Want to Lose Weight by Running? Here’s Your 7-Day Kickstart Plan

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Running is a low-equipment workout that torches calories fast.
Image Credit: MilosStankovic/E+/GettyImages

Got a weight-loss goal in mind? Exercise is a key component to getting leaner and fitter, and running is one of the best options out there. That's because running torches lots of calories fast — around 100 per mile, explains certified personal trainer and running coach Julie Erickson.

All forms of aerobic exercise burn calories and improve your endurance, but since running is so efficient, it's a good way to get the maximum payback from your workout when you don't have a ton of time.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

Plus you can do it anytime, anywhere, with little more equipment than some comfortable clothes and a pair of sneakers. And despite what you might think, running can even work for newbie exercisers. "You can start with intervals of walking and running, with longer intervals of walking in the beginning," Erickson says.

That's where this 7-day workout, designed by Erickson, comes in. Made with beginners looking to jump-start their weight loss in mind, it's a customizable plan that can help ease you into running while burning plenty of calories — maybe even enough to lose a pound in the first week. "You'll feel different after a week, look different after 3 weeks and have a whole new body after 6 weeks," Erickson says.

Ready to get started? Grab your sneakers and let's go.

The Plan: 7 Running-Focused Workouts for Weight Loss

Erickson's plan starts off with 20 minutes of running/walking intervals, helping you burn plenty of calories while easing into running. After that, you'll alternate in between run/walk days and non-running days aimed at strengthening the muscles your body uses for running, which will also help with endurance.

The plan also includes one active rest day focused on stretching. Since running is vigorous and high-impact, setting aside dedicated time to rest or do easier, non-running activities gives your body a chance to recover — so you're energized for your next run. After the kickstart week, Erickson recommends running for 3 or 4 days each week, using the other days for cross-training activities like stretching, strength training or even brisk walking.

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Day 1: 20-Minute Run/Walk

Do this workout on level ground, like a flat neighborhood road, a track or a treadmill.

  • 0:00 to 5:00 minutes: Warm up with brisk walking.
  • 5:00 to 5:30 minutes: Jog lightly.
  • 5:30 to 7:00 minutes: Walk briskly.
  • 7:00 to 7:30: Jog lightly.
  • 7:30 to 9:00: Walk briskly.
  • 9:00 to 9:30: Jog lightly.
  • 9:30 to 11:00: Walk briskly.
  • 11:00 to 12:00: Jog lightly.
  • 12:00 to 14:00: Walk briskly.
  • 14:00 to 15:00: Jog lightly.
  • 15:00 to 17:00: Walk briskly.
  • 17:00 to 19:00: Jog lightly.
  • 19:00 to 20:00: Walk briskly.

Day 2: Active Rest Day With Stretching

Do 30 minutes of runner-focused yoga, concentrating on poses like hip openers, chest openers and full front-line body openers.

Start Here

Day 3: 30-Minute Run/Walk With Hills

Do this workout on small or rolling hills, either outside or on a treadmill.

  • 0:00 to 5:00: Walk briskly.
  • 5:00 to 10:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 10:00 to 12:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 12:00 to 15:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 15:00 to 17:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 17:00 to 20:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 20:00 to 22:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 22:00 to 25:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 25:00 to 30:00: Walk at an easy pace to cool down.

Day 4: Core Strength Workout

Do 30 minutes of strength-training activities, focusing on core muscles that support running like abs, glutes and upper back.

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Day 5: 30-Minutes Run/Walk With Hills

Do this workout on small or rolling hills, either outside or on a treadmill.

  • 0:00 to 5:00: Walk briskly.
  • 5:00 to 10:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 10:00 to 12:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 12:00 to 15:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 15:00 to 17:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 17:00 to 20:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 20:00 to 22:00: Run at an easy pace.
  • 22:00 to 25:00: Walk as fast as you can.
  • 25:00 to 30:00: Walk at an easy pace to cool down.

Day 6: Leg Strength-Training Workout

Do 30 minutes of leg strength-training activities, focusing on the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.

Start Here

Day 7: 20-Minute Run/Walk

Do this workout on level ground, like a flat neighborhood road, a track or a treadmill.

  • 0:00 to 5:00 minutes: Warm up with brisk walking.
  • 5:00 to 5:30 minutes: Jog lightly.
  • 5:30 to 7:00 minutes: Walk briskly.
  • 7:00 to 7:30: Jog lightly.
  • 7:30 to 9:00: Walk briskly.
  • 9:00 to 9:30: Jog lightly.
  • 9:30 to 11:00: Walk briskly.
  • 11:00 to 12:00: Jog lightly.
  • 12:00 to 14:00: Walk briskly.
  • 14:00 to 15:00: Jog lightly.
  • 15:00 to 17:00: Walk briskly.
  • 17:00 to 19:00: Jog lightly.
  • 19:00 to 20:00: Walk briskly.

Up the Ante

Over time, you can shorten the walk intervals — eventually, you'll be running for the full workout.
Image Credit: freemixer/iStock/GettyImages

Gradually making your workouts more intense will keep your body challenged so you keep on torching lots of calories — and improve your endurance so you can run longer and harder.

The simplest way to make it happen? Every few days, make your walking intervals a little shorter — say, by 30 seconds, Erickson suggests. Once you're up to running for the entire workout, you can use the old walking intervals as times to run at a slower pace, and the running intervals as times to run faster. "Most folks running a couple times a week can get to a 5K-length run in 8 to 10 weeks," she says.

Other ways to make your workout harder: Add in some steeper hills, or work resistance exercises into your run. You could pause for a strength-training circuit halfway through your run, for instance.

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Remember to Eat Right, Too

Exercise can support your weight-loss efforts, but even running won't help you get leaner unless you also make an effort to eat better. "Diet is 90 percent of weight loss. You can't out-exercise a bad diet," Erickson says.

Ultimately, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. You'll want to eat around 500 fewer calories per day to lose that pound in a week, per the Mayo Clinic. You can make that happen by:

  • Saving high-calorie treats for splurges. You don't have to give up cookies or ice cream altogether. Just save the snacks for once or twice a week instead of every day, and limit yourself to a single delicious serving.
  • Cutting your portion sizes. Use smaller bowls and plates and stick with just one helping at mealtime.
  • Picking more low-cal foods. Fill half your plate with lower-calorie foods that are still satisfying, like fruits and vegetables. And find other ways to trim the calories from meals and snacks like making an omelet with veggies instead of cheese or using mustard on a sandwich instead of mayo. Little changes like these can really add up.

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