Running can do wonders for your overall health when approached sensibly, and it can even help you lose weight. As you hit the treadmill our race along forest trails — building strength, endurance, getting your heart rate up and improving your cardiovascular fitness — it’s satisfying knowing you’re also shedding unwanted pounds.
Still, many of us know dedicated runners who can’t seem to lose weight, even though they keep to a strict running routine. If you want to trim some inches from your measurements, we’ve put together a few no-nonsense tips to help you create a running plan to lose weight.
Running and Diet
Calories matter. Before you can determine how long to run to lose weight, you need to address the calories you're consuming. After a long or intense run, a ravenous appetite isn't unusual. Your body just burned lots of calories (carbs and/or fat) and is looking to replenish that spent energy.
People often reward themselves with some tasty extra calories after a hard run, which is a big no-no. If you’re tearing into a bag of Doritos or devouring a piece of cake after a workout, you won’t create an overall calorie deficit — which is how you lose weight.
To lose weight running, you need to create a weekly calorie deficit. In essence, this means burning more calories than you eat. Here are a few dietary tips and pitfalls to watch out for:
- Meal Size: When counting calories, what and how much you eat will affect weight loss. Roughly speaking, 3,500 calories equals one pound. If you burn (running) or cut (sugary drinks, second helpings of pasta, etc.) somewhere in the ballpark of 500 to 1,000 calories per day, you should lose one or two pounds per week.
- Sugar and Carbs: What you eat naturally affects your ability to lose weight. We’ve all heard of low-carb and keto diets (bodies tend to quickly convert simple carbs to sugar). While you don’t have to say goodbye to carbs and sugar forever, cutting them down while sticking to a running plan to lose weight goes a long way toward blasting fat away. Lean protein can be a substitute for your favorite carb-heavy treats, while flavored carbonated water (with no added sugar) can take the place of soft drinks and sugary fruit juices.
- Cheat Days: If you planned a cheat day and dove into that pizza or just went bonkers and raided a bakery, don't beat yourself up afterward. When the body is shedding weight, sometimes the brain goes on a wild feeding frenzy. Just make sure you get back to a common-sense meal plan after you splurge.
How Long Should I Run to Lose Weight?
Regardless if running on a treadmill or outside, shake up your running routine to lose weight. By mixing shorter, intense running days with longer, more sustained workouts, you’ll build strength and burn more calories. Higher-intensity runs tackle carbs, while longer lower-intensity runs will eventually go after stored fat.
A varied running routine also helps alleviate the tedium of covering the same ground at the same pace every day. Bring your phone along, held in place with an Armpocket running armband, and listen to your favorite tunes to stave off boredom — or for musical inspiration to pump you up for that last mile.
Burning Calories: Duration, Intensity and Recovery
One mile of running will burn around 100 calories on average, although this number varies by age, weight and several other factors. You can calculate how much you need to run to lose weight with an online running calorie calculator.
Higher-intensity runs for longer durations will burn more calories, but these runs can also wear you down (especially if you're new to the sport) or burn you out. One mistake people often make when building a running plan to lose weight is going all-in like a gladiator in the arena. They then either sustain an injury or are discouraged by their self-imposed punishing schedule.
Make sure you schedule recovery days and easier days along with your more intense workouts. By sticking to a sensible meal plan, shaking up your running routine and creating a manageable weekly calorie deficit (avoid starvation diets, they don’t work), you'll build healthy running patterns that will help you lose weight over time.