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Running Schedule for Weight Loss

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

Run, burn calories and lose weight. The process seems simple enough, right? Not quite — running a lot burns calories, but it also amps up your appetite. Additionally, running a lot — in other words, overtraining — also puts you at a greater risk for injury and overtraining. A running schedule for weight loss intelligently builds your training load, so you adapt physically.

Structure Your Runs

When you want to get good at running, you run more often to become efficient and skilled. However, efficiency means you use less energy, thus burning fewer calories during each run. Stick to just three runs per week, and vary the way you approach them.

Long Steady Pace

One long run per week builds stamina and helps burn extra calories. Do it at a lower intensity, about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate, to use an optimal amount of stored fat for energy.

Gradually build up the length of this long run to about 90 minutes. Start with 20 or 30 minutes and increase the length of time you spend at each run over the course of six to eight weeks. A run-walk protocol may help you at first. Alternate 1 to 5 minutes of running with timed walk breaks of 1 to 5 minutes. As you feel stronger, increase your running time and decrease walk times.

Short Intervals

Interval training turns on fat-burning mechanisms in your body to help you lose weight, reports a review of the research published in Obesity in 2011. This type of training is also expedient, so you don't have to spend hours running every day to see weight-loss results.

At these workouts, warm up and then alternate short bursts of 30 to 90 seconds of all-out speed with 30 to 90 seconds of easy jogging or brisk walking. Complete 30 to 45 minutes of these drills. If you're brand new to running, start with just 10 to 20 minutes of intervals.

Schedule Your Runs

Choose non-consecutive days for running; for example, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. This gives time between runs for your body to recover from the impact and for you to explore other exercise that helps you reach your weight-loss goal.

Strength-training is critical as it develops more muscle, which gives your metabolism a boost and makes losing weight easier. Running only to lose weight may actually cause you to lose some muscle along with fat as your body tries to get energy from wherever possible. When you strength train, your body realizes it needs your muscle and won't burn it off for energy.

Any type of resistance works to build muscle, but make sure it feels challenging. Rubber resistance, kettlebells, machines, free weights or dumbbells can all develop your chest, back, arms, legs, abs and shoulders. Aim for at least two strength workouts on non-running days.

On one or two of the non-running days, also cross-train with an activity that gets your heart rate up to a moderate level and burns some calories. That might be hiking, swimming or cycling. Your body will appreciate the variation in activity.

Dietary Modifications

Any exercise plan for weight loss that doesn't include dietary modifications is likely to fail. As a 2011 study of more than 400 women followed for one year published in Obesity showed, combining diet and exercise was more successful than any one strategy alone when it came to weight loss.

So, follow your run schedule, but also cut back on calories. Trim about 250 to 300 per day by trimming portion sizes and cutting back on treats.

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