As one of the most vigorous exercises out there, running is an extremely efficient activity for weight loss. Many runners drop pounds and are able to maintain their weight. However, it is worth noting that others fall victim to common weight loss mistakes. If you’re hoping to use running to lose weight, heeding some tried and true advice can help you be successful and stay on track.
Healthy Eating Is the First Step
If you want to lose weight by running, keep in mind that you’ll only shed pounds if you burn more calories than you consume. To lose a pound, you have to burn, through exercise or life functions, about 3,500 calories. So, you’ll need to combine running with a healthy diet.
Runners have special nutrition needs, but the basic principles for healthy eating still apply. Try choosing smaller portions of high-fat and high-calorie foods and eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
One common eating mistake among runners is that they overcompensate for the calories burned by exercise with extra calories from more food and beverages. Some runners even find that they gain weight or hit a weight loss wall, despite their regular training. The first step to hitting your goal is knowing just how much you’re eating. Use this calculator to learn how many calories you need for weight loss.
One way to prevent “stealth calorie” consumption or mindless eating is to write everything you’re eating in a journal for a few weeks. Reviewing a record of your food intake will help you see where your diet needs improvement. And, because you know that you’ll need to log it later, it may also prompt you to think twice before eating that chocolate-covered donut, helping you stay on track.
Runners often find that they constantly feel hungry, so you’ll want to try to plan your snacks and meals to avoid going overboard. Get ideas for 100-calorie snacks and more tips on how to avoid overeating by controlling your portion sizes.
5 Smart Eating Rules for Runners
Best Foods for Runners
Healthy Snacks for Runners
6 Simple Changes for Healthy Diet
Treadmill Running Tips
Many new runners get started on a treadmill for convenience and safety reasons. Once you improve your endurance and confidence, you may want to transition to outdoor running (weather permitting), but the treadmill is a great place to get started with a running habit.
Consider these pointers to step up your treadmill running routine so that you burn more calories during each session.
Make sure you warm up and cool down. Start with a five to ten-minute walk or slow jog to get started. It’s tempting to just jump on the treadmill and start your workout, but you should allow time for a warm up. Spend five minutes doing a slow jog or walk at the end of your run and allow your heart rate to go below 100 bpm before stepping off. Cooling down will help prevent dizziness or the feeling that you’re still moving when you get off the treadmill.
Simulate outdoor running conditions. Set the treadmill inclination to one percent to two percent. Since there’s no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. Of course, if you’re brand-new to running, it’s fine to leave the incline at zero percent until you build up your fitness.
Work your upper body. The treadmill handrails are for helping you get on and off the treadmill—they’re not there for you to grip onto during your run. So make sure you’re moving your arms when you’re on the treadmill. They should be swinging back and forth at a 90-degree angle at hip level. Make sure your arms are rotating at your shoulder and staying at your side, not swinging across your body.
If your arms are feeling cramped, you may be running too close to the treadmill’s control panel and thus holding your arms too high. Stick to the middle of the treadmill path.
Avoid heel striking. Landing on your heel, with your feet ahead of the rest of your body, can lead to shin splints and other issues. Focus on landing mid-sole, with your foot directly underneath your body with every step. A short, low arm swing is the key to keeping your stride short and close to the treadmill belt. Try to keep your steps light and quick.
Keep your head up and look straight ahead. Looking down at your feet or at the treadmill console will lead to bad running form. You may end up running hunched over, which could lead to back and neck pain. Slouching also leads to a much less effective and efficient workout. Looking straight ahead is the safest way to run, whether you’re on the treadmill or running outside. Make sure you keep a relaxed and upright position.
Follow a Training Schedule
Sticking to a training schedule is a simple way to stay motivated to run. You’ll know exactly what you need to do every day, and—since each run builds on the next—it will be harder to postpone or skip workouts. Following a schedule can also help you avoid a running injury by not increasing your mileage too quickly. If you’re new to running, here are beginner training schedules to check out:
4 Weeks to Run One Mile: For those brand-new to running
3 Weeks to a 30-Minute Running Habit: For beginners who can run for a minute
4 Weeks to Run Two Miles: For beginners who can run at least a half mile
5K Run/Walk Training Schedule: For beginners who can run for 5 minutes at a time
5K Beginner Runner Training Schedule: For beginners who can run at least one mile
More Training Schedules: If none of the above schedules work for you
Consistency is key, according to runners who successfully lose weight and keep it off. If you don’t want to follow a schedule, you still need to make sure you’re running regularly because you won’t lose weight by running once a week.
It’s best to get some activity every day. But if that’s not possible, try to shoot for at least three to four times per week. If you find that your motivation to run is suffering, follow these tips to get inspired. One trick to staying motivated is to give yourself little rewards when you reach a milestone, such as running a specific race or reaching a certain distance. Just make sure that you use non-food rewards, such as a pedicure, massage, or cool running gear.
Keep it Challenging
Incorporating speed work or interval training (running at a very fast speed for short intervals of time) into your running routine can also help your weight loss efforts. Speed work burns a great amount of calories in a short period of time. You’ll also increase your muscle mass and improve your resting metabolism, causing you to burn more calories throughout the day. Try to add fun challenges, such as running a 5k every month for a year, to improve your motivation.
You may also want to consider adding strength training to your routine. Some runners find they can boost their weight loss efforts (and performance) by doing strengthening exercises two to three times a week.