A great number of people take up running for the purpose of weight loss. Many think it’s a simply a matter of “if I run a lot, I’ll lose heaps of weight, and I won’t have to worry about what I eat.” This is definitely not the case.
Experienced runners know that as important as their running regime is for the maintenance of their weight, the number of calories ingested is actually more important. Some claim the “ratio of diet to running importance” to be around 2:1, some 3:1 or even higher. It probably varies according to the individual. Whatever that ratio may be, the reality is, if you start a running program but match it with a doubling of calorie intake, you’ll almost certainly put on weight, not lose it.
However, if you are able to maintain your calorie intake, then running will lead to a loss of weight. Be aware, however, that an increase in muscle mass may lead to a temporary increase on the scales, before the loss of fat starts to dominate. Quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves are likely see an increase in lean body mass, along with the gluteus maximus muscles if faster running is included.
If weight loss is your primary motivation for taking up running, there are ways to go about your training that are better than others. The human body reacts in a different way to variety than it does to regularity. If you run the same distance each day at the same comfortable pace, your body will adapt to this routine, ultimately minimizing the daily calorie burn. It will still be better than not running at all, but your weight loss will stagnate.
A much better way to lose weight through running is to mix it up. Don’t let your body get used to “knowing” what it can afford to burn and to store each day in terms of calories. Include (on different days, and with adequate rest in between) a variety of long slow runs, short fast runs, and sprint sessions.
In fact, some running and lifestyle coaches advocate that very short, but highly intense, bursts of extreme physical activity will stimulate the body to metabolize calories at the highest possible rate. For a runner, this might entail a session of, say, 5 x 200 meters at 100% intensity, with five minutes rest in between each.
Simply run absolutely flat out and then rest. Your resulting metabolism will be activated for several hours afterwards, all that time burning more calories than would otherwise have been the case.
This sort of technique has certainly worked for me in the past. Like many things in life, variety is the key. Not only will diversifying your routine result in a more efficient weight loss, but it will also keep you psychologically fresh.
Tom Denniss is an Australian athlete, scientist, and entrepreneur. He has a PhD in Mathematics and Oceanography, has invented a technology to convert the energy in ocean waves into electricity, founded a company to commercialise that technology, has played professional rugby league, and was a finalist in the 2014 Australian of the Year Award. In 2013 he set a new world record for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot. Tom lives in Sydney, Australia. A former professional musician, he has played to audiences in eight countries. He has written various articles for newspapers, magazines, journals, as well as a book about his run around the world, titled The World At My Feet. You can read more of Tom's work here.
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