Let’s be honest – most of us have those extra pounds that we’re desperate to shed. Running is a great form of exercise that not only helps you lose weight but gets you out of the house and into nature, helping improve your mental health too.
For beginners, the thought of running to lose weight might be a bit daunting. If you want to take up running to lose weight but don’t know where to focus your efforts, we’ve got a few tips that should produce some quick results.
The most important thing to remember when running for weight loss is that avoiding injury is far more important than increasing the intensity of your workouts. After all, you can’t run when you’re wrapped up in ice on the sofa.
By taking things slow, you stand the best possible chance of burning off those extra pounds. And keeping them off!
- Why Running is Good for Weight Loss
- Lose Weight Running: The Pros & Cons
- 8 Top Tips For New Runners To Lose Weight
- What to Do if You Are Injured
Why Running is Good for Weight Loss
It’s no secret – Running is a great way to lose weight and tone those all-important muscles. A good run helps the heart pump more effectively, leading to an increase in oxygenated blood pumped through your veins, increasing your metabolism and burning more calories.
Calories are the units of energy that we get from the food we eat. The more we consume, the higher our calorie intake.
But, weight loss and extra calories do not make good bedfellows, and limiting calories or burning any extra calories is necessary to prevent weight gain. Running increases your metabolism, burning those extra calories faster than any other exercise.
A good run also positively impacts your overall health, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. We all know the effects that high cholesterol has on your health – the risk of heart attack or stroke – so keeping your cholesterol levels as low as possible is always a good idea.
Here are a few more great reasons why you should start running:
- Improve blood sugar levels (great for people with diabetes)
- Decrease in body fat count
- Increase in strength and tone of muscles
- A boost in self-confidence levels as you lose weight
- Improve your mood and stress levels
- Strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
There are so many benefits to running, and with so many, is there really any reason not to take up running as your main exercise form?
Lose Weight Running: The Pros & Cons
Running has always been a bit of a controversial topic that has health professionals divided on the risk of damage to joints and muscles.
While some say that running leads to knee and back problems like osteoarthritis, others will bet their medical degree that it will actually help prevent injury and damage.
While we don’t want to go on about this too much, it is important to be aware and make an informed choice before you tie your running shoes and hit the streets or running trails of your local park.
Let’s start with the pros to see why running is an excellent exercise to help you lose weight and tone your body:
- Running reduces the overall risk of obesity. An increase in activity will increase your metabolism, lower cholesterol, zap through belly fat, and burn calories quicker than any other form of exercise.
- A good run can do wonders for your mental health. Not only will you see the results from your run and weight loss, but getting out into the fresh air and sunshine helps clear the mind, too.
- Running is the best exercise for its high-calorie burn.
- Running is fairly inexpensive and requires little more than a good pair of running shoes. Skip costly gym membership fees and get outside for a good workout.
With pros like these, is there really any reason not to give running a try?
Making an informed choice requires you to know both the good and the bad of any exercise form, so it is necessary to point out the bad, too. With this in mind, let’s look at the cons of running:
- Running incorrectly can lead to injury. You can make several simple changes to your running routine to prevent injury, so keep reading to learn some handy tips and tricks.
- Running requires good form. Posture is everything, so take a second to learn about posture while running to decrease strain on your back, hips, and knees.
- Running increases your metabolism. Yes, we know that this was also listed as a pro, but an increase in metabolism will lead to an increase in hunger. This can quickly result in overeating and weight gain if you choose the wrong foods or snacks for your post-recovery meal. Choose healthy foods that are higher in protein and low in fat and carbs. Nuts, lean proteins, fresh vegetables, and whole grains are all perfect snack ideas that you can try.
8 Top Tips For New Runners To Lose Weight
Now that we’ve looked at why you should run to lose weight, as well as the pros and cons of this exercise option, let’s look at the top tips to help prevent injury and adverse effects.
Tip #1: Focus on Your Diet
One of the most important things you can do for your health – and your weight – is to choose a healthy eating plan to complement your new running routine. Running for an hour a day (just an example) has little value if you are going to tuck into a huge plate of pasta when you get home.
Make smart choices when it comes to meals and snacks, and exercise portion control.
Many new runners complement their new healthy running habit with a massive uptick in binge eating. Because they’ve “earned it”. This is a huge mistake if your goal is to lose weight.
Tip #2: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
You cannot start running expecting instant results or doing long stretches right away. Your first run might just consist of more walking than running as your muscles and joints acclimatize to the sudden increase in activity.
Take it slow and start off running for shorter periods of time and distances. Remember to take regular breaks when you start your running journey and incorporate rest days into your routine.
The Couch to 5K is a great starting point that we recommend as a training plan for losing weight. As you drop the weight, you will gradually be able to run faster and longer.
Tip #3: Invest in Comfortable Running Shoes
A good quality pair of running shoes can help increase comfort and improve your running posture. Invest in a pair of shoes designed specifically for running, and ensure that they fit you comfortably. Good form is critical when running to reduce the risk of injury, so find a pair that fits you well and will not slip off your feet.
Tip #4: Focus on Routine
We get it; life is busy. Finding the time to run while juggling work, family, and everyday life can be tricky, but that’s one of the best things about running – the freedom to choose when and where to run. While routine is important, it need not be a strict schedule that dictates the exact time of day and distance you should run.
What is important is getting your run in and scheduling rest or recovery days in between, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you cannot come up with a strict running regime – do what works for you.
Tip #5: Always Include a Warm-Up
While a warm-up session before your run sounds too time-consuming or like too much of an effort, a good warm-up can mean the difference between a good, comfortable run and the risk of an injury. Warming up stretches and prepares the muscles and joints for the activity to come. As muscles work in pairs, stretching one will prepare the other, and vice versa.
Running makes use of the hips, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. So focus on exercise that will work those muscles well. Great examples of warm-up exercises include lunges, wall presses, donkey kicks, and squats.
However: Don’t make the rookie error of using static stretches in your warm-up…
Tip #6: Incorporate Dynamic Stretching into your Warm-up
Did you know that the type of stretching you do has an influence on the strength of your muscles and helps prevent injuries? Static and dynamic stretches are the two most common forms that most runners do before they head out on a run.
But only one of these groups is doing things correctly.
How often do you see runners stretching like this before a race?
Not a good idea!
Static stretching involves flexing your muscles and holding a stretch for a period of time, while dynamic stretching involves constant motion. The problem with static stretching is that it can actually increase your likelihood of getting injured if you do it before you workout.
(So save it for the cooldown, when it’s great!)
Dynamic stretching is the preferred method of warming up by health professionals and pro athletes, as it builds muscle stronger than any other stretch exercise.
Dynamic stretching involves movement-based stretches like lunges, fire hydrants, leg swings, and torso twists. There are many videos and instruction guides available on the internet, so be sure to check these out for more detailed instructions on how to perform dynamic stretches.
See our guide: an introduction to dynamic stretches for runners
Tip #7: The Importance of Recovery and Rest
So many people underestimate the importance of a rest day. Resting your muscles and joints is not only necessary but crucial for good health. Too many runners start running, see the results, and then push themselves to go further and faster to shed even more weight, not realizing the effect this can have on the body.
A rest day allows your body to adapt to the increase in activity, growing stronger muscles and helping you improve your “game” the next time you run. Professional runners and athletes adopt a day-on/day-off schedule. Try this, too, and see just how much your muscles improve and strengthen.
Your rest day can also be used to do a low-intensity workout to improve your overall strength and fitness. Swimming is a great accompaniment to your running routine and will help increase your cardiovascular health and endurance when running.
Tip #8: Switch It Up
While running works the major muscles, the type of running you do will depend on whether you need to add in any other forms of exercise. Long-distance runners (or joggers) who are focused on endurance rather than speed should include a form of cardiovascular exercise (cardio) to improve breathing rates and more.
Runners can add a cardio workout into their warm-up routine to boost their breathing rate, which in turn increases their endurance while running.
One of the best forms of cardio that is low-impact and fun is swimming. Now we know that the idea of going for a swim before a run seems a bit much, so think about incorporating this on your off day. The feeling of weightlessness while swimming is great for a low-impact, high-result workout that will have you feeling relaxed and ready for your next run.
Not only is it great for recovering your muscles, but it’s also a great method for burning off more of those all important calories to lose weight.
What to Do if You Are Injured
Accidents happen, and while you are not likely to incur a serious injury from running, it is always a good idea to see a doctor if you are concerned about any pain you may be feeling after you run.
You might experience a few aches and pains when you first start running, but these will become less as you improve your technique and find a routine that suits you and your busy schedule.
If you are running to lose weight, we’re guessing that you are currently carrying some excess weight which could increase your chances of getting injured if you start with a workout plan that is too ambitious.
So patience is key.
Focus on starting out slow and improving your endurance, speed, and duration as you become more comfortable with running.
It deserves repeating: you can’t run at all if you’re stuck injured on the couch.