Running for Weight Loss?The Complete List: 25 Ways and Tools to Lose Weight by Running
When I first started running in High School, I was overweight. I thought by running, I could shed the stubborn pounds. Sadly, the weight didn’t come off even after several months of running.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry.
Over the last decade or so of running, I’ve learned how to use running to help weight loss.
Here are helpful tools & ways running can actually help with weight loss.
- Look Past the Calories you Burn Through Running
The problem I had when I first started running was thinking I could eat whatever I wanted after I ran. But there’s a huge issue with that kind of mindset. Consider a simple calculation.
It’s said that most people burn about 100 calories per mile (which on average is about 10 minutes of running).
Let’s say you run a good 3 miles for about 30 minutes. That’s 300 calories you burned.
Now consider the food you eat or even the drinks you drink. Here are a few food/drink items you may consume throughout the day:
- Bagel – 230 calories
- Croissant – 200 calories
- Onion Rings/Fries (1 serving) – 300 calories
- Granola Bar – 120 calories
- Chocolate Bar – 250 calories
- 1 Slice of Pizza – 250 calories
- Juice (1 Cup) – 130 calories
- Filet O Fish (McDonald’s) – 432 calories
- And it’s most likely, you won’t just eat 1 serving of any of the above items.
It gets even worse when dining out at restaurants/fast food as indicated above!
But just think about it… the calories you burn in an entire workout can be completely wiped out from eating a slice of pizza, a sandwich, or two glasses of juice!
If you’re trying to lose weight by running and burning calories, you’ll never outrun the calories you consume.
So forget counting the calories you burn… it just doesn’t help.
- Use Running to Boost Your Endorphins
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.
Endorphins have numerous benefits, one of which includes help relieve stress.
It’s what every runner can attest to, that great feeling you get after a run. And in some cases after a prolonged period of running, there’s even a runner’s high.
Ever heard of stress eating? Almost everyone gets stressed whether because of work-related issues or interpersonal related problems.
The best way you can help yourself lose weight is to release endorphins by running instead of going to food.
- Use Running to Reduce Calorie Intake
Ultimately, losing weight comes down to a simple calculation:
# of calories you intake vs # of calories you burn.
There are a lot of diets, fads, exercise machines, or claims to help lose weight but ultimately the most scientifically proven way of losing weight is by reducing your caloric intake.
So how do you use running to help you reduce your caloric intake and lose weight? Doesn’t running make you hungrier?
Yes and No..
If you’ve ran before, you would know that a lot of times you don’t feel hungry immediately after your run.
A recent study showed that intense exercise reduces the hunger hormone.
Researchers believe this hunger reducing effect has to do with blood flow to the stomach. “Since ghrelin is produced in cells within the stomach, a reduced blood flow to the stomach might possibly lead to reduced ghrelin in the circulation,” says David Stensel, Ph.D. source: https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/exercise-makes-you-less-hungry-says-new-study
So by running, you can actually reduce your hunger level and caloric intake to help you lose weight if you know how to do it to your advantage!
Your doctor and your mom always told you drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
There’s a good reason for that. But sometimes we’re just lazy or don’t think about drinking water throughout the day. Running forces us to drink more water.
And here are just some of the reasons why water helps you lose weight:
- Water boosts your metabolism
- Water cleanses your body of waste
- Water acts as an appetite suppressant so you eat less.
- Studies have shows it helps burn calories.
- Water helps our muscles perform at its best.
- Water helps boost mood
- Incorporate High Intensity Interval Training to burn more calories
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has numerous benefits.
HIIT are workouts that involve short periods of high intensity exercise alternated with recovery periods.
In running, it can simply be sprinting one lap around a track followed by a recovery slow jog and alternating sprint, jog, sprint, jog.
Benefits of HIIT include:
- Burning More Calories
- Increasing your Metabolic Rate AFTER your run (so burning more calories even while resting)
- Studies have shown HIIT can help burn fat
- Helps Build Muscle, which burns more fat
- Can Help Reduce Heart Rate / Blood Pressure
- Can Help Reduce Insulin Levels so the body can burn more fat throughout the day
- Incorporate Hill Training
Hill training is just one very good way to do High Intensity Interval Training.
The easiest way to run with hills is to alternate between sprinting down the hill and jogging up the hill.
The resistance going up the hill gets the heart rate up quickly, while the spring down the hill is a good way for recovery.
In case you’re running outside a lot or even training for a road race (5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, Marathon), this is also a perfect way to get comfortable running up and down hills.
- Use Cross-Training Methods
The truth is running puts a significant amount of pressure on your joints. Some people are also more prone to injuries than others.
Regardless of whether you’re training for an Ironman Marathon or just running leisurely, cross-training has numerous benefits.
Cross-training is just doing other forms of cardiovascular activity besides running.
Some great cardio workouts can come from:
- Weight Training
- Kickboxing / Self-Defense classes
- Elliptical at the Gym
- Run in a race
Whether it be a half-marathon, 10k, 5K, or even a 1 mile race! What better way to give yourself a goal than to train for an organized race.
There are plenty of races all around the U.S. or you can even spice things out by planning for a destination race.
Besides getting the thrill of running with several other participants, you usually also get cool swag to bring home, a fun after-party, and the sheer joy of accomplishing something!
Give yourself 3-4 months but start looking for a race you can plan to run for today!
- Get More & Better Sleep
Running can help you improve your sleep at night. Why is sleep important?
Studies have shown people who sleep less have increased appetites.
There are three hormones that are affected by lack of sleep – Ghrelin, Cortisol, and Leptin.
Ghrelin is a hormone released in the stomach that signals hunger to your brain.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that also increases appetite.
Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that suppresses hunger and signals fullness to the brain.
Studies have shown that those who slept for less, had 15% higher ghrelin levels, higher cortisol levels, and about 15% lower leptin levels.
Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation affects your resting metabolism rate (RMR) which is the number of calories your body burns when it’s at rest.
- Use a Running App (to Track your Progress)
There are a lot of great apps these days to help you run and lose more weight. Here are a quick summary of some awesome smartphone apps.
- Runkeeper: Tracks your pace, distance, calories burned, time, and history of your runs!
- MapMyRun: All the basics (pace, distance, calories burned, time) plus links to other fitness trackers or heart rate monitors!
- Nike+ Running: You don’t need to have Nike products to enjoy this! Cool thing about this app are the gamified options to share personal goals, challenge friends, etc.
- Strava Running and Cycling: If you run and cycle! Also unique features like leaderboards, achievement badges, challenges to make it more fun!
- Couch-to-5K: Great app for novice level runners with training plans!
- Endomondo: A very social app that lets you share photos and videos from your run
- Charity Miles: For every mile you run, sponsors will donate to a great cause! The more you run, the more difference you help make for somebody else!
- Zombies, Run!: A fun app to spice up your runs where you are escaping zombies, collecting supplies, etc!
- Get fitted for running shoes
Getting fitted for shoes helps with injury prevention. As you run more, you will want to do all you can to stay injury-free so you can keep going!
Everyone’s body and feet are also different and continue to change.
Getting fitted also has shown to help improve performance, which will help you run faster and longer.
A lot of running stores these days will provide custom fitting if you go into their store. They will evaluate a number of things by seeing how you naturally run.
Find a local store on Google today, go and get fitted, and invest in a fitted pair of shoes. It’ll make an enormous difference!
- Invest in comfortable Running apparel
I used to run in t-shirts and regular gym shorts. Until I started running more and experiencing rashes, chafing, and other minor injuries all around my body that made it hard to continue running.
Good running apparel is not only comfortable to help you run more and longer, but it also prevents injuries.
In addition to investing in a good pair of shoes, you also want a few comfortable pairs of running shorts that will prevent chafing (when your legs rub together on your thighs too much that it causes an unpleasant rash).
Moisture-wicking, technical shirts also help pull sweat away from your body and dry faster.
Other running apparel that are helpful can be caps/visors, running belts (to store items you may need to bring with you on a run), good socks, a good pair of sports earbuds if you listen to music while you run, and a quality water bottle to keep you hydrated!
- Increase your mileage
As you run more, you should begin to notice you’re able to run a little longer, easier, quicker, or a combination of any of the aforementioned.
It’s good to not remain stagnant and run the same distance all the time. Sometimes, it’s good to increase mileage so you burn more calories.
Just be careful not to overtrain and not to increase too dramatically especially when you first start out.
Think of it as a marathon where you want to find a sustainable lifestyle you can continue to live on instead of a sprint where you start off too quickly, only to stop exercising after a few months.
- Get a running plan/journal
Running plans or journals are very helpful if you have a goal in mind. Since it’s important to run different mileage based on what your goals are, journals help you track not only your training plans but also your progress!
You really don’t need a fancy journal to start!
Any office journal, notepad, or organizer is good enough to use.
Or if you prefer to have everything digitized, you can download a running app or just use a notepad on your smartphone!
The important things are: setting a goal and consistency. If you’re not good with consistency, accountability also helps!
- Have rest days
Rest days are vital to prevent injury and give your body time for recovery.
It helps you get stronger so you can run further and more the next time.
But not only that, rest days also are important mentally as it gives your brain time to just chill.
Make sure to take time to rest, spend time with friends/family, or try a new activity outside of your normal routine!
Rest and variation in routine also helps build long-term disciplines over short-term.
Take rest days and be intentional about it!
- Find a running partner
One of the best motivators to help you run more and longer is having a running partner.
Ideally, it should be someone who runs slightly more than you but so long as he/she is around the same level, that is perfectly fine too.
Running is a lot easier having someone to run with.
It also builds a closer relationship with the person you’re running with as usually you have opportunity to talk and catch up on your run.
It’s likely you know a lot more people who run than you think.
So take a look through your social media or contact list and reach out to somebody to see if they would want to run with you!
It’s very likely, someone else can highly benefit from having a partner to run with too!
- Find a run group
If you don’t want to run with just a partner or if you can’t find somebody running around the same level as you, running groups are also very helpful and great to be part of.
Running groups are a great way to socialize, meet new people, and help motivate/encourage each other.
There are countless running groups all around the world or you can even consider starting your own run group at work or at school.
There are also plenty of social runs sponsored by local athletic shoe stores you can find in your area.
- Listen to Music while Your Run
Running can have numerous benefits outside of just exercise and burning calories.
Running can help relieve stress and give you time to contemplate.
Music helps motivate, set the mood, or take your mind off just running for the sake of running.
Invest in a good pair of sports earbuds that stay on your ear, an arm pocket for your music player, and good music to help you get through those miles!
- Set goals for your run
It’s easy to just go out and run. But it’s helpful sometimes to set goals for your run. Whether it be increasing mileage, increasing speed, building endurance, or just having more fun with running.
Goals are helpful to track progress.
Goals also give you something to work towards.
So set a goal for your running. It’ll be helpful to keep you motivated and keep you running for longer.
- Train for a longer distance run (like a Half-Marathon)
Most people run a few miles each day. But if you’ve never taken on the challenge of running a long-distance run (such as a half-marathon), the experience is one you don’t want to miss.
Longer distance goals are great achievements to work towards.
It takes at least a few months of training to be physically and mentally prepared to take on something like a half-marathon.
It’s certainly a challenge that requires training.
But the reward of completing 13.1 miles is worthwhile, as most people would say.
And perhaps the best part isn’t just completing the 13.1 miles itself but the journey there.
- Don’t overtrain / Run too much
It may be tempting to run as much as you can when you first start out. Or drastically increase mileage when you’re feeling pretty good.
However, injuries often come unexpectedly.
And you don’t want to abruptly end your ability to run. Make sure you’re not overtraining by listening to your body.
If something hurts, stop, take some time to recover, and get it checked up if necessary.
It’s a lot better to make adjustments on distance, running gear, etc. than to have to go through unwanted injuries during your training.
- Find your favorite spot to run
Find a go-to spot to run so you don’t have to think about where to run every time you step out.
Once you have your usual “course”, it’s a lot simpler to just get up and go.
Consistency in course also allows you to train consistently without going too far or too short.
It also allows you to work on form and speed during your runs!
- Invest in quality running gear
Aside from shoes and apparel, running gear can be quite helpful and make your runs more pleasant and smooth.
A few running gears we’ve tried and recommend include:
- Garmin watch to track pace, distance (or a smart phone app if you carry your phone while running)
- Glide to prevent chafing
- Headband for sweat management
- Tights for running in the cold
- Water belts (to bring water with you on your run)
- Running belts (to bring items like keys, cash, etc on your run)
- UV Sunglasses / goggles to protect your eyes from the sun + particles in the air
- Massager to soothe your muscles after a run
- Improve your Running Form
It’s important to know that everybody has a different form that works best for them. Everyone runs differently and that is completely okay.
But here are 4 simple ways to overall improve your current form.
- Drop your shoulders to minimize shoulder tension. You don’t need to expend energy on holding your shoulders up.
- Run tall. Slouching makes it harder to run.
- Let your arms naturally swing instead of holding it up
- Don’t strike the ground with your heel or toes.
- Aim for a higher cadence (how many times your foot falls in a minute – aim for 180 per minute)
- Use Running to Continue to Motivate Yourself
The best ingredient to losing weight by running isn’t just reducing your calories, eating healthier, drinking more water, or exercising. It simply come down to drive and motivation.
If you don’t really care about losing weight, then it’s likely you won’t lose weight. But if you’re motivated to shed some pounds whether it be for health reasons, to boost your self-esteem, or simple to be more fit and active – then motivation is key.
While running itself may not burn a lot of calories, it helps create a discipline that becomes a key motivating factor in persevering to achieve your goals.
So… keep running literally and with everything else in life!