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Running - An Indispensable Tool For Weight Loss

By Randy Leigh
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It seems as though people are quickly forgetting the basics of what constitutes an effective program for weight loss. The recent trend is 'The fancier the gadget/method, the more effective it is'. No wonder giant corporations have made millions of dollars getting people to buy products/services that do little for weight loss. Heating and electric belts, shaking dumbbells, fancy fitness programs, pills and supplements, 'wonder products', 'dark secrets'; and the list goes on! The actual philosophy is much simpler. You need absolutely nothing! You can use running to your advantage and with some common sense and motivation (of course), to achieve effective weight loss in a short period of time.

Running for weight loss- But why?

The list of reasons are endless and so are the advantages. Athletes, gymnasts and even weight training enthusiasts use running to supplement their workout routine so they can burn fat more effectively. The main aim is to increase the daily caloric expenditure. Endurance type running is typically defined as the 'common jogging'. Your heart rate is in the 50% - 75% of Max HR, your breathing rate is high but stable, leg muscle contractions are not that intense and the range of motion of your muscles are limited as well. This type of running is aerobic and is a great tool for burning fat (As we will discuss later). Such endurance type running conditions your heart and increases cell capacity to absorb oxygen (VO2 Max).

Endurance running is a perfect example of Low Intensity Training (LIT) for cardiovascular strength. In order to help you maintain muscle mass as well, it would be a good idea to supplement your running sessions with resistance or weight training. Typically, 1 or 2 sessions of resistance training for every 3 sessions of running would be ideal.

Some people prefer weight training sessions immediately after running. Running sessions which last up to 1 hour can be performed on weight training days, if you're really looking for a quick weight loss regimen. Otherwise, it is best to separate your weight training session and your low intensity cardio by 6 hours. Running and weight training sessions should not typically exceed the 1 hour (Each) mark if you are doing them on the same day. If you choose to use this strategy, make sure you make up for the increased physical exertion with proper nutrition and rest. For most people such intense training is not ideal. It is recommended to alternate between running and weight training on consecutive days. Of course, don't forget to take a day or two off, per week.

A few reasons why running is great for weight loss:

  • Everyone can do it, practically anywhere.
  • Excellent form of cardiovascular exercise
  • Altering the intensity of your run alters the preference of energy system. You can run 'aerobically' or 'anaerobically'.
  • There's nothing fancy to it. All you need is a pair of shoes.
  • Running is a versatile exercise. It doesn't interfere with other forms of exercise. If you're into any other sports, you can continue with your routine and use running as a ‘Add-on' exercise for increased endurance.

Explaining 'Aerobic fat loss' triggered by running

As mentioned and explained earlier, running is an aerobic activity. Aerobic (Meaning 'with air') activity causes all the energy systems to expend energy (burn calories) while there is an abundance of oxygen in the system.

Here are some characteristics of an aerobic activity:

  • Aerobic means 'with air'. There is adequate oxygen available.
  • Supports diverse aerobic metabolism
  • Intensity is lower (50 - 75% of your max heart rate).
  • Consists of low intensity muscle contractions for longer periods of time.
  • Any physical activity lasting beyond 3 minutes, which elevates your heart rate beyond 50% can be referred to as an aerobic activity.
  • Aerobic running uses two primary types of energy sources; Carbohydrates and Fats.
  • Maximum calorie expenditure occurs during the exercise.
  • Improvement parameters include VO2 max and physical endurance levels.

Understanding how your body works is very important to determine what intensity of exercise you need for maximum fat loss.

Conclusion - What to expect?

Running can trigger rapid weight loss. It is a very effective form of training and exercise but let's not forget that running does take some toll on the body. In order to replenish your body, proper nutrition and rest is very important and should not be overlooked.

To give you an idea of how many calories you can burn in a typical run;

For someone weighing 170 lbs (77 Kg) and running at a pace of 6 min/km (9.6 min/mile approx):

A 10k burns about 800 calories.

A 15K burns about 1200 calories.

A Half-Marathon burns about 1700 calories.

The numbers themselves are staggering. But the prerequisite to this type of calorie burn is that you should be able to run long distances. If you've just started running, or if you're extremely out of shape in terms of weight and/or fitness level, start slow. Start with a shorter target of 3K or 5K and try to build up your stamina over time. You can also try alternating between running and walking if you're unable to run long distances. Remember, consistency and perseverance are key; it is impractical to think that you're going to run a 10K on the very first day, if you're a beginner. Tread slowly, be consistent, stay on a great nutrition plan and rest. In no time you'll be running like Forrest Gump and will lose a ton of weight in the process.

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