Ask The Expert

How To Start Running For Weight Loss (Expert Tips)

We asked a select group of health and fitness experts for their top tips on how to begin running for weight loss

Running For Weight Loss
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Running can be a great tool to help you achieve results on your weight loss and fitness journey.

When it comes to losing unwanted weight, it’s widely accepted that the most effective method is to stick to a nutrition and exercise plan in which you’re burning slightly more calories than you’re consuming over time.

Running is a great form of exercise that can help to support you on your journey as you look to achieve your health and fitness goals.

But what are some of the key things to think about when it comes to running and weight loss when you’re just starting out?

We asked a select group of experts for their top tips when it comes to running for weight loss.

Here is what they said.

Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. Our articles and the products featured in them are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Always speak with a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, and/or taking any supplements.

Start Slowly – And Listen To Your Body

Dr. Alex Tauberg, Board Certified Chiropractor and Owner of thepittsburghchiropractor.com

Running is a great way to lose weight, but it needs to be done in a systematic way so as to reduce the chance of getting injured.

Injuries will set your weight loss journey back and make it more difficult to get into a routine.

If you are a beginner just starting to get into running, you should slowly progress into the routine to prevent injury.

I generally recommend starting at around 20-30 minutes two to three times a week. Do what you feel comfortable doing at first. Don’t push yourself too far.

Once you have found your baseline, you will only want to progress at an increase of intensity of 10 per cent per week. Progressing faster than that increases your risk of injury or overtraining.

When running, listen to your body. That is the best way to avoid injury. Besides delayed onset muscle soreness, you should not be experiencing intense pain when you run or afterward.

If you do experience pain, that is your body telling you that you are doing something wrong.

Doing the above should reduce your chance of getting injured when starting a running program which will allow you to continue on with your weight loss journey.

Couple Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Get The Right Shoes And Consider Walk-Run Intervals

Shellie Wingate, Certified Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Nutrition Coach

While we now know that fat loss isn’t always as simple as calories-in vs. calories-out, when done correctly, running can be a simple and sustainable form of exercise that burns calories and helps with fat loss.

When a client expresses interest in wanting to start a running program I always provide the following tips.

1) Invest in a good pair of shoes, preferably at a run/walk shop where you can be properly fitted for your size and gait, or you can try a website that will pick a pair of shoes for you based on a questionnaire.

2) If you are running outside, map out your run before you start, making sure you know the area well and you know the area is safe for pedestrians.

This will not only help you to avoid running for too long, but also help you to avoid getting lost or putting yourself in danger.

3) Start by alternating between running at a slow, comfortable pace for 30 to 60 seconds, then walk for 60 to 90 seconds for 10 to 20 minute sessions. As your endurance gets better, you can slowly increase the time you run and decrease the time you walk.

Increase the time of the session by five minutes every week or every other week until you reach your target goal. There are good beginner running apps available, such as Couch25K, that will coach you through this process.

Man Running On Road

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

4) For fat loss purposes, you don’t even have to run the entire time of your session. You can actually stick with walk-run intervals if that feels better to you.

For many people, using the walk-run interval is a sustainable way for them to include running in their exercise program without causing the body to respond negatively to the physical stress of running.

5) Running for exercise does not require carb-loading, unless you are running for long periods of time such as an hour-and-a-half or longer.

A regular meal at least two hours before a run of an hour or less should give you enough energy to sustain your run and enough time between the meal and the run to avoid stomach cramps.

6) A mistake I see many new runners make is using their running session as a justification to indulge in highly processed foods and/or high sugar beverages, such as sports drinks, after their run. It doesn’t take much of these types of foods and beverages to negate the calories burned during a run.

Drinking water after your run will help you to rehydrate. Having a balanced meal at your next meal time will replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to recover properly.

7) Take at least two to three days off per week. Strength training on your days off is an option which can actually help you to improve your running skills and avoid injury as well as improve fat loss.

Active recovery on days off, such as a leisurely walk or bike ride, yoga, or a light hike can help you renew your energy while giving your body the rest it needs to avoid injuries.

Woman Running in Park

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Start Small To Avoid Injury

Alicia Filley, Physical Therapist and Founder Of The Healthy Hiker

Running is a great way to increase calorie expenditure to help facilitate weight loss.

For those beginning a running program, there are a few things to remember.

Firstly, start small. After a 10 minute walking warm-up, incorporate jogging intervals of one to three minutes every four minutes within your current walking distance.

Increase these intervals by one minute every three to five days.

Most running-related injuries occur because runners progress their distance and pace too quickly.

Therefore, take your time in building up longer intervals with shorter walking rest periods.

Group running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Consistency Is Key

Timothy Lyman, Certified Personal Trainer and Director of Training
Programs at Pittsburgh Fleet Feet

Twenty to 30 minutes of daily exercise combined with a healthy diet and proper sleep hygiene is the minimum effective dose for weight loss.

Another mental note to take is that sustained weight loss is the result of a higher metabolism. In order to increase your resting metabolic rate, it is the consistency of exercise that is crucial and not the intensity or duration.

Focus on consistent, quality movement (run, walk, bike, climb, paddle board, etc.) every day, rather than embracing the weekend warrior mentality.

For most runners, working within 60 to 90 per cent of their maximum heart rate will offer the greatest benefit on all fronts.

If the primary goal is weight loss, sticking with 60 to 70 per cent of maximum over a consistent stretch of time is the best bet. Consistency is key here!

The most common mistake I see is people trying to make too many unsustainable changes all at once. It’s less than ideal to go on a diet that severely restricts calories at the same time you start a high-intensity workout routine.

People like to do too much, too soon in order to see instant results. But these results aren’t sustainable if you haven’t created the right habits and behavioral patterns to start with.

Man Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Running Is Effective – But Only Do It If You Enjoy It

Rob Arthur, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Nutrition Coach

Running, or any form of exercise, can certainly help for weight loss, but a major factor to consider is whether it’s an activity you’ll do consistently or not.

So, before picking up running in an effort to reach and maintain a healthy weight, consider first if you enjoy it. After all, it will only benefit you if you do it consistently.

If you do enjoy it and want to keep it up for the (pun alert) long run, start conservatively and build up mileage and speed slowly.

Nothing will sideline your efforts faster than an injury, and doing too much too soon is a common mistake.

In addition to running, incorporating some resistance training into your routine can be a great way to build and retain lean mass and prevent injury. This can also help with general health and shifting some of that extra weight even when you’re not actively training.

Making an effort to increase movement throughout the day, even in small spurts, can also help. This can help boost non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which typically accounts for more of our caloric burn than structured exercise.

Finally, making positive changes to your diet is a critical component of losing weight. Focus on minimally processed, nutrient dense foods, prioritize protein with every meal, and fill in the gaps with healthy carbs and fats from whole-food sources.

Pay attention to your motivations for eating and your appetite. Eat slowly, and stop when 80 per cent full – satisfied, not stuffed.

Remember that your worth is not in your weight. While reaching a healthy weight when you have weight to lose can dramatically increase your quality of life, no number on the scale will make you happy.

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