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5 Key Strategies for Running to Lose Weight

How to Boost Your Weight Loss Efforts Running


Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Many people begin running because they want to lose weight. As one of the most vigorous exercises out there, running is an extremely efficient way to burn calories and drop pounds. A 150-pound person will burn approximately 100 calories per mile when running. If you're hoping to use running to lose weight, here's some advice on how to be successful.

1. 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 3500 calories. So you'll need to combine running with a healthy diet. Runners do 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.

One way to prevent "stealth calorie" consumption or mindless eating is to write everything you're eating in a journal for a few weeks. Seeing a record of your food intake will help you see where your diet needs improvement. It will also keep you on track because you'll think twice before putting that chocolate-covered donut in your mouth.

Get 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
Six Simple Changes for Healthy Diet

2. 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 each run builds on the next, so it's much 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.

3. Run Regularly
If you don't want to follow a schedule, you still need to have some consistency with your running 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 3-4 times per week. If you find that your motivation to run is suffering, follow these tips to get inspired.

Make Running a Priority
Top Excuses for Not Running and How to Beat Them
How to Start a Running Habit

4. 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.

Speed Workouts:
Fartlek Treadmill Workout
Pyramid Speed Workout
Treadmill Hill Workout
How to Do Yasso 800s
How to Run Hill Repeats
Ladder Speed Workouts on the Track
3 Calorie-Blasting Treadmill Workouts

Get more tips on how to boost your metabolism.

5. Eat for Performance
If you're running regularly and you're training for a long-distance event, proper nutrition is especially critical for your performance. Skipping meals doesn't allow you to train with adequately fueled muscles. You shouldn't skimp on calories before, during (when necessary), and immediately after your very intense and long workouts. These are crucial times when nutrition is important to performance and recovery.

Next page: Frequently-Asked Questions About Running to Lose Weight -->

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