Best Running Plan For Weight Loss
While running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories, you may be surprised when the pounds aren’t falling off after you pick up the sport. If you haven’t already, check out this post on aspects outside of running that effect your weight loss efforts!
Have your nutritional habits – what you’re fueling with and how much – nailed down, and committed to being consistent with a running routine? Great, let’s look at an efficient running plan that respects your time and gives you the biggest bang for your buck!
I’ll be honest, There is no ONE way to lose weight through running. Running 50 miles a week may be what I need, and am capable of, to see a change in my shape, but for you that number may be closer to 20 miles. A speed interval for you may be an 8:00 minute/mile pace, and for me it may mean topping out at a 9:15. My point is, focus on the concepts and types of workouts, fitting them into your weekly routine as best fits your schedule, and don’t get too caught up in the number of intervals or distance.
To sum it up, our bodies react to stress and need to be challenged to change. What challenges you will change you, and as you increase your fitness, you’ll increase the workout demands to continue challenging your body.
With that said, here are 3 key components to a solid running plan for fat loss:
#1 High Intensity Intervals
Intervals is a loose term as it technically means any workout that has fast running repetitions followed by a recovery periods, but for weight loss you want to keep the intervals on the shorter (time or distance) so you can really push yourself. Benefits of high intensity intervals include:
-Improves fast twitch muscle ability (i.e. makes you faster)
-Increases strength and improves form
–Burns more fat and calories POST workout than steady state
-More efficient with your time (burn more in less time)
-Preserves muscle mass (aiding in fat loss)
If you aren’t doing any type of interval run, start with one a week for 20 minutes, eventually working up to 30 minutes (this includes a 5 minute warm up AND cool down). The great thing about intervals is that they make your workout fly by! Not only will you be working out for less time overall, you’ll be focusing on one small interval at a time. These workouts make even the treadmill not so boring!
Warm up for 10 minutes with either a slow run or dynamic stretching
Do speed intervals based on distance or time – up to 800 meters (1/2 mile) or 3 minutes
Recover with slower paced run for half or equal distance/time
Repeat intervals for 15-30 minutes
Cool down 5 minutes
Fast is relative, so I’m not going to prescribe what pace you run. These intervals are all about effort, and once you’ve been doing them consistently, you’ll naturally be able to increase your fast pace. These speed intervals should feel like an 8-9 on the RPE chart. You should be able to keep the pace for the length of the interval, but you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation, only short words. As I like to tell my clients, you shouldn’t be chatting but you shouldn’t be puking!
Recovery should be at minimum, half the length or time of your hard effort interval, and at most equal to it. You can either run faster, or try to keep the same pace up hill (on incline on the treadmill) for a similar effect. After all, hills are speed work in disguise!
Here are some high intensity intervals to play with:
1/4 mile interval with 1/4 mile recovery X6-8
1/2 mile interval with 1/4 mile recovery X3-5
:30 second interval with :60 recovery X12-16 (recovery is longer here because you will need that much time to get your heart rate down from such a short and intense interval)
:60 interval with :60 recovery X10-12
2:00 interval with :60 recovery X5-8
#2 Strength Training
Yes, I am aware that strength training isn’t running, but if you’re wanting to lose weight, it should be a solid part of your routine. For starters, muscle burns more calories than fat, meaning the more muscular your body, the more calories you must expend just existing. Another reason you should make time to lift heavy things is that it will change your physique. Weight loss can make you smaller, but fat loss/muscle gain will give you the shape you desire. Have you seen those pictures of people who weigh the same, but one looks fit and healthy and the other looks soft? Muscle tone is a major player in this!
You don’t have to spend every day in the weight room, or go through an hour routine for each muscle group to reap the benefits of strength training. 30-40 minutes 2-3 times a week is plenty to see a change in your body.
Even better news is that you don’t even need equipment! Bodyweight exercises are perfect for those without a gym, have small kids at home, or who travel a lot. Click here for bodyweight exercises you can start doing today!
For an efficient and effective training plan, I recommend a full body routine that moves the body in all major movement patterns. Here they are along with an example:
Upper-body pull: Dumbbell back row
Upper-body push: Chest press
Lower-body pull: Deadlift
Lower-body push: Lunges
Core/Rotational core: Plank/Russian twists
Aim for 6-8 exercises, 3-4 sets of each with a repetition range of 6-12. The last two repetitions of any exercise should be challenging to complete, but you should be able to maintain your form. If you feel you could do 5 more push-ups, it’s time to make them more challenging (try a decline push-up for example!). To change your body, you must challenge it.
#3 Steady State Runs
HIIT and strength training are the bread and butter (maybe not the best phrase…) of a weight loss workout routine. Steady state cardio workouts – your basic conversation pace run – are extra, and the way I see it, more for base building and a way to keep your sanity! Yes, running more will burn more calories, BUT too much will make throw your hunger and hormones out of whack. Exercise is a stress on the body and too much affects your cortisol levels which can make you retain weight.
As Jill Coleman describes to Girls Gone Strong, “Too much cardio can lead to insatiable hunger and ravenous cravings, due to increases in stress hormones, particularly cortisol. And doesn’t this just create the perfect negative feedback loop? “I do more cardio, so then I’m hungrier, so then I eat more, so then I need to do more cardio.”
If you have time outside of your strength training and interval runs, aim for 25-40 minutes twice a week. Personally I need those steady state runs to clear my mind, boost my mood, and enjoy the outdoors. They boost your endurance and can make you run faster in the long run (no pun intended), but when it comes to weight loss, they should not be the only thing you do.
Putting it all together
Here are two examples of what your week could look like with all of these elements in place:
M – 30 min strength training + 20 min HIIT
T – 35 min steady state run
W – 40 min strength training
TH – Rest
F – 25 min HIIT
Sa – 30 min steady state
Su – Rest
M – 30 min strength training + 25 min steady state run
T – 25 min HIIT
W – 40 min strength training
F – 30 min strength training + 15 min HIIT
Sa – 35 min steady state
Su – Rest