I get asked a lot… I mean a lot if I lost all my weight from just running. Well I thought it was about time I put it down on paper why the answer is always no… I mean I’d happily chat away to you all for hours about it but I think you’d actually lose interest. So if your ready to hear the truth pull up a chair and read on….
First the background!
I started running to lose weight. No other reason. I hated it but I knew I needed to do something and I knew it wasn’t going to happen from sitting on my bum whilst stuffing my face!
In the early days the running worked alongside some poor choice faddy diets and I did start to lose some weight. Or at least others said I had but I was by no means happy or comfortable in my skin.
I started to increase the distances of my runs but was really disheartened that I wasn’t losing weight anymore.
I joined the gym and I started to lift weights and went along to a body conditioning class. I loved it and therefore started to increase my gym sessions and did less running. I would usually run through the warmer winter/autumn months and strength train during the hot summer months. The winter was usually a right off and I would just comfort eat my way through it.
It was only when I changed my diet that I started to notice the changes. I stopped eating processed junk food and started eating whole foods cooked from scratch and for a while I went completely sugar free. I still try to stick to this but over the summer I have become a bit lazy with it again and I can notice the changes already as I feel less comfortable in my clothes and my skin is horrible.
Up until I started training for the Royal Parks Half marathon I was doing lots of strength training and tracking calories and eating really well. I felt amazing and I feel frustrated that I have undone all that hard work. But here is what went wrong…
Post run binges
When you run you can burn tons of calories but this can leave you feeling really hungry after. How many of you will stuff your faces after a long run? I’m very guilty of this. It feels like its justified because when you run you feel as though you have earn’t it.
Even if you think you are making the right choices in what you eat if the calories add up its going to tip that balance over.
The problem is we reach for junk food high in calories and they leave you still feeling hungry soon after. A postrun snack is essential but it should be packed with protein to help those aching muscles and it will be more filling, as well as containing carbohydrates that will help refill your glycogen stores.
In order to lose a pound a week you need to burn or cut out 3,500 calories from your diet each week. If you break that down over the week thats 500 calories per day. The easiest way to do this is to cut out 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 calories through exercise.
Not running enough
In the early days I was definitely guilty of this. I would go out for a couple of runs a week and think the magic would start to happen.
If your only running twice a week you are not going to burn enough calories to get you to the 3500 calories needed. I tend to burn on average 300-400kcalories on my shorter runs and around a 1000kcals or more for my longer runs. I run 4 times a week so that for me is 2000kcals. I then need to eat 1000kcals less to get my deficit for the week. But I usually end up eating the calories!
If weight loss is your goal then try for 3-4 runs a week along side other types of exercise such as cross training, strength training, HIIT sessions or circuit training.
Burning less than you think
When you get back from a run it can seem like you have burnt hundreds of calories because you feel hot and sweaty and like you have done a bloody good workout. But in truth you may not have burnt as many calories as you think. The best way to determine how many calories you have burnt is to wear a heart rate monitor or a tracking device such as a watch that tracks your activity. Some running apps will guesstimate calories burnt based on your weight, speed and length of time running as well.
Mixing it up
Its easy to get stuck in a rut and run the same old routes day in day out and soon becomes a habit. By doing this though your muscles get used to the route leading you in to a weightloss plateau.
You can prevent this from happening by mixing up your workouts a little by including speed intervals, hills, long runs, and short runs, and run on different surfaces to keep your muscles guessing whats next which in turn will help to strengthen and build them. You need to include other forms of exercise too to help strengthen and build other muscles as well as the ones you are using. One of the reasons for doing this is that the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn and speed up your metabolism.
Stop looking at the scales
The number on the scale shouldn’t always be your main focus. Its obviously a good indicator that things are working but sometimes its just not that motivating or reliable. Running will help to build muscle in your lower body but as muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue it means it takes up less space but the scales will not reflect this. Your clothes will!
Why strength training is important
As I said earlier strength training was my go to exercise before I started training for this race. My running would always be my go to for cardio… or HIIT sessions when taking a break from running.
Working with weights or using your own body weight will help to make you stronger and improve your running. It can help to prevent injuries and make you more efficient with your runs.
The focal areas should be your glutes, core and upper back. I like to have toned arms and as running doesn’t help in this area I like to incorporate this in to my strength training workouts.
The glutes help to power your runs especially on hills. A strong core will support your torso and propel your legs forward and protect your lower back from injury. Upper back will stop you from having a slumped posture helping to keep your chest open and allowing your lungs to do their stuff.
Fitting it all in
Fitting all that in can seem crazy to some and I agree. There are days where I really just want to chill out and not think about it. But those days are the days I then sit around wishing I’d got out and run. I do struggle to not feel guilty when I have a rest day.
Rest days are important but I still walk a minimum of 3 miles walking the dog, to and from work and the school run.
My strength training I do at home when I can and you can do plenty just by using your own body weight. I do have a mini gym but I struggle with the motivation to get in there sometimes. I like someone to tell me what to do. In an ideal world a PT is what I need but I like to use YouTube for videos to guide me in my effort.
My “planned schedule”
My main focus over the summer was the Royal Parks Half marathon. Most weeks I was running 4 days and strength training as and when I felt like it.
Now it is out the way I still have another booked half marathon in a few weeks time so I will still be training for this but putting a little more effort into my strength training as my fitness levels will hopefully be maintained with running.
So with that in mind and with a lot of discussion with others and listening to their advice and tried and tested schedules I plan to….
Monday Rest day (ideally try out some yoga)
Tuesday Morning strength training, Evening with my running club
Wednesday Strength training
Friday Rest day/yoga
Saturday Park run
Sunday Long run
Is this realistic? Who knows. I can easily get motivated for my runs these days but the strength training seems to involve a little more effort. I think partly because I need someone telling me what to do that’s going to get me results.
One thing I do know is that I am slowly heading back towards not being happy in my own skin so that has to be my motivation!