limit in your first week. The most important thing with running is persistence. Keep doing it every week. You can gain after some time, but first be persistent.

- How many units per week?

When I say persistent I mean you should run 3 times per week over a long time frame. This is the point where you should really push. Try to go 3 times no matter how tired you are or how the weather might be. If you want to make running your habit, what you absolutely need to do if you want to lose weight you need to be persistent.

How to continue

Do this schedule for 3-4 weeks. Take your 3 running units per week and run for 20-30 minutes. After 3-4 weeks  you can start to gain. If you only want to lose weight I recommend to increase time. Increase to 40 minutes after week 4. If you feel comfortable you can squeeze in a 4th unit every week where you go very slowly and a little shorter (e.g. 3x 40min, 1x 20min). Take a resting day after each of your standard units!

If you get to this point I am sure you will make up your head about a more sophisticated training plan afterwards. Take a look at interval training to increase your strength for example. You can do one run in steeper terrain which will also increase your muscle strenght. Go through some running literature and check out your possibilities.  

Just keep in mind what your goals are. If you want to lose weight you should not run too fast. I was training for half marathon and I did not lose weight. I ran 80km per week but I ran with high speed most of the time. After running fast my blood sugar was down at rock bottom and I was eating a lot to get my calories back. 

You will feel less hungry if you run slowly because you do not empty your carb reservoir. (Munchies Alert!) Try to run with a pulse range of 100-130 rpm and for less than 1 hour and you will feel less hungry after your runs. I recommend further to have a glass of orange juice directly after running. You will refill your blood sugar and you will overeat less.

What to expect

Running is the perfect add-on to your diet but it is only part of the game. You need to maintain a soft calorie deficit each day to lose weight. Running will help you a lot. If you run for example 3 times for 60 minutes each week (after some months of training) these are 1.800 kcal more that you can eat each week. This is more than our daily energy consumption for most of us! That's one day of eating "for free"!

Running helps! It is good! It makes you lose weight easier. Now that you know it go out and run. You can start right now. See you on the track!

Fitness Health Weight loss

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