Running to lose weight can be a powerful option if you enjoy it. In particular, running can reduce stress hormones like cortisol – a big culprit in abdominal fat. The purpose of cortisol and adrenaline, released during the fight/flight response is to give us the resources to get away from that tiger (or whack him). Yet in modern society, what usually stresses us are the things we can’t run away from or whack. So the cortisol takes longer to diminish. Running sends your body the message that you have gotten away and it is safe to calm down.
Advantages of Running
- It gives you an intense all over workout.
- It is easy to increase the challenge without getting bored, unlike other set routines.
- It increases skeletal muscle and core strength and so increases metabolism.
- It increases lung capacity quickly. Extra oxygen increases metabolism and the effectiveness of your energy burning factories (mitochondria)
- It’s easy to start and continue. You can do it any time and anywhere so it’s easy to fit into a demanding schedule.
- You don’t need special equipment or even shoes when it comes down to it. People in developing countries run barefoot without benefit of fancy workout clothes. Studies are showing they actually have fewer injuries.
- It’s cheap – no expensive gyms or trainers necessary. Did I mention no need for fancy workout gear?
- On the other hand, it gives you a great excuse for some cool clothes and shoes to impress your friends.
- You don’t need to do hours of training – 20 minutes every second day is all you need for a steady fitness and metabolism improvement. Training too hard for long periods releases cortisol (responsible for breaking down muscle) – your worst metabolism decreasing nightmare.
- Fresh air and sunlight not only give you more oxygen, but vitamin D also (a deficiency is associated with obesity)
Disadvantages of Running for Weightloss
- The weather can be unpredictable. Trying to run in the snow or torrential rain can be really unpleasant. One solution is the good old treadmill, or if cost is prohibitive, or you are stuck in a cabin somewhere, you can even run on the spot. My Wii Fit is my favorite toy.
- It’s not always ideal to get hot and sweaty during your lunch break or before an even hotter date.
- Running for too long on hard surfaces can be damaging to your joints over time.
The “How” to of Running Successfully
- Be safe – if you haven’t run for a while, get your doctor’s OK.
- Set a realistic and achievable goal. Many make the mistake of trying to achieve too much in too little time. Small incremental goals are more motivating. A well-formed outcome is an achievable one.
- Decide on a schedule and use mental rehearsal to make it a habit.
- Take it easy. Working at 60% to 70% of your heart rate max is best for weight loss. Formula for heart rate max: 220 – your age. So for 60% of heart rate max multiple the result by .6. For example at 30 your heart rate max is 220 – 30 = 190 beats per minute. 60 percent of maximum heart rate is 114 bpm. 70 percent of maximum heart rate is 133 bpm. A heart rate monitor is an inexpensive tool, or you can check your pulse. You should be able to talk easily – if you can’t speak or you are breathless, your heart rate is too high.
- Start with a 5-minute medium pace run to warm up and prepare muscles and joints.
- Running with a friend can increase your motivation and enjoyment.
- Aim to build up to at least 15 to 30 minutes every 2nd day.
- Interval training is the most efficient for burning calories and putting your body into fat burning mode. This is where you do a few minutes of intensive running activity or sprints and then follow with a slower and more relaxed pace for a time before repeating the cycle. Intervals like this also reduce boredom.
- Running up hills or gentle slopes increases the calorie burning, but don’t push it. Steep hills (up and down) can create a lot of pressure on joints. On a treadmill, it’s easy to vary the incline a small amount each time.
- At the end of each run take a few minutes to cool down by running at a slow pace or walking rapidly until your heart rate slows to normal.