Running And Weight Loss – How To Start Running When Overweight
Running and weight loss have been friends for a long time. Calories have been known to disappear after those sweaty runs, as many will testify. Some argue that cycling and swimming can also be calorie shredders, and yes, I do agree, but running has some clear advantages.
First, you don’t need a pool or a lake or warm sea where you live. You don’t need to spend lots on a bike and risk riding it through sometimes erratic traffic. All you need in the beginning is a pair of ‘ok’ running shoes, some shorts and a t-shirt.
And you can run anywhere, even around your house! (unless you have a moat, swimming around your house is just a dream).
Running and weight loss – how does that work?
Generally speaking, you run, you burn calories, and as you burn calories you lose weight. That’s the ideal scenario but there is some work to be done first. We need a realistic target, a time frame and some commitment and discipline.
Running and weight loss will only work if we obey the simple rule – more calories ‘out’, less calories ‘in’.
Say, you run 3-4 miles at your best comfortable tempo, even with walking breaks, and you burn up to 300 calories, or the equivalent of a small chocolate bar. Then you get home and treat yourself to a meal because you’ve just done a decent workout. So you simply grab a slice of pizza that introduces 400 calories back into your system.
Effectively, you’ve gained around 100 calories.
That’s not how running and weight loss work, so it’s time for discipline to kick in. After any workout, the feeling of craving for a meal or something sweet is quite normal. But, if weight loss is a desired target through running, we need to create a caloric imbalance where we take IN fewer calories than what we use up during a workout, i.e. during a run.
Is that easy? Nope. It takes some serious getting used to. But once you start seeing the results it DOES get easier. MUCH easier.
Let’s see how best to start.
How to START running when overweight – 10 running tips for overweight beginners
Before you start running majestically in your beautiful park, let’s check a few running tips for overweight beginners.
1. Check the medical boxes before you start ✅
If you have any concerns due to medical reasons, see your doctor first and have a chat with them. What you need is to be able to run without great discomfort or pain and in relative ease.
If this sounds too ‘oh my God’, don’t worry, your body will get stronger with each run and things do get easier not long after.
2. Walk (fast) before you run
If you carry too much weight and you’ve not been active for a while, walk first. Walking is great. Your joints will get through motions, faster walking will get your cardio and lungs through gears and you will prepare yourself for light jogging. Take your time, walk for as long as you need. Build your stamina and your confidence. Walk faster, then faster, and then you’ll simply start running.
Once you start running (slow!) don’t forget to start and finish each run with a couple of minutes of fast walking. Those two warming-up and cooling-down minutes are SUPER important for your body.
Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels
3. In the beginning, run slow
Remember, running and weight loss work if you build your cardio, your lungs, your muscles, tendons and bones to a level where you can run for longer, and running for longer means more calories burned – and (surprise, surprise) more calories burned could lead to a significant weight loss.
And you will build them up and make them all stronger by running SLOW.
Yes, you hear it. Go slow, especially in the beginning. Resist the temptation of going faster. If there are any secrets on how to start running when overweight this is one.
Faster running, especially if you carry excess weight, can add more strain on your knees and ankles, and that never ends up in a bundle of laughter. Some injuries can stop you for months.
Go slow. Walk, if you have to. Slow rules.
4. Find and follow a running program for beginners
Try something popular like C25K beginners program that’s easy to follow and designed to help all of us run for 30 uninterrupted minutes in just 9 weeks. If you can’t complete each week in time, don’t worry. Repeat the week for as long as it takes you. 9 weeks is just a projected target, you can do it your own way if that suits you.
Beginners running plans will help you set up a solid routine, a crucial tool in helping you reach your running target.
Many runners as they get stronger will follow other, more demanding programs, and each of those steps will help you maintain your routine.
5. Avoid your electrolytes (body minerals) getting out of balance through dehydration. HYDRATE! 💦💦
Drink lots of water. Drink even more if you sweat lots. You need to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance when running.
Apart from regulating hydration and ensuring you stay well hydrated during physical activity, electrolytes keep your body working in other ways too. They are crucial for balancing blood pressure and acidity. They also play central role in maintaining nerve, lung and muscle functions.
6. Mind the joints
Consider introducing a running and strength training schedule. Don’t confuse this with some hardcore gym sessions and bulking up. All you need is a number of strengthening exercises for your knees, ankles and general running muscles.
The stronger you are, the better you run. The better you run, the more weight you could lose. Those exercises can easily be done in your own room, at your own pace.
Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash
7. Stretch before runs
If you want to lose weight, running and weight loss combo is only beneficial if you get to your target without running injuries and stretching is one of the best preventions.
No need to enter some elaborate acrobatic program though. You can simply use gentle warm up exercises called dynamic stretching that will prepare the body for running, and relax afterwards with static stretching when your muscles are warm and more flexible. For more details and examples read my blog on the importance and different types of stretches for runners.
8. Go easy on the running gear
Good running shoes are crucial, but don’t go overly scientific and splash out bundles of cash. In the very beginning when you’re learning your trade you will need a pair of simple, fitting, comfortable running shoes. Here I’ve shared a few tips on choosing the best running shoes for your particular needs.
All that high tech made to order pro gear can wait a few months.
9. The Diet
So, you’ve done all the hard work, you have completed the program, you are determined, you want to lose weight, you run three times per week, every week for months BUT the weight is still there. Sometimes you’ve even gained more weight.
Frustrating? Of course. But, what happened?
Unless we aim at more calories ‘out’, less calories ‘in’, running will not be effective for losing weight. Changing our habits can be awkward, it can be difficult, can be hard. But the idea is that we are working towards the target and the target is weight loss.
Many of us are not sure how to change our diet for the better. Some do, but are not sure about quantities of food, ending up eating better but still not eating less. Or eating better and still snacking often between meals. The idea is to eat better AND eat less. Only then will your running and weight loss make complete sense.
And the results will be felt and visible.
If you are not sure how to introduce positive changes to your diet, talk to your doctor or consult your dietician.
10. Last but not least…
And finally, when it comes to the best running tips for overweight beginners, this one, for me, tops the bill:
Aim for your target with self-belief, persistence and discipline and you will get there. Thousands have done it before you, and are doing it right now. For as long as you can breathe, walk and sweat, you WILL make it IF you want to.
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash
How many calories does running burn? – The Easy ‘Running Weight Loss Calculator’
Heavier runners will burn more calories per mile/kilometer simply because in order to move a larger body it takes more energy. Your energy is fuelled by calories and when running (or exercising) we burn those calories.
And if we run with more intensity there is something very interesting happening – we tend to consume more oxygen when recovering, hence we are burning calories even AFTER the run. Clever people called it EPOC, or post-exercise oxygen consumption.
But it’s not easy to know exactly how many calories we burn during a run. It will depend on our weight, length of the run and intensity (speed).
The rough running weight loss calculator for some of you maths aficionados would be something like this:
An average person – of average build and running at an average speed, is likely to burn 80 to 140 calories per mile. For example, if a runner (person A) weighs 150 pounds and runs a 10 minute mile pace for 1 hour they will likely burn around 700 calories during that run.
A person of a heavier build will burn more calories running at that same intensity – 150-200 calories per mile or more! So for example if person B weighs 200 pounds and runs alongside our person A above – covering the same distance of 6 miles in one hour – he or she will have burnt well over 900 calories during that same run.
If your head is spinning trying to figure out your own calorie loss, don’t despair, help is at hand. There are fitness trackers out there that you can wear like a wrist watch. The clever device will get pretty close in letting you know how many calories you have burned but also your heart rate, the distance you have covered and many other useful stats. It will effectively function as your real-time running weight loss calculator.
Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash
Best ways to lose weight through running – summary
Create a routine and be persistent. Run regularly, stick with 3 times per week to start with. Think long term targets and the benefits will come.
Running and shredding excess weight are great partners but don’t be impatient, success won’t come overnight.
It may be hard in the beginning but it is hard for everyone, people who are not overweight also often struggle. I myself struggled quite a bit early in my running journey (and still do, sometimes), and I am of a lighter build.
Don’t be embarrassed when running outside where there are other people. Nobody is watching you. You run for yourself, not for the audience. Be who you are, you are unique.
Photo by Scott Van Hoy on Unsplash
So the best ways to lose weight through running could be summarised as:
➤ Commit to at least three runs per week. And for at least four to six months.
➤ Combine running with other things, like diet and strengthening / joint flexibility exercises
➤ Start very slow and steady. If you find it too hard in the beginning, then start by walking for a week or two or as long as you need to build confidence to run.
➤ Run for yourself and believe you can.
You may have heard the old saying, ‘marathoners can eat as much as they want’. Well, there is truth in there. Marathon training can burn 3000 or more calories PER RUN, more than we eat during the entire day.
I once made a mistake of keeping my regular daily calorie intake the same while training for an ultra marathon and ended up losing TOO MUCH weight. And I lost quite a bit of muscle tissue too. As a result I got slower and more tired, more quickly. In that case – in situations where you burn more calories than usual, and your body weight is already optimal, you must eat MORE in order to keep your weight and your strength intact. And to make sure your body burns fat for energy, rather than your muscle tissue.
Running and weight loss go hand in hand, and all the way down to losing too much. But unless you have reached the stage where you train for marathons, eating less while running regularly is the key to achieving the weight loss goal.
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