Running For Weight Loss


My marathon is over and the last couple weeks before the race I was really bought into the carb loading. I may have started a little earlier than necessary, but that is supposed to be one of the benefits of doing a marathon and I wanted to really enjoy the experience. Come on…if you knew you where going to run 26.2 miles wouldn’t you want a little food reward too?

With that being said it is possible that I gained a little more weight through that process than I had anticipated. So now it’s back to running for weight loss. No matter what the infomercials may tell you, weight loss is really a pretty basic formula. Burn more calories than you take in and you will lose some weight. The larger the deficit the more weight you lose. There are certainly factors that come into play to help or hinder that process, but in general it is a simple equation. If a person weighs 150 lbs. and runs for 10 minutes they burn about 100 calories. That isn’t a lot considering the fact that you need to burn around 3500 calories to equal 1 pound of weight loss, but we aren’t trying to lose a pound a day so it’s OK. It’s a process that will happen over time not instantly.

What you have to consider is what type of running you are comfortable with and are willing to stick with. If you run for longer periods of time you will need to run slower, but your body has to work for a longer period of time and will thus burn calories longer. If you run faster you won’t be able to run as long, but your body has worked harder and burned calories faster. Here is an example of two runs done by a 130 pound woman.

Run #1 30 minutes @7min pace = 413 calories burned

Run #2 60 minutes @12min pace = 472 calories burned

These runs are similar in calorie burn but are completely different runs. If you only have 30 minutes go for run #1. If you have more time available you can make a choice, but keep in mind that your pace (or effort exerted) will have an effect on your calorie burn.

Keep in mind is that if you work your body harder it will work your muscles harder and will help build muscle. Those muscles will continue burning more calories after you stop the workout. Not to mention the fact that as your run your body becomes a more efficient runner and it takes less calories for you to do the same workout. Short quick runs keeps your body guessing and will keep the calorie burn at a higher rate. So a shorter more intense workout will continue burning calories at an increased level after the workout for a longer period of time.

My suggestion, and my plan, is a mixture of the two. I firmly believe in the benefits to your overall health of long slow steady runs, but I also understand the calorie benefits of intense workout. So I will try to do 2 or 3 30 minute workouts during the week at a higher intensity. Maybe speed work or just a fast 3-4 mile run. On Saturday, during our Run Richmond Group Run, I will do the longer slower run. Maybe 6-10 miles. That way I get the benefits of both types of running. Because being a well rounder runner is just as important as being a well rounded person.

So find a plan that works for you and stick to it. Maybe you aren’t ready to run yet, but walking has the same correlation. Walk slow for 1 hours or walk fast for 30 minutes. It’s all about the intensity of the workout not the actual speed you are moving. If intense for you is walking at a 15min per mile pace that do that for 30 minutes or do 20 min per mile for longer workouts. Just mix in the intense with the comfortable and you will get the benefits of both.

A good rule to follow is that if you can carry on a conversation you are at a good comfortable pace. If you can’t carry on a conversation you have reached an intense workout. Go burn those calories!