On the heels of the LA Marathon which concluded this past weekend I thought it might be a good time to address; “Running for Weight Loss”.
If you watch the televised footage of most major marathon events you can’t help but notice a sea of seriously overweight people participating in the races. Now mind you, I applaud their inspiration and motivation. Sure, it may be the stepping stone for greater things. These obese would be runners may have worked long and hard to participate and their participation may be a life changing event.
But then again; could they have prepared themselves a bit more effectively and possibly run all or most of the distance? I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with those of you who are battling with weight. I agree that running is in fact the most effective exercise tool we have to combat obesity. As a matter of fact, I have fitness clients that I train and require road work which I know has the greatest influence over weight loss. Having said that and also potentially having caused some folk to get their hair up let me offer what I think is the appropriate approach to running for weight loss.
- Use a heart rate monitor during every training session, indoor or otherwise. Avoid training above your anaerobic threshold at all costs for at least the first 8 weeks of your training plan. This recommendation comes from my experience working with people like you (assuming you are a good 20 or more pounds overweight). What you will learn very quickly is that your heart rate will soar very quickly and a very slow pace. If you bust into a run, it will be short lived and it will cause you to burn nothing more than sugar and that is not our target. Also, if you are carrying an unreasonable amount of weight on a frame that was not designed to carry it you risk orthopedic injury. The most common issues will be with your feet and all of the associated joints right up to your low back.
- Train daily, a little every day is far better than too much now and then. You will start out with a lot of walking and a bit of low intensity jogging if you allow your heart rate to dictate when you are training too hard. As time passes, you’ll see great improvements in your cardiovascular response and by the end of the 8 weeks, you’ll find yourself capable of running far more often than you will need to walk.
- Do not starve yourself while training. Realize the more you weigh, the more calories you will expend per hour. You cannot burn the candle at both ends and succeed. You need to hang on to what little muscle you have to do the work while shedding the fat. I suggest having a RMR(resting metabolic measurement) test to identify how much debt in calories you can reasonably support. You want to be in caloric debt but it’s a fine line you tread. It is better to burn it off than it is to refrain from eating. Do not restrict carbohydrate intake. Carbs are not the enemy. Too much food is the enemy. Don’t get caught up in the trendy diet myths that plague our country and feed off people who are desperate. Exercise is the key to weight loss and a solid nutrition plan is the best support system for an exercising body.
Suunto Heart Rate Monitor watch t6c (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Exercise is the key to weight loss and a solid nutrition plan is the best support system for an exercising body.
- If you plan to prepare for a race allow enough time to prepare. If you are overweight I do not recommend that you attempt a marathon if you are varying more than 30 pounds over ideal weight. You may finish but you may also injure yourself in the process. Think of the event as you’re coming out party because you worked so hard to lose the weight and now you are in the hunt to show yourself, friends and family what you are all about.
- Given my recommendations in number #4 the issue is time. Allow yourself the time needed to lose the weight. Odds are you did not gain it in a few weeks or months, it’s not logical to think you can lose it twice as fast. You will need an average of a week for every pound you hope to lose. You may lose more than this in the first few weeks but your weight loss will eventually taper off and it will be harder to lose after about 8-10 weeks. Once yo are able to run for an hour to 90 minutes without needing to stop and walk, your weight loss will accelerate once again.
Be patient and diligent. You have to keep a dedicated schedule of training and a serious commitment to your nutrition. If you do this; I promise you within a reasonable amount of time you will run a marathon and possibly as many as a few each year with your newly refined Fitness Makeover. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth the time and soreness. Don’t kill yourself trying to get into shape, use your head, play it smart and put in the time. I’ll see you at the finish line.