Today is global running day. If you are a runner, happy day to you – we hope you get out for a run today!
If you aren’t a runner but running has crossed your mind as the holy grail to losing weight before summer, today may be a great day to start.
But first, let’s talk.
It’s true, running is a great way to burn calories. It provides one of the highest calorie burns per minute of activity. It also builds endurance, may get you outside in nature and for many people, provides a runner’s high which is your body’s endorphin when working at this intensity.
Here’s the thing:
Weight loss won’t happen overnight. Just because you drag your bottom off the couch this Monday to start running around the block several times this week doesn’t mean you’ll see the scale budge by Friday. Your body will need time to adapt.
If running is part of your healthy weight solution, you need to be in it for the long haul.
Thus, we have two pieces of advice for new-to-running runners:
- consult with a physician if you have any health uncertainties that may prevent you from jumping into a running program
- don’t try too much too soon.
Your muscles will adapt to your new patterns of movement faster than your tendons and ligaments will. That is why many newbie runners end up injured when starting out. Just because your heart, lungs and leg muscles are ready to run at an intense pace for 5 miles, doesn’t mean the ligaments keeping your knees in place are up to the challenge yet. It takes time to build up stamina.
Begin by taking lots of breaks and alternating running with periods of brisk walking. Don’t go from 0 to 60 in a week, adjust your body to the increased workload first.
Don’t focus on calories burned yet. Or even number of miles. Instead, create a routine based on Time On Your Feet.
Using Time On Your Feet is a powerful tool because it allows you to let go of feeling guilty for walking (Is it still a “run” if I walk half of it? The answer is Yes!) and it encourages you to take the trail less traveled.
If your goal is to run 3 miles today, your instinct will be to find the flattest, easiest path available on which to run.
If your goal is to run for 30 minutes and you find a nature trail that slows you down with roots and rocks or hills, that’s okay because how far you get doesn’t matter – it’s all about Time On Your Feet.
That time on varied terrain is easier on your joints and will likely get you into some great natural places. Your brain will love the break from technology and busy-ness outdoor spaces provide.
Let go of how fast you are going for now. If it’s important, you can work on speed or distance later.
Build a plan that starts with short increments of time on your feet and especially when you are starting out, it’s a good idea to take a day off in between days of running. Rest days are when your body repairs itself to be stronger for the next time you ask it to run again.
Remember: you are in this for the long haul, not a short burst of intensity that lands you back on the couch, injured, because you went out too hard. There is no need to compete with anyone else.
Here’s the last piece of truth about running and weight loss: you can’t outrun a bad diet. Don’t set yourself up for weight loss failure by thinking becoming a runner means you can eat anything you want.
If you go for a run only to then consume hundreds more calories than you burned, that extra energy will still get stored on your body as fat. No amount of running can change that.
Yes, running is a great way to burn calories and boost your fitness but if you want to lose weight, you will still need to watch what you eat. Running is just one more tool in your weight loss strategy, it is not the only contributor to achieving a healthy weight.
Be thoughtful and patient when beginning a running program and for best results, stick with the long-haul mindset that keeps you constantly moving, week after week, month after month, year after year. In time, the consistency will pay off and you will be rewarded with improved fitness, endurance and a healthy weight.