Summer, the season of shorts and crop tops may be over, but there are still plenty of reasons to look after your physique. Whether you’re contemplating some autumn PBs, or simply want to look and feel your best, there’s no time like the present to shed a little weight.
Unfortunately, losing weight and keeping it off doesn’t come easy. But as a runner, you do have an advantage. Studies of obesity have shown that people who have a sense of well-being through physical activity, are better able to eat a healthy diet. Which is half the weight-loss battle.
The other half, of course, is keeping the pounds off. Here again, runners have an advantage, because exercise is the most important factor in keeping weight off.
So don’t wait another minute: you already have the weapons you need to win the battle of the bulge. And here’s your incentive: by losing just a pound or two a week, you could easily drop 10 pounds in six weeks.
To ensure ultimate victory, we have more than 25 simple weight-loss strategies over five short articles:
The 22 tips in Days 2-5 are for Runner's World magazine subscribers only. (The good news is that you can get instant access to the articles, 12 issues delivered to your door, AND 30% off here).
To begin with, here's how to make the most of running for weight loss:
Running Off The Pounds
Add 15 minutes:
Run 15 minutes more this week than your typical week. Then add another 15 minutes in each of the next three weeks. This means that in one short month you’ll be running an hour more per week than you were. Maintain this new running routine for the next two months, and we guarantee you’ll lose weight.
Speed works: Dietician and exercise physiologist Scott Fisher recommends speedwork on a track to help slim down. Alternate fast laps and slow laps. “The high-intensity running increases the body’s natural production of human growth hormone, which promotes fat-burning and leanness,” he says.
Run early: Twice a week, get up before breakfast for your morning run. At that time you’re in a ‘fasting’ state, as you haven’t yet replaced the carbohydrates burned during the night. If you run in this state, your body will call on a higher percentage of fat calories than usual.
Join a running club: You'll run more when you’ve made a club commitment and found some training partners. This will help you melt off the pounds. The support of your running-club friends will also encourage you to reach your goal weight. Feelings such as stress, depression, loneliness and anger can lead to overeating. Running partners and a support system can boost your spirits, which will help you stick to your programme.
Reserve a run: To make sure you continue your work-outs when travelling, book a room at a hotel that has treadmills and other fitness equipment. An early morning run or cross-training session will energise you on even the most stressful days.
Discussions about weight loss are fraught with danger. On the one hand, obesity, heart disease and general dietary irresponsibility are on the rise; on the other, the idea that weight loss is the be-all and end-all of life, can lead to a spiral of problems including depression, malnutrition and even eating disorders. Here is a series of steps that may help you organise and assess your need to lose weight:
1. Calculate your Body-Mass Index (BMI) as a rough guide to your weight and health (BMI = bodyweight in kilograms 4 height in metres2). A BMI of 24 or below is considered healthy. (But take this with a pinch of salt: particularly muscular individuals may have a higher BMI but still be healthy.)
2. Set a realistic target for the amount of weight you want to lose over the period and do not exceed it.
3. Get a body-fat assessment done, either with callipers or an electrical bioimpedence device (your GP may be able to do this, as should a nutritionist or the staff at your local gym). Then use this as your marker of weight loss. (Muscle weighs more than fat, so frequent trips to the gym could seem to result in no overall weight changes when in fact you are losing excess fat.)
4. Think in terms of dietary improvements, rather than pounds lost. Hopefully you’ll end up becoming a healthy-eating runner rather than someone running and dieting to lose weight.
5. If you are considering a prolonged period of weight loss, or want to lose a lot of weight (over half a stone), consult your GP for further advice.