Running to Lose Weight for Beginners
There are endless ways you can start running and just as many reasons why you’d want to. Running to lose weight is a good one.
Let’s pretend you want to drop a dress size, ladies. Men, you can drop two notches on your belt buckle and get ripped like Chris Eubank Junior… or Senior if you prefer his sense of flair?
No, seriously, running to lose weight is more fun for a beginner than it is for a seasoned run junkie. Reason? Well the more weight you’ve got to lose the easier it is to lose it. Seems logical enough to me. It’s like spending money. The more you’ve got in the bank, the more shopping you can do. Whereas a professional runner has already cashed in his fat tokens and is running on an empty bank account.
How Much Weight Can I Expect to Lose?
The obvious answer is it depends on how much weight you have got to lose. If you’re obese then you’re going to see good results relatively quickly and easily, if you put the effort in. On the other hand, if you’re already pretty trim and just want a six pack, you will have to be a lot stricter with your diet and exercise regime.
Most runners and or dieters expect to aim to lose around 2 lbs of fat per week. Anymore than that and you risk burning muscle off rather than fat, which clearly is not a good thing. Muscle burns more calories than other body parts, as it is active, whereas 1 lb of body fat is sedentary.
It is also important to remember that you can’t lose weight from one specific part of your body. Your body looks at your fat supply as one overall storage facility. Exercising, say, your stomach muscles will tone your stomach and make you stronger, but to get those muscles to show through calls for a weight-reducing strategy that includes exercise and calorie control.
Hence, the absurdity of all the ab-toner adverts that hit our television screens once every now and then. Top and bottom of it is that there is nothing in this world that comes for free.
Hard work – dedication, to quote Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather the famous boxer
How Often do I Need to Run?
Depending on how much spare time you have, we recommend that you try and fit in no less than three running workouts per week. Any less than this and you will not see much difference, plus it will be hard to keep on top of your fitness levels and you will be constantly struggling. It will be a bit like wadding through mud and getting nowhere fast. Three sessions, half-hour upwards to an hour, per week and you will be flying.
What About Distance, Does it Matter?
Let’s get a little maths and biology lesson out of the way first of all. There are approximately 3500 calories in 1 pound of body fat so you will need to reduce your calorific intake by approximately 500 calories per day to lose one pound of fat. If you burn 500 calories in half-an-hour’s running that means you can look to burn anywhere between 1 and 2 pounds of fat off per week without significantly stressing yourself both mentally and physically.
Using this formula you can take an approach that is sustainable and achievable. Both vitally important for you to keep it up. After all, you will soon lose interest in something that is too hard and uncomfortable.
To answer the question, no distance isn’t a big worry for now. Time is probably more important. You need to be running for at least 20 minutes to make it worth your effort. Otherwise your body won’t have hardly burned any fat.
So what about the biology lesson? Ah, well, you see there is a difference of how your body uses its energy supplies. When you sprint your body uses glycogen stores and other anaerobic systems such as ATP – adenosine triphosphate. You don’t have much time to breath when the 100 metres only lasts 15 seconds or so. You’re not Usain Bolt and neither am I so forget the 10 seconds and under. It’s also hard to keep your glycogen stocks fully charged up all of the time. It takes a day or two to replenish them after a football match or a long run.
LSD? Isn’t That What Hippies Take?
In order to burn fat, your body needs plenty of oxygen and you will need to run a lot slower to provide enough oxygen to burn fat without also burning off your glycogen stockpiles. The slower you run the easier it is for your body to achieve the desired level of fat burning. Obviously if you run too slow you will get a good fat burn going on, but you won’t improve your fitness as much. Therefore, you need to find a balance where you are running at a relaxed pace for a decent length of time. The correct name is an LSD or long, slow distance run.
There are other methods to use for weight loss, but as a beginner you will want to keep things simple. Do an LSD on a Sunday afternoon, which will give you a good chilled feeling ready for work on the Monday. You can squeeze another two or three shorter runs off during the week after work.
A typical fat-loss running programme would be something like this:
- Monday – 30/35 mins brisk-paced run.
- Tuesday – 45 mins long-distance run.
- Wednesday – rest.
- Thursday – 20/5 mins fast-paced tempo run.
- Friday – rest.
- Saturday – 45/60 mins long-slow-distance run.
- Sunday – rest or swap over with Saturday.
- *Make sure you warm up and cool down, as you would any other run. Include stretching as necessary.
Seven things to take note:
- You can read our Running Essentials guide to find an explanation of all the running styles and methods.
- Keep a journal of your running mileage and times, which will be very handy if you start to struggle and need to reflect.
- Pay attention to your diet with our Running Nutrition guidelines.
- Distance and speed aren’t critical – time is more important initially.
- Remember that each run fills a specific goal and they all work together to help you lose weight.
- Perfect example is that LSDs encourage your body to burn fat, but that will make you more economical during shorter distances.
- Stay positive and your running will become easier/more enjoyable as you get fitter.
Some Useful Tips and Tricks of the Trade
If you are finding your running particularly hard, then why not alternate between running and walking? It isn’t anything to feel stupid about, because there is even a style of training that involves intentionally walking and running. You may have heard of this before – it’s called a Fartlek and means speed play in Swedish. The idea is very simple, but so effective that professional athletes have used this system for many years now. In fact there has been many a gold medal won at the Olympic games thanks to using the Fartlek principle.
You don’t have to worry about having a perfect running programme or diet, as long as you are active and going in the right direction, then don’t beat yourself up if you have missed a session and or wolfed a takeaway down your neck. That’s life, just get on with it and try harder the next time.
If it’s winter time then you can run on the running machine at the gym or get one in your home garage or spare room. Some people prefer to train alone, while others like company. There is a lot to be said about running in a group, as you will feel much safer, especially if you are a woman and you live in an area where there are teenagers hanging about being rude or mischievous.
What Foods Should I be Eating?
Have a look at your current diet and see what foods are worth keeping and what you should be eliminating. Ditch the junk food and fizzy drinks. Keep things like porridge and wholegrain food stuffs. Vegetables and healthy low-fat meat, such as tins of tuna, cooked chicken breast and stake are what the doctor ordered. Again, don’t aim for perfection, because that is a road to annoying yourself. Keep things simple and easy to follow.
Make sure you include plenty of water in your diet and especially before, during and immediately after your running workout. You will perform much better if you are sufficiently hydrated.
Learn the basics with our guide to running nutrition.
Avoiding Boredom and Staying Motivated
One of the best ways to successfully stay focused and never be bored is to vary your routine. Regularly change your route, duration or perhaps hop in the car and run in a different area. Running elsewhere might make you feel more relaxed if you are a bit embarrassed to be seen in your own street wearing high-viz running gear. There’s no need to feel that way of course, but we can understand if you do, especially if you aren’t a sporty type of dude/duchess.
To keep motivated set yourself goals and give yourself a reward if you hit your targets. Save the best prizes for beating your personal best, but make sure that anything you buy is either running related or it isn’t a big bar of chocolate or a magnum sized bottle of wine. Once you’ve drunk the wine you might want the chocolate as well, which will give you a guilty hangover the next day.
You could take a leaf out of the kids’ book and keep a start chart. When you get enough stars perhaps that is the line crossed for a blast to the shops and bag yourself a new dress or tracksuit.
Variety is the Spice of Life…
Having a gym membership would enable you to try other activities, other than running. We won’t delve too far into them here, because running is clearly our main objective. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t recognise the importance of all-round body fitness and strength. If you do take up a weight-lifting regime, make sure that you keep it aligned with your running strategy in order to get the best out of both worlds.
Smartphone Apps and Sports Watches
In order to keep a journal and track your food and running mileage, you will either need a smartphone app or a pen and paper diary to do it the old-fashioned way. There is nothing wrong with either, as long as you find it repeatable that is what counts. If it’s a hassle you will struggle to keep it up to date.
You will be able to keep time with your phone, but it’s easier and safer with a watch. That way you can keep your phone safely tucked away in a bum-bag or in a special band/holster.
There are plenty of free apps in the Android or iPhone app stores, which are perfectly usable and almost make paid apps redundant. With big companies like Nike and Adidas having the financial power to make apps available for free, they make it harder for the actual app companies to justify their fees. Fair enough it’s only a few quid for the paid versions so if you prefer the likes of MapMyRun, stick to what you know best.
Personally I’ve used the Nike app and found it easy enough to use.
Stay Safe While Running Outdoors
There has been a worrying trend of teenagers in the big cities such as London snatching people’s phones from the back of a moped. Whereas once it would be okay to argue with these thugs, nowadays the threat of such things like acid attacks make it less likely that people will put up a fight.
Don’t be too scared to go running, but do be aware that you need to keep one step ahead of scum like these moped gangsters.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Treadmill Running Basics
- Jogging Tips for Beginners
- Running Nutrition
- Running Essentials
- Warm Up and Cool Down
Let us know how you get on with your weight-loss programme. If you’ve got any tips you’d like to tell us about, feel free to either comment below or email us via our standard contact form. We will gladly include them in this article.
Until next time, stay safe and happy running!