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Running for weight loss: The most effective running workouts to help you lose weight 

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Running is one of the most accessible sports out there, no wonder more and more people are turning to it to get their daily dose of exercise.

But what if you want to use running for weight loss? Is running good for weight loss?

Running for weight loss is possible, but not in the way you think. 

Studies have shown that you need to be doing high intensity exercise as well as endurance running in order to really see weight loss benefits.

In this guide we’ll explore some of the key questions when it comes to running for weight loss:

  • Can you lose weight just by running?
  • How much should I run to lose weight?
  • What is the best type of running workout for weight loss?
  • Can you lose belly fat by running?
  • What’s the best running for weight loss app?
  • Should I follow a running plan to lose weight?
  • Running for weight loss: The most effective running workouts to help you lose weight

Be sure to check out my handy 6-week running plan to lose weight at the end of this guide.

Ready?

Let’s get started!

running for weight loss

Can you lose weight just by running?

Running for weight loss is possible when combined with an appropriate calorie restriction plan.

According to a study by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ‘high physical activity levels should be an integral part of any plan regardless of weight loss goals, and is associated with numerous cardiovascular benefits’.

It adds that anyone wishing to lose weight ‘should participate in physical activity and caloric restriction to improve the chances of weight loss’.

Of course, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to weight loss. The number of calories you burn when running will vary based on your body size, pace and the running distance.

The most important thing to remember when looking to lose weight is the negative energy balance. This is when you burn more calories than you consume. 

As a general rule, many runners of average size estimate that they burn roughly 100 calories per mile.

Related: Is running good for you? 12 amazing benefits of running for the body and mind

How much should I run to lose weight?

In order to make the most out of your running to lose weight, your training plan needs to include workouts that torch a lot of calories without spending hours pounding the pavement. 

It is recommended you work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to intense activity four to five times a week.

This may sound like a lot at this stage, but it doesn’t have to be all running.

You can include cross training exercise like swimming, cycling or a yoga class into your routine.

In the next section we’ll explain what the best types of running workouts for weight loss.

Related: 6 mental health benefits of running

running for weight loss

What is the best type of running for weight loss?

While there is no best way to lose weight through running, intense workouts like interval training and hill repeats are better for burning calories. 

This is because high intensity exercise has been shown to increase your muscles’ stimulus, therefore achieving a much greater effect in the same amount of time as an easy to moderate run.

In addition, your muscles require a lot of energy after high intensity exercise to recover and repair which creates an ‘after burn’ effect, meaning you burn calories even after the exercise has ended.

Studies have also shown the positive effects on your metabolism as a result of doing high intensity exercise. It stays elevated and your body continues to burn calories.

Related: 6 interval training benefits for runners + 3 sample workouts

Can you lose belly fat by running?

Yes! Running is one of the best forms of exercise to lose belly fat.

But remember the long, slow runs alone are not going to help you shed the fat. You need to be doing high intensity exercise as well as make dietary and lifestyle changes to shift the problem fat.

In some cases, belly fat that you cannot shift is down to diet. If you don’t change your eating habits, you will find it difficult to get rid of stubborn belly fat.

Related: How to fit a run into a busy schedule

What’s the best running for weight loss app?

There are a few apps on the market nowadays that can help you with your running and weight loss goals.

Here are some recommendations:

  • MyFitnessPal is one of the best weight loss and fitness apps. It helps you track your calories, break down ingredients and log activities.
  • Strava is one of the most popular apps in the running community. It allows you to track your progress and share your runs with other runners in your local community and online.
  • MapMyRun claims to be one of the world’s largest digital health and fitness communities. You can track and analyse your workouts and sync it with any device.

Related: 6 of the best running for beginners apps

Should I follow a running plan to lose weight?

Absolutely. It is recommended you follow a plan so you have the right support and guidance when it comes to achieving your running for weight loss goals.

A training plan will also mean you have the adequate amount of progression over the number of weeks in the plan so that you’re not sticking to the same old workouts week in week out.

It’s crucial to find a plan that varies the workouts as well as the distance and cadence of your runs. This means it includes easy as well as challenging runs, because as we described above, high intensity exercise is where you will see the most gains when it comes to weight loss.

At the end of this guide you will find a sample 6-week running plan to lose weight.

Related: The ultimate 8-week beginner 5k training plan

running for weight loss

Running for weight loss: The most effective running workouts to help you lose weight

Now you know the benefits of running for weight loss, here are the most effective running workouts to help you lose weight.

The workouts in this guide involve interval training, continuous running, treadmill running and hill repeats.

Interval training at 85-90% of your maximum sprint

Interval training is periods of high intensity running (the work phase) separated by periods of walking or jogging (the recovery phase).

The key to planning interval training when trying to lose weight is to run at a high intensity pace (at about 85-90% of your maximum sprint).

Your running pace at 85-90% should feel hard. You shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation while you run, but it shouldn’t feel so hard that you feel exhausted after a few intervals. 

Alternate between the high intensity periods of running and low intensity periods of walking or jogging.

As you progress and become fitter, you can extend the time of the intervals as well as the repetitions.

  • Run for 20 seconds
  • Walk or jog for 20 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times

Interval training at your 5k pace

In these intervals you should run at your pace of your 5k personal best.

To work this out, you can use a running pace calculator by entering the race distance and your 5k race time.

  • Run for 4 minutes
  • Walk or jog for 4 minutes
  • Repeat 4 times

Related: The ultimate 8-week beginner 5k training plan

Continuous run at your 10k pace

This workout is slightly different in that the intervals are swapped for a continuous run – that is running at a constant pace. 

Run at the pace of your 10k personal best for 30 minutes. Again you can work this out by using a running pace calculator.

Don’t forget to warm up properly before your run by going for an easy run for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

Follow this with 2 to 3 short strides to get your muscles ready for the intense run coming up. 

After your run, go for another easy run for at least 10 minutes to cool down. Make sure you do some cool down stretches too.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of recovery time after the run.

Related: The ultimate 10-week beginner 10k training plan

Indoor treadmill pyramid workout

The treadmill is a great way to burn a tonne of calories.

This workout is a pyramid workout that combines running and walking and is a form of interval training like the first two workouts above.

Remember to start with a warm up – either easy jogging or brisk walking on the treadmill – then do the following intervals:

  • 30 second sprint / 30 second walk
  • 1 minute sprint / 1 minute walk
  • 2 minute sprint / 2 minute walk
  • 3 minute sprint / 3 minute walk
  • 4 minute sprint / 4 minute walk
  • 3 minute sprint / 3 minute walk
  • 2 minute sprint / 2 minute walk
  • 1 minute sprint / 1 minute walk
  • 30 second sprint / 30 second walk

Finish off with a 2 minute cool down of easy jogging or brisk walking.

Related: 4 of the best treadmill workouts for runners

Hill repeats

Hill repeats are one of the best ways to build strength, stamina and power as a runner. 

Although hills come in many different shapes and sizes, the basic concept of a hill repeat is to run up a hill fast then recover by jogging or walking down. 

A little word of warning though: if you’re not used to doing hill repeats, don’t start them until you have about 6 to 8 weeks of base building running under your belt.

In other words, you should be running at least three days a week and averaging about 15 miles per week before you attempt hill repeats. 

Remember to warm up and pick dynamic stretches in your warm up that target your glutes as you’ll be working those a lot during the workout. 

Try and include hill repeats in your training plan once a week. If you live somewhere that’s very flat, it’s still possible to do hill workouts on a treadmill.

Related: 3 hill running workouts to increase power and speed

6-week running plan to lose weight

Try this running for weight loss plan for beginners. Use the workouts above and include these in your plan.

You can choose to adapt the workouts to fit your needs. You can also swap any of the rest days, as long as you include at least two per week to allow your body adequate rest in between runs.

Your easy runs should be at a comfortable, conversational pace.

Week 1:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 1 mile easy run + interval training
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 1 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training

Week 2:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 1.5 mile easy run + interval training
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 1.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training and/or continuous run

Week 3:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 2 mile easy run + interval training
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 2 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training and/or continuous running at 10k pace

Week 4:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 2.5 mile easy run + treadmill workout
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 2.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training and/or continuous running at 10k pace

Week 5:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3 mile easy run + interval training
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 3 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training and/or continuous running at 10k pace

Week 6:

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3.5 mile easy run + hill repeats
  • Wednesday – Rest day
  • Thursday – 3.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Strength training and/or cross training
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Interval training and/or continuous running

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Blake Decker

Sunday 25th of April 2021

Just read this article and wanted to drop a quick note to say thank you. Very helpful!

God bless and peace.