Over the years, I've had the privilege to train numerous runners—from those looking to qualify for Boston to those looking to complete their first 5K. As much as I like hearing about PRs and fast race times, what I really love hearing about is my clients' transformations. There is no greater feeling than being able to take part in helping someone lose weight, get healthier, be able to keep up with their kids and live a better life, simply because they made the decision to train for a race.
Some may call it selfish, but for a personal trainer like myself, I just can't get enough.
Many of the runners I train take up the sport in hopes of reaching their weight loss goals. For those of you out there looking to drop a few unwanted pounds through running, there are five key points to keep in mind.
Change Your Pace
In order to up the calorie burn, you must commit to upping your pace. This is because when you start exercising, your body starts looking for ways to adapt. For example, when you initially begin training, running two to three miles may be a challenge, but over time your body gets used to the change of heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and stress. To compound the problem, when it comes to weight loss, your body also adapts to burning fuel in the form of calories.
Think back to a time when you started training again after a long break. After only a few minutes of running, you may have been surprised to find yourself breathless and working really hard to get going. That's because your body has lost its adaptability to running—but in the meantime, it's burning far more calories to get back to your pre-break fitness level.
Wait, so you're telling me in order to lose weight, I must stop training, then start again after some time off?
Not at all! A simple thing to add to your running regimen is training at different paces. Rather than doing every run at the same pace, try to change it up a bit. Throw a one-minute pickup (speed up the pace) at every five-minute mark.
Here are some other running workouts to help with weight loss as a runner:- Tempo Runs: In the simplest of terms, tempo runs involve faster paces than your normal pace. They are often referred to as “comfortably fast.” Tempo runs are used to help lactic acid slowly build up in your bloodstream in order for your body to learn how to deal with it. Your lactate threshold measures the pace that lactic acid will accumulate in your muscles, causing the start of muscle failure. Your lactic threshold relates to the burning muscle sensation you get during intense runs. If you’re running too slowly, then you won’t see the greatest benefits from the workout. This is a crucial element of long distance training—and it will aid in your weight loss. (Learn more about tempo runs here.)
- Strides After Runs: Aim to add strides two to three times a week. These are pickups when you are finished with your workout, and they are to be done at a faster pace—though not all out—while focusing on really good form. Try to do five sets of 10 to 15 second strides. (Learn more about strides here.)
- Fartlek Runs: Literally meaning "speed play" in Swedish, fartleks are common in the running community. A fartlek is a change of pace and duration of intensity throughout a run. It basically serves to shock your system so it cannot adapt. Over time, your body is better prepared to handle variations or changes in intensity during a run (ie., going up an unexpected steep hill during a race). Some examples of fartlek workouts include: 15 second pickup at every minute for five minutes, or run two minutes at a faster pace followed by 10 minutes of an easy recovery pace. (Learn more about fartleks here.)
- Track Workouts: Taking your workouts to a track can help with leg turnover and overall speed. Speed workouts on a track can also activate different energy systems in your body, which help it tap into fat-burning mode far more efficiently. Be sure to do a complete warm-up and cool-down on track workout days. (Learn more about track workouts here.)
- Hill Workouts: Running hills have a very similar reaction to the body as track workouts. Hill workouts can also help improve proper running posture. Find a decently steep hill and sprint up it as fast as you can at least five times. Be sure to stretch your calves and Achilles after hill workouts. (Learn more about hill workouts here.)