Running for Weight Loss: The Essential Beginner’s Guide

Running for Weight Loss: The Essential Beginner’s Guide

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Want to lose weight?

Stop messing around with fad diets and “lose weight quick” schemes.

Instead, start running for weight loss and experience the magic of losing weight the healthy way.

How Can I Achieve My Weight Loss Goals? Why Running for Weight Loss?

Running for Weightloss- why run

Great question. There are many benefits to running, and calorie-burning is one.

Let me tell you a story.

Weight gain runs in my family and after college I packed on 10-20lbs (depending on the year). I constantly fluctuated weight.

I watched friends hit the gym every day for hours but couldn’t get into it. I tried, but the gym never stuck for me.

People asked me to join exercise classes with them. I kinda hated it (I walked out of Zumba crying after 15 minutes because I have literally no rhythm).

So I started running about 7 or 8 years ago. I started with 1 or 2 miles at a time, nothing crazy. I liked it.

Then I signed up for a running race and committed to a 3 month training schedule for beginners.

Guess what happened?

I lost weight!

Without hating it.

Tons of runners have a similar story about running for weight loss – when you focus on enjoyable exercise like running, it’s SO much easier to lose weight (and feel GREAT doing it).

Remember, It’s a Package Deal, Not Just Running

As you’ll see later in this post, running isn’t the magic bullet for weight loss. It’s a package deal.

The other crucial parts of the package include: calorie intake, proper nutrition, and varying workouts.

Follow these 8 simple steps to get started with running for weight loss today!

1.) Define Your Weight Loss Goal

Figure out: Time frame + weight loss amount

In an ideal world we could magically lose 10lbs safely in a week. But that’s not real life.

Start your weight loss journey off with realistic expectations and a plan to back it up. This is crucial to success. Don’t skip this step!

Running for Weight Loss - Weight Loss Calculator

The U.S. Department of Healthy & Services has a free Body Weight Planner calculator that let’s you input variables (like your current weight, goal weight, current exercise level, weight loss time frame, etc).

I love this tool because you can try different weight loss scenarios (click on the Switch to Expert Mode button in the top right if you want more options, or wait until after going through the 4 steps).

Let’s do an example together:

Say you’re a 35 year old, 160lb female who is 5’4″ tall, with a pretty low current activity level (you can customize all of this in the tool):

Running for Weight Loss - Weight Loss Calculator - Step 1

And you want to lose 20lbs in the next 4 months (120 days):

Running for Weight Loss - Weight Loss Calculator - Step 2

Say you want to increase your current physical activity level by 25% by running. This may be conservative, but let’s start with 25%.

Running for Weight Loss - Weight Loss Calculator - Step 3

You’d need to eat 1,534 calories each day in order to lose 20lbs in 4 months (and increase your current physical activity level by 25%). That’s about a 578-calorie daily reduction.

Running for Weight Loss - Weight Loss Calculator - Step 4

Try changing inputs – weight loss amount, and time frame, exercise increase – and decide on a realistic goal you can get excited about!

2.) Count Calories

It’s important to track what you eat each day now that you know your target daily calorie intake.

I use my FitBit’s app to track exercise and calories but there are tons of free calorie-tracking apps out there like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!.

Choose one, download it on your phone, and input everything you consume (yes, even when you mess up and eat too much).

Weight loss is a numbers game and tracking calories eaten is a big part of it.

3.) Eat Well (the Right Nutrition and Food Quality)

Running for Weight Loss - Good Nutrition

Running alone won’t do it. The food you eat plays a major role in weight loss.

I wrote a whole post about nutrition for runners (Runners Food 101: The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition for Runners) if you want more detail.

Basically, our bodies need 2 types of nutrition: macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Let’s focus on the macros.

You’re probably already familiar with carbs, protein, and fat, right?

Here’s what a regular exerciser should eat* (approximately):

  • 50-60% of total daily calorie intake from carbs
  • 10-25% from protein
  • 20-30% from fats

Healthy carbs for runners include whole grains, leafy greens and other vegetables, fruits, yogurt, sweet potatoes, etc.

Protein should include lean meats like chicken and fish, eggs, quinoa, etc.

Healthy fats should be mostly unsaturated fats (the healthy kind) like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, etc.

Steer clear of:

  • Overly-processed foods
  • Added salt
  • Trans fats
  • Too much sugar
  • Soda

Also – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink water like it’s your job.

Now you know to count calories and consume the right combination of carbs, protein and healthy fats…you’re ready to start running for weight loss now!

4.) Follow a Running Schedule

Running for Weight Loss - Schedule

Find or create a running schedule that fits your needs.

New to running?

Try a Walk to Run plan that starts you off mostly walking and slowly ramps up to include more running.

Already a runner?

Try training for a 5K (3.1 miles) with this 5K Training Plan for Beginners.

Not interested in a 5K?

That’s totally fine. Pick another distance training plan from our arsenal. Or create your own running schedule to accommodate your goals and needs.

Schedules take the thinking out of running for weight loss and help you stay on track to hit your goals!

5.) Mix in other Workouts (Cross Training is Your Friend)

Running for Weight Loss - Cross Training too

Miles alone aren’t the fastest solution to weight loss.

Add other fat-burning workouts to your schedule, like yoga, cycling, strength training, pilates, barre, interval training, etc. Exercises like these will help you get lean fast and supplement your running for weight loss schedule.

Plus, running gets easier the stronger you are (and muscle burns more calories than fat, so strengthening exercises are doubly beneficial!).

Cross Training for Runners goes into more depth if you’re interested in learning more.

6.) Track Progress – Watch the Weight Melt Off!

Running for Weight Loss - Track Weight

Like with counting calories, you also need to track your weight.

How often you weigh yourself is up to you. But I don’t recommend stepping on the scale daily.

Once a week is sufficient. Maybe twice if you can’t help it.

I use FitBit to track my steps and exercise, my calories, water intake, and weight.

But again, there are tons of free apps out there. Or go old school and track it on paper. Whatever works for you.

Seeing progress motivates people. How amazing will it be to see your weight loss over time?

–>>Super important note about the number on the scale: Muscle weighs more than fat.

Why am I mentioning this? Because starting any exercise routine will likely add muscle mass, so there may be days or weeks when the scale doesn’t seem to show weight loss…but in reality, you absolutely lost FAT (you just gained muscle too, which is fantastic!).

Keep this in mind and continue to focus on good nutrition, counting calories, and sticking to your new running routine. This will keep you on the right track.

7.) Stay Motivated While Running for Weight Loss

Motivation While Running for Weight Loss

Speaking of staying on the right track…let’s talk about motivation.

Losing motivation ruins weight loss efforts.

So how do you stay motivated while on this weight loss journey? Here are my secrets to staying motivated:

  • Have a positive mindset – you can do this! and you will do this!
  • Remember your end goal and create mini goals in between, because achieving goals = instant motivation!
  • Plan, plan, plan – plan your runs, plan your meals, and don’t let a lack of planning ruin your ability to reach your goal
  • Have a support system – Have a friend, spouse or significant other be your go-to person when you need encouragement (or to celebrate a win with someone)
  • Expect bad days – but know how to overcome them. Push through or take a break but don’t let it be a blocker to success.
  • Enjoy the run – learn to enjoy the freedom and release of a good run, it makes the process so much more bearable!

Find out ALL the secrets to running motivation, and prepare yourself to crush your weight loss goals!

8.) Celebrate Wins

Celebrate Wins-Running for Weight Loss

And last but not least – celebrate your wins!

Allow yourself to celebrate mini goals along the way.  Say your total weight loss goal is 20lbs. Break that up into 5lb mini goals and select a reward for yourself when you hit each milestone…I like massages, so that’s my go-to reward.

Celebrating progress boosts happiness (and increased happiness means more motivation).

Seriously, have you ever looked at the scale and realized you lost 5lbs? That’s happy-dance worthy right there. And totally makes you want to keep up the good work!

Ready to start running for weight loss? Try these other running tips too!

How to Run for Beginners (Even if You Hate Running)

Running Gear for Beginners – What you Absolutely Need to Start

12 Useful Running Tips to Make Running Easier

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Running for Weight Loss - Learn How to Lose Weight Running (the healthy way)! #running #weightloss #loseweight #howtoloseweight
Running for Weight Loss
Running for Weight Loss
Running for Weight Loss
Want to lose weight the healthy way? Running for weight loss combines exercise with other healthy choices so you can consistently lose weight and keep it off, without gimmicks. #running #runningforweightloss #loseweight #loseweightrunning
 

*Please note, I am not a nutritionist or doctor, so please always consult with a professional if you have questions about the right food intake or weight loss program for your body. 

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