(Almost) Everything you need to know about running for weight loss.

Monday Mug Thoughts #36

Good Morning Finishers,

Did you know that last Tuesday was the unofficial holiday “quitters day?” Based on research from our pals over at Strava, January 19th was deemed the day that most people tend to give up on their resolutions. Not even a whole 3 weeks after the start of the year.

Did you make it past quitters day? If not, remember it’s not too late for you at all! There’s nothing but time left for you to hop back on the saddle, so don’t let a few mishaps deter you from your mission.

For those of you that centered your 2021 goals around weight loss, I’ve got a great round of mug thoughts for you. Today, we’re going to have a chat around running for weight loss and how you can ensure that you achieve the results you’re looking for.

Can I use running as a way to lose weight?

The short answer is absofreakenlutely! Running is one of the best ways to go about losing weight for a variety of reasons

First, it’s the most accessible. Cycling, swimming, and playing sports are great forms of aerobic activity, but all of which require a specific time, place, or equipment. The barrier to entry for running is non-existent. All you need to run is pair of decent running shoes and ground to run on. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and with anyone making it much easier to fit into your busy schedule on a daily basis, and thus, much easier to stay committed to.

Second, it’s incredibly efficient at burning calories. Why? Because running requires a long list of muscle groups working together in order to propel you forward. You know those signs on workout machines at the gym that show you what muscle groups that lift will activate? Well if running had one of those signs, here’s what it might look like.

All of these muscles require energy in order to move you, and that energy comes from the calories that you consume when you eat. The more muscles working, the more calories are needed to operate.

While this of course varies from person to person, you can expect to burn about 100 calories per mile that you run, regardless of speed. The more you weigh, the more calories per mile you can expect to shed, but estimating this amount at ~100 makes it really clean and easy for calorie counting.

Here’s a helpful explanation from this article I read:

“It’s a fairly stable number, regardless of how fast you run,” says Dr. Vigil. “If you want to burn 400 calories in one hour, you can run four miles at a leisurely 15-minute-per-mile pace. If you want to burn those same 400 calories in 30 minutes, you would need to run four miles at a brisk 7-minute-30-second pace.”

Third, there are countless other health benefits you can realize from running. Consistent running has been proven to drastically improve your mental health by releasing endorphins, enhancing cognition, and helping your brain last longer. Running supports better sleep, strengthens your limbs, boosts your immune system, and reduces the risk of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and depression. The best part is that these are just SOME of the benefits that have been discovered.

Finally, and this is definitely bias, running is the most fun. Here’s why I think this.

  1. Anyone can run, so it’s easy to get your friends to do it with you

  2. Progress happens fast in the beginning, so it feels really good and exciting

  3. You can run anywhere, so it’s a great way to explore new places

  4. You can challenge yourself by training for things like a half / full marathon

  5. Running groups, like My First Finish, are really fun to be a part of.

  6. You never conquer running. You can always go further or faster so there’s always something to work toward.

While this is only my opinion, it seems that people tend to agree with me too. In Strava’s “Year in Sport” 2020 review, you can read that there are now over 73 million athletes tracking activities on Strava, with 2 million new athletes joining every month. In doing research for this article, I also came across this survey by Adidas the revealed other people also enjoy running more for weight loss than other activities.

Looking for proven running weight loss success stories? Check out a Facebook page called Running Motivation Group and you’ll see daily testimonials of people losing crazy amounts of weight through running.

Got it, now how do I actually lose weight?

Great, now you’re ready to run. Let’s talk strategy now…

So here is going to be the Major Key 🔑 to weight loss for running, and really for any kind of workout routine. You have to burn more calories than you consume. Exercise alone isn’t going to help you achieve your dream beach bod. You have to operate at a calorie deficiency to lose weight and that means exercising daily AS WELL AS paying attention to what you eat.

In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. That’s it.

As mentioned above, running typically burns about 100 calories per mile. This metric is often overestimated by runners (including myself) and can lead to justifying an undeserved “cheat meal.”

For example, a 4-mile run will burn about 400 calories, but you might feel like you burned 4,000. Treating yourself to cake and ice cream because you “earned it” nets you about 1000 calories and now you’ve officially wasted the workout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen victim to this 😢.

“You can’t outrun your fork,” is a quote once shared with me by a friend in the M1F community, and it’s so true. You have to balance you’re eating habits with how much you’re exercising. THIS DOES NOT MEAN TO STARVE YOURSELF. Running more miles will require you to fuel up more, but you have to be conscious of just how much gas you're putting into the tank, and the quality of the gas you’re using. Here’s a really helpful guide to understanding how & what to eat.

Running hacks to losing more weight, faster

So you get the gist of things: burn more calories than you eat. With that in mind, there are some running techniques that you can use to burn more calories in less amount of time. I actually talked about it a bit in last week’s Monday Mug Thoughts.

You’re probably familiar with the term HIIT training at this point. If not, this stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, and it’s a form of exercise that involves short periods of really intense effort followed by short periods of rest. These bursts of higher intensities will burn even more calories than steady-state running and can even cause you to keep burning calories AFTER you’re done working out!

This training format has gained huge popularity in recent years due to countless fitness brands that offer classes. The biggest names in the game are places like Orange Theory, F45, SoulCycle, and CrossFit. Many people think that HIIT training is synonymous with going to (and thus paying for) a fitness class, but you can also implement HIIT training into your running routine too!

Interval runs, incline training, and repeats are all really great HIIT workouts that you can sprinkle into your weekly running schedule. I talk about these in detail in last week’s Monday Mug Thoughts so check that out to learn more.

“The Afterburn effect”

This higher intensity training can create something known as the “Afterburn effect” which refers to the additional energy that is used after exercise is complete. Scientifically known as “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC, this process involves the use of energy (aka calories) to replenish the body and help it return to it’s resting state.

To illustrate this example, think about a full-on sprint, a very high-intensity workout. After running as fast as you possibly can, you’re out of breath. It takes a few minutes of excessive panting and hands over your head until you’re ready to run again. This is the afterburn effect at work. Your body is thirsting for oxygen to replenish itself but needs energy in order to do so. This post-workout calorie burn can last for upwards of 24 hours after exercise.

IMPORTANT DETAIL: The calories you burn with the afterburn effect are minimal when compared to what you burn during the workout. 80% of the calorie burn will come from the training itself, so don’t think that you’re getting two workouts for the price of one. Every calorie helps though!

Make weight loss a “happy accident”

Losing weight might be the only reason you choose to start running. That’s a perfect reason to do it. That being said, I have noticed an inherent difference between folks that DO end up losing weight through running, and those that aren’t as successful.

People I’ve seen actually lose weight don’t just run to lose weight.

If you stay consistent with running, you’re going to lose weight. So the key is to figure out how to stay committed to running FIRST, and the weight loss will follow. If you’re stepping on the scale every single time you wrap up a morning jog, you’re going to struggle to achieve your goals. Progress isn’t going to happen fast enough for you, you’ll lose motivation, and you will probably give up. That’s the vicious cycle.

Embracing running for reasons outside of weight loss will completely change your perspective on the sport and that could make all the difference for you. In pursuit of your weight loss goal, maybe training for a half marathon is how you’re going to get there. Joining a running community might give you the accountability you’re searching for. Maybe just make an accountability bet with your friend.

In my experience, turning my attention away from losing weight and focusing it on different goals has always led to greater success. Just last year I lost over 40 lbs while training for my 56-mile ultramarathon. I knew I had to keep running because I had to train for the longest race of my life, and as a result, I was able to lose weight in the meantime.

Is this your year to lose the weight?

Everyone is different, so there is definitely no “one size fits all” solution for losing weight. These things worked for me, and many others, but may not be the magic formula for you.

I would bet though that we could find something that works for you together! If 2021 is the year for you to ACTUALLY lose weight, I’d love to help you figure out how to get there. It won’t happen overnight, and it sure as hell won’t be easy. But if you’re truly feeling committed to the goal, let’s make it happen.

Cheers,

Zack


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