Running for weight loss: It is possible?

Alright forget everything you’ve ever heard about running and weight loss. Let’s start over! First of all let go of the idea that running if you want to lose wight is even some sort of magic bullet or the best choice. It can be, but it might not be for you. It’s also totally okay to try it and then try something else. You’ll find all sorts of articles saying that running isn’t good for losing weight. Hell I even wrote one, sort of… The truth is most weight loss happens in the kitchen not at the track or at the gym. Running is actually as good an exercise as most and better than many options for losing weight. It’s good because it burns a lot of calories per hours spent but not so great because it’s hard to do for a long time when starting off and for a while after. I really would advocate for walking at the start. But since it is a go to for so many people trying to slim down let’s try to give you the best information for running to lose weight!

Do it in a way you’ll like at least

Here’s the most important factor in running for weight loss. Are you ready? You’ve got to stick with it. If the clothes you’re wearing, the hills on your route and the pressure you’re making for yourself is making you miserable you won’t stick with it. If you plan to use running to shed pounds you have to tolerate it if not actually like it a little. So as you start remember this is the time to treat the novice runner that is you very gently. Keep that in mind as you keep reading.

Forget pace and distance it’s time on your feet

Runners are a weird group of people who are always trying to beat the runner they used to be. As such we spend a lot of time and spill a lot of ink about how to get just a tiny bit faster. In order to do that we spend a lot of time obsessing about speed and distance. If you’re mostly running to burn calories you can totally forget about all that stuff. If you someday race the same distance twice you can pick it up again. The key to using exercise to lose weight is to spend lots of time doing it. So just let the high effort distance based runs sit on the shelf for a bit while you just keep moving. You want to work to a point where your sessions are the best part of an hour most days of the week.

Forget about running the whole time

It’s time to tell all new runners a secret, most if not all of us don’t run ALL the time when we’re running. I personally always walk to drink or eat, change the song and often to adjust my outfit. I take a walk break to reset my pace, to conserve energy on a hill or even just because I want to take one. Honestly I have run a few 5k’s without stopping but I’ve always taken a walk break or two to drink some water on a 10k or greater! So take as many walk breaks as you need and you’ll need less of them in the future if that matters to you. Just keep going! I’ve even writing a post extolling the virtues of walking especially for losing weight. Don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a runner for taking a walk break even you! 

Couch to 5k is great but you don’t have to do it!

I’m never going to knock the couch to 5k program. I’ve even written a companion guide for people who feel they need more support to tackle it. It really is an almost sure fire way to get you across your first or 15th finish line! But… the time it takes you to tackle a c25k isn’t really enough to put a dent in your weekly calories. It is a really great place to start though because it’s three runs of about half an hour and in about 2 months you’ll be able to run 5k. But… if you want to run/walk for wight loss you want to get into a habit of spending about an hour 4-5 days a week at it. That will add up to a little less than a pound a week. An hour most days of exercise is also one of the habits people who keep weight off long term tend to have.

Race but finishing is enough

As you get into running you will inevitably be sucked into running culture and that’s okay. We’re a cool bunch and there are worse things to be dragged into! As you do you’ll spend lots of time googling and following some real serious runners. You might thing you have no choice to start pushing your distances and speeds and racing more and more. Well the truth of that is racing too much and too fast can lead to injury. It pushes you to start too fast in your journey. Seasoned runners know that as much as we’d like to we can’t run every race out there this year. If we want to tackle the big one this year then we do it strategically. Which is all to say the idea you get about racing might be squeed. The people you follow might be racing for content and if you don’t ever want to run one then you don’t have to. I think you should race if it sounds like fun to you and if it doesn’t I still do think you should give it a try. If you are going to race while actively losing weight then just make it a goal to finish it for now.

When does it get to be magic?

If you’re running to lose weight, especially if it’s a lot of weight it’s going to take a minute. That is true both mentally and physically. Let’s start with physically because as cool as that is it’s kinda the less important part. A lot of people look to running for weight loss because they want a runner’s body. Well guess what if you run you have a runner’s body! But if you stick with it and run for an hour five time a week you’ll burn about 3800 calories a week at 150 lbs. That’s about a pound a week but it’s also a bit more than two large cheese pizzas. That means as you get into running it gives you back a lot more space in your diet. 

It’s funny that this is exactly the calculation that matters for weight loss but it misses the point for the most part. Every runner I know was motivated by losing a few pounds when they started but in pretty short order it didn’t matter that much anymore. Running that much does so much more for your body than just make it smaller. Everything get’s firmer, lifts a little bit and you start to feel totally different about it pretty darn quick. Instead of seeing the flaws you have a new found appreciation of what your body can do. Long before you reach your goal weight you’ll see some amazing results. Within the first 100 km you’ll notice some real changes. Which brings us to the next point. All the runners came to it for the physical health benefits and stay for the mental health benefits. That feels pretty great and I hope it happens to you too!

If you become a dedicated runner who gets out there most days for most of the year it really will go a long way to helping control your weight. Plus getting active is a big component if your goal is to ‘get healthy and fit’ beyond just losing weight. No one says that activity has to be running but if it is these are the things you should keep top of mind. If you’ve used running to lose a significant amount of weight what would you want others to know? Leave it in the comments below!

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