Running is an effective means of burning calories and losing weight. What makes running a popular method of losing weight is its low entry barrier. With running, you will just need a pair of running sneakers, and then identify an open space where you will be walking or jogging. Besides that, you can run in cold weather, in hot weather, when it’s raining or even there is snow outside. However, running for weight loss is more than just slipping your running sneakers and hitting the pavement. Without the right approach, you might end up with injuries, without anything to show for it. If you are running to lose weight, here are some tips and tricks that will help you to maximize the results.
Start with Short Walks
If you’ve just started running, it’s highly advisable to start with short walks instead of long runs. Start with short walks will give your body ample time to adjust to the new training program while minimizing the risk of injuries. For instance, you can start with shorter walks of 20 minutes or less. You can start by walking to the coffee shop from the office, instead of taking a cab or going with your car. After some time, you can then start going for longer runs and increase your pace. If you were only running one or two days per week, you can start running from Monday to Friday and then allowing your body to rest over the weekend.
Increase Your Mileage Gradually
As much as running can help you to lose weight, it will only be effective if you can run for longer distances. You are not going to lose weight if you can only run a few miles every week. Once your body has gotten used to your new training program, you need to increase your running mileage. However, don’t increase the mileage instantly. For example, if you have been running 10 miles every week, you can increase them to 13 or 15 after a month or so. If you are finding it hard to cope with the increased mileage, you can instead opt for walking the increased distance. For instance, you can run 10 miles and then walk the additional 3 or 5 miles. But regardless of your weight-loss goals, you should not increase your running duration or intensity by more than 10% in between the weeks.
Add High-Intensity Training
Apart from increasing your running duration, you also need to step up your intensity, if you want your running or jogging to produce notable results. And this is where high-intensity interval training comes in. Popularly known as HIIT, high-intensity interval training entails combining short, high-intensity exercises with slower recovery phases. These intervals are then repeated throughout the training program. By incorporating two HIIT sessions per week on top of your regular running, you will experience improved cardiovascular fitness as well as increased athletic capacity. High-intensity interval training can also boost your endurance and help you to burn more calories within a shorter period, compared to regular running. One of the best things about HIIT is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. You don’t need any equipment. Some open space and a good pair of running shoes should be enough to get you started. Also, you can customize any HIIT training program to suit your fitness levels. For example, you can sprint for 15 seconds and walk for 75 seconds, sprint for 30 seconds and walk for 60 seconds or sprint for 45 seconds and walk for 45 seconds.
Add in Strength Training
Whether you’ve just started running or you’ve been doing it for many years, every runner can benefit from strength training. Apart from improving your overall fitness levels, strength training can also make your running more enjoyable and effective. The benefits of incorporating strength training into your running program include:
- Faster running pace: Strength training exercises like weightlifting, lunges, and plyometrics, will improve your endurance and form, which translates to a faster running pace. For instance, lunges will gradually make your legs stronger, which means that you will be generating more force with each stride. As a result, you will find yourself running longer and faster, which helps to accelerate your weight loss goals.
- Improved running form: The muscles in your upper body, mainly those in the arms, upper back, chest, and shoulders, help you to stand tall and keep your chest open. They also help to maintain pelvis and upper body stability. On the other hand, if you lack strength in your upper body, then it will be almost impossible to run with the right running posture. Therefore, strength training will help you to generate more power, expend less energy, and run more efficiently.
- Faster weight loss: Running is an effective means of shedding excess calories. However, once your body gets used to your running routine, you might hit a plateau and you will start burning fewer calories. And that’s why it’s advisable to incorporate some form of strength training into your running program. Strength training will help to break the monotony that can come with running every day. Besides that, strength training will help the body to add more lean muscle mass, which translates to increased metabolism. As a result, your body will burn more calories, whether you are training or resting.
- Helps prevent injuries: Lower body and upper body exercises, especially those that target the core can help to reduce injuries. Stronger leg and core muscles will help you to maintain proper running form for a longer period. The majority of running injuries, particularly those that lead to hip and knee problems arise due to muscle weaknesses and imbalances. Therefore, if you have strong legs and core muscles, the risk of getting injuries will be lower, compared to someone with a weak core.
There are different types of strength training exercises that runners can incorporate into their fitness programs such as functional training and endurance training exercises. Make sure you choose an exercise that matches your fitness levels, to reduce the risk of injuries. Also, you should always remember that you are incorporating strength training into your fitness program such that you can become a better runner and not bulk up. Therefore, lifting too much or doing too many reps in a single session will lead to exhaustion or even injuries. And when you are injured, you will not be enjoying your morning runs. So, start small and increase the intensity gradually.
Check Your Diet
As much as you are running to shed excess fat and lose weight, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect your diet. In fact, your diet can determine whether you will achieve your weight loss goals or not. It’s, therefore, important to pay attention to what you eat. Since you are running to lose weight, you should be eating fewer calories than you are burning. Your diet should compose of foods that will supply the exact amount of calories that you need to lose weight, without lowering your running performance.
So, what should you eat to attain your weight loss goals when running? First, your diet should feature all the 3 vital components – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The bulk of your calories should come from carbohydrates, followed by proteins and lastly fats. One of the reasons why your meals should be heavy on carbs is that they are the main sources of energy for the body. When processed, carbohydrates release glucose, which the body uses as fuel. If your body doesn’t have enough glucose, then you will struggle to complete even a few miles. On the other hand, if your body has ample glucose, you will enjoy longer and faster runs, which will help you to burn more calories and lose weight.
It’s important to note that there are bad carbs and good carbs. And it’s important to choose the right type if you want to lose weight effectively. Good carbs are also called complex carbohydrates. They have high fiber content, and they take longer to digest. Good carbs are a great source of energy that the body needs for longer runs. Some of the best sources of good carbs include whole grains, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, yams, beans, lentils, legumes, and fruits. Bad carbs, on the other hand, come from sources like cakes, table sugar, candy and energy drinks, among others. They are broken down easily and absorbed by the body quickly. Due to their ease of absorption, they will quickly increase your body’s sugar levels, which is then followed by a crash. And when that happens, you will be forced to overeat. And as you might probably know, overeating will eventually lead to weight gain.
Running can improve your physical fitness levels and help you to lose weight in a healthy way. But just like other forms of physical fitness, the results will depend on your consistency. Therefore, make sure you identify a duration, pace, intensity and training schedule that works for you and then stick to it. And once you combine your consistent running plan with a healthy diet and some strength training, you will eventually start to see the results.