Have you ever seen a skinny person running and thought to yourself “If that person keeps running, there will eventually be nothing left!” If only that were true, then weight loss would be achieved by simply running countless miles. Unfortunately for weight loss and fortunately for survival, our bodies are very efficient adapting to exercise. For this reason, losing those last few pounds may seem to take forever and can get frustrating. Let’s take a look at getting started with a running program and how to move beyond the plateaus that occur.
First of all it is best to set realistic long term goals for weight loss. Decide what is realistic in terms of family/personal history (body type) and what is healthy. A BMI (Body Mass Index) chart can be used to set reasonable expectations for what is considered a “normal” height/weight ratio. Realistic consideration should be given to the amount of time needed each day to complete the workouts. People with long commutes or busy work schedules may be challenged to find the necessary time to complete workouts. A time challenged person may have to run during their lunch hour or other unconventional time. Lastly, you need to be very realistic in terms of your current overall health and physical condition. If you have any concerns about starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Let’s get started!
So now it’s time to get out the door and run. The following workout plan is designed as a beginners program to acclimate you to running up to 3 miles. Keep in mind that this is meant as a guideline and can be adjusted for your current fitness level. For the first 8 weeks, keep the pace of the run comfortable enough to hold a conversation. Ideally the non-running days would be used for active rest (walking or biking) but listen to your body. If you need a rest day, take one. A proper warm-up for the running days should consist of 10-15 minutes walking and 10 minutes of easy static stretching. The cool down, after the run, should be the same as the warm-up.
Week 1 Mon-Walk 20-30 min Tue-1 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 20 min Thu- mile run Fri-Rest Sat-1 mile run Sun-Walk 30-45 min
Week 2 Mon-Rest or Walk 20-30 min Tue-1.25 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 20 min Thur-1 mile run Fri-Rest Sat-1.25 mile run Sun-Walk 45-60 min
Week 3 Mon-Rest or Walk 30-45 min Tue-1 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 30 min Thur-1.5 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-2 mile run SunWalk 50-60 min
Week 4 Mon-Rest or Walk 30-45 min Tue-2 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 30 min Thur-1.5 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-2.25 mile run Sun-Walk 50-60 min
Week 5 Mon-Rest or Walk 30-45 min Tue-2.25 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 40 min Thur-2 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-2.5 mile run Sun-Walk 60 min
Week 6 Mon-Rest or Walk 20-30 min Tue-2.25 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 40 min Thur-2 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-2.5 mile run SunWalk 70 min
Week 7 Mon-Rest or Walk 20-30 min Tue-2.5 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 40 min Thur-2 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-2.75 mile run Sun-Walk 70 min
Week 8 Mon-Rest or Walk 20-30 min Tue-2.5 mile run Wed-Rest or Walk 40 min Thur-2 mile run Fri-Rest
Sat-3 mile run SunWalk 70 min
Moving beyond plateaus
Once you start a running program, you may see initial weight loss and assume you will continue to lose additional pounds each week/month. The longer you maintain a running program with the same types of workouts at a pace without much variation, the more the body adapts and becomes efficient at using fuel stores. It is normal to get “stuck” at a certain size or weight for a period of time if you do the same type of workout each day. Your body has hit a plateau (adjusted to the workload), and to move beyond the plateau you should gradually increase the intensity or distance of the workout. The rule of thumb for increasing distance is no more than a 10% mileage increase during a week from previous weeks. If you are averaging 20 miles per week, then a 2 mile increase for the next week would be the maximum. Gradual increases reduce the risk of overuse injuries. For more on overuse injuries read this article . Another way to overcome a plateau is by increasing the intensity of the workout. This involves running shorter distances at a faster pace. The following examples can be used for the higher intensity workouts. Even though you may be running shorter distances at a faster pace, studies have shown that fat continues to burn for up to 4 hours following more intense workouts. These types of workouts should be limited to once or twice a week to avoid injuries.
Original workout- 2 mile run High intensity workout-1 mile run at faster pace Alternate high intensity workout- 3 x 600 meter run with 1 minute rest
Original workout–3 mile run High intensity workout–1.5 mile run at faster pace Alternate high intensity workout–3 x 800 meter run with 2 minute rest
The main contributor to success in any fitness program is consistency. You have to set aside time each day and make it priority. If you are currently a sedentary person, you must make the commitment and lifestyle changes necessary to be successful with long term fitness. If your schedule requires you to miss more than 3 consecutive workouts, you should restart the program from the previous level in the workout plan. For instance if you were on week 5 then missed 3 days, you should start again on week 4. Consistency is the key to success.
Hit the Road
So let’s summarize the basics of starting and utilizing a running program for weight loss.
1. Set realistic goals
2. Include higher intensity workouts 1-2 times per week
3. Stay consistent
By following these training guidelines, you should be well on your way to your weight loss and muscle building goals.