Lifestyle Interventions: running for weight loss
Author: Isabel Brinsden, World Obesity Federation
and British Athletics Coach in Running Fitness
Exercise and an active lifestyle play a massive part in weight loss and obesity prevention. Running is a wonderful form of exercise because it doesn't cost you anything, it gets you out into the fresh air and you will feel amazing afterwards! However, if you’ve never tried it before, starting out in the sport can seem a little daunting. But I promise you, starting is the hardest part and if you follow these few tips you will be running into the sunset before you know it!
Tip #1: Find a Buddy
Finding someone to run with can really motivate you to put on your trainers and get out for a run. Particularly if you’re feeling nervous or self-conscious about trying something new, having some support will make you more likely to get out of the house and less likely to change your mind last minute. Having someone to train with can also promote healthy competition!
Tip #2: Walk/jogging is ok!
If you are a complete beginner, there is nothing wrong with alternating between walking and jogging. Initially, you might find yourself walking more than running, but aiming to build up to walking and running in equal segments and eventually running more than walking, is a great way to get your body used to the exercise. It also gives you a chance to gossip with your new running buddy!
Having a stopwatch is helpful, but if you don’t own one, don’t worry, you can use landmarks to set yourself targets. Pick a tree or a bench or a bin in the distance and tell yourself to run up to that point. That way you will push yourself to achieve a goal, rather than stopping when you start to feel tired.
Tip #3: Build up gradually
Fitness can feel frustratingly elusive at times, particularly when you are first starting out. The key is to start gradually and not to be put off if things feel hard at first. No one becomes Mo Farah overnight! Training should increase at a rate of approximately ten per cent a week. For example, if you start on two ten minute runs in Week One, you should aim for one twelve minute run and one ten minute run in Week Two. Or two eleven-minute runs. If you want to add in an extra run, keep the other two short at first to allow your body to adjust.
Being too ambitious often leads to people giving up the sport after an initial burst of enthusiasm. Don’t be hard on yourself if things take longer than you expect. Pushing your body too hard when you first take up running can lead to common injuries such as shin splints, which usually occurs when your body is struggling to adjust to the new movement. Be patient with yourself and just enjoy being outside and on the move and you should be able to build up your running without even noticing!
Tip #4: Set yourself goals
Choosing a long term goal to work towards can be an excellent way to motivate yourself to train. Goals are entirely individual – you could be aiming to run your first 5k or 10k or half marathon or even marathon. Alternatively, you might have a particular time in mind that you want to work towards. Whatever the goal, register for an event and keep it in your mind every time you’re struggling to motivate yourself – the feeling you get when you achieve those goals makes every second of training worth it!
If you are a beginner to the sport and looking to work towards your first 5k, park runs are great events to target. These 5k events are completely free to enter and take place every Saturday morning at 9am across the country. With their friendly and welcoming atmosphere and wide range of abilities, parkrun is perfect for a first event if you don’t want to get too competitive. Take a look at their website and find your local parkrun event.
Once you have chosen your target event, tell people you’re doing it! Letting people know what you’re doing means that you are less likely to change your mind and you will get support from those around you.
Tip #5: Run-Commute
Particularly if you struggle to find time to work out during the week, running to work or part-way to work is a money-saving, potentially timesaving, environmentally friendly way to incorporate a run into your day. It might take some forward planning at first, but once you are in the routine you will find that you arrive at work feeling energised and ready to start the day.
For the more advanced runners
For those of you who have been running for a while but are still looking to improve, there are a few changes you can make to your training programme to help you knock those seconds of your time.
- Try interval training: Running multiple short, fast repetitions with recovery in between can have a huge impact on your normal running pace. Sessions like these help your body to adjust to a faster pace, increase your leg turnover and work your cardiovascular system. Furthermore, because of the energy system used for these sessions, interval training can actually be more effective in helping you lose weight more than your long runs!
- Cross Train: If you are looking to add in an extra session to your weekly training programme but are worried about injury, adding in a swim or a bike ride allows you to get a good low-impact workout. This can reduce your chance of injury and also builds up other muscle groups to make you an overall stronger runner.
- Join a running club: Running with a club is a good way to meet people and can help you to train outside your comfort zone. When training with a group you are likely to push yourself harder than when you train alone – particularly once things get competitive!
The thing to remember is that running doesn’t need to be a chore. Try these tips and soon you will be running not just for health and fitness, but because you can’t remember life without it!