Running can be used as a tool for weight loss, no matter your goals or your current conditioning. The speed that you start out jogging or walking depends wholly on your beginning fitness level, but will likely increase with time, endurance and practice. Either way, lacing up your running shoes and heading out the door is a step in the direction toward improved health and weight maintenance.
Beginning Stages of Running for Weight Loss
In the beginning of your running regimen, you can likely only run for short periods of time. Implementing a walk/jog cycle into your early stages of running will help you run further and, therefore burn more calories. Jeff Galloway, Olympian and running coach, estimates in his book "Galloway's Book on Running" that "running burns about 100 calories per mile," no matter the pace. Particularly in the beginning of your training, walk and jog to build exercise endurance.
Slow, Steady-Paced Running
As your endurance increases, you will be able to jog further for longer periods of time between breaks. The more miles you are able to accumulate during your runs, the more calories you will be burning and the more unwanted weight you are going to be able to shed. At this stage in your running, keep your pace slow and steady. Do not push yourself to go faster than you easily can, as that will keep you from running as far or for as long as you could at a slower pace.
As your body acclimates to running, your pace will likely increase naturally. According to authors Michael Mejia and John Berardi in their book "Scrawny to Brawny," high-intensity running burns approximately 1,323 calories per hour and low-intensity running burns approximately 514 calories per hour in a 150-pound person. The harder you push, the greater the calorie-burn, even if you have to take breaks between high-intensity run intervals.
The Fast vs. Slow Debate
Fast or slow, you will be burning essentially the same number of calories per mile when running. The harder the effort, the fewer miles you will be able to cover, and vice-versa. Keep in mind that your body tires of doing the same workout every day, no matter the sport. If you head out to run three miles every day at the same pace your body will slow its response to your efforts, and your weight loss and performance will likely plateau. Change your training up from day to day, incorporating fast and slow days into your weekly run plan, and your body will continuously respond to your training.
Running for Weight Loss
Galloway states that in order to mobilize fat and lose weight, "it is better to run 40 to 60 minutes three times a week, than 20 to 30 minutes six times a week." These longer training sessions help you to lose unwanted weight while building endurance and overall fitness. You can incorporate 40 to 60 minute runs into your training through long, slow distance or speed work with periodic rest breaks, and your body will respond by burning calories and losing weight.