Running weight loss tips are definitely not in short supply on the internet. Most of them promise quick fixes and monumental amounts of weight loss in a short amount of time. I will make no such promises.
Weight loss is hard, and it can be even harder while trying to balance the desire to improve running performance and lose weight at the same time. This article contains effective tips for losing weight through running and KEEPING the weight off.
7 Practical Tips on Running for Weight Loss
Ok, so you love running, but you know you need to (or want to) shed some extra pounds. Your motivations are well-intentioned, and you are not treating weight loss as a vanity metric.
Here are my best tips for weight loss and running performance.
Think About WHY You Actually Want to Lose Weight
Some of us want to get to an arbitrary number because….WHY??
That was what you weighed in high school? Or some outdated BMI scale said that’s what you need to be? Is that honestly a good reason?
Or do you have a better reason like wanting to be healthier or shedding extra pounds of body fat to help improve your running performance? Are you trying to get to your Racing Weight?
Take an honest look at why you really want to lose weight. If your motivations revolve mainly around feeling better or being healthier, you might be able to focus on some different metrics like running farther, running faster, or lifting more weight. In that case, what the scales says about you is less important.
Before you move into a weight loss phase, be sure you have a good reason. If you don’t, then you might be at risk of self-sabotage, because you don’t really believe in your reason for wanting to lose weight.
Set Realistic Running Performance and Weight Loss Goals
I like to set my weight loss goals in increments of 5 pounds. It’s do-able, won’t cause a crazy shock to my system, and doesn’t require drastic changes.
Also, I can lose 5 pounds pretty easily by just cleaning up my diet for a few weeks. When my body is used to a higher caloric maintenance level, then it drops the extra weight fairly quick when I drop my calories by 500 per day.
Now, this doesn’t mean that 5 pounds is my ultimate goal, it just means that I focus on 5 pounds at a time. After I lose those 5 pounds, I slowly increase my calories to find my maintenance level again while increasing my training load (For example, working up to a mileage peak during race training).
Break your ultimate goal down into manageable chunks and focus on one chunk at a time.
The key here is to focus on maintaining that level of weight loss after you lose that chunk, not allowing yourself to gain back the weight you just lost. This means you don’t get to jump right back into your bad habits as a reward for losing the weight.
Focus on sustainable healthy habits, where you can just add in or subtract some extra calories from your day. The majority of your nutrition should stay the same with a healthy nutritional foundation to fuel your running.
Related: Nutrition for Runners: 5 Core Eating Habits That Will Make You Faster
Expand Your Weight Loss Timeline
You should have a reasonable sense of urgency because if you don’t, you’ll never actually tighten up your nutrition plan enough to make the weight loss happen. However, most people take that to the other extreme and set realistic weight loss goals on an unrealistic timeline.
What does it matter if you lose 10 pounds this month, or in the next 4 months?
What happens if you don’t hit your 10 pound goal this month? So what? Will your life end?
Or could you take a more realistic and healthy approach, and expand that 10 pound goal out over several months? Would you be happier?
It’s good to set goals with specific deadlines but be sure to set a goal that you can actually reach without starving yourself. Because hanger is real, and no one likes it when you’re hangry.
Related: Running and Weight Loss: 6 Honest Lessons You Need to Hear
Cycle Between Running Performance and Weight Loss Phases
Trying to stay in a constant calorie deficit doesn’t work. In fact, it invites injury and denies performance improvements.
Understand that when you are running and losing weight, the two activities are not exactly compatible. Sure, running increases your number of calories burned. But it also proportionally increases your hunger. Or shall I say, RUNGER?
Plus, your running performance WILL suffer when you are on a calorie deficit. You will be extra hunger plus feel more sluggish and tired when you are focusing on weight loss.
That’s because your body is screaming to tell you it NEEDS MORE FUEL to perform more work.
Because of this tendency, I’ve found that the best way to lose weight is to focus on maintaining a calorie deficit at low mileage points in your training.
Usually, this means you might focus on weight loss in the early stages of training or in the weeks preceding your training plan. When you are working on your base training is a great time to focus on weight loss. That way, once you start increasing your mileage and workload during a training plan, you can eat more calories to support your recovery and performance.
You might focus on losing 5 pounds before your next training plan starts. Then eat the maintenance calorie level required through your race. After your race, you can go into a calorie deficit and weight loss phase again as your mileage will be lower in the 1-3 weeks following a big race. Focus on weight loss for several weeks before heading into your next training cycle.
Basically, it is more effective to alternate your weight loss and training phases so you aren’t putting double stress on your body and fueling it less while asking it to perform more.
Build Flexibility into Your Nutrition Plan
There are some foods that I love, and I would honestly go crazy if I told myself I could never have them because they don’t support my goals.
The truth is, I am HAPPIER when I have enough flexibility to incorporate the occasional glass of wine or piece of chocolate into my day. You don’t need to beat yourself up over ONE THING consumed on occasion. Now, if it’s happening every day, then it is a habit that might be hindering your goals.
Focus on the 5 Core Nutrition Habits of Endurance Athletes when you design your nutrition plan and allow yourself to be flexible when you can.
Weigh Yourself Every Day
Studies show that people who weight themselves every day lose more weight over the course of the year than those who step on the scale once per week or less.
Because it’s a method of self-monitoring. It helps you know if you are trending in the right direction or the wrong direction. And it gives you an indicator if you need to change up your habits. Maybe you’ve relaxed a little too much on the “occasional” office donuts or glass of wine?
Daily weight measurements will help let you know if you need to tighten up your habits.
Additionally, daily weight and body fat measurements allow you to track your weight TREND over time. This is far more important than the actual numbers on the scale.
Your weight will naturally fluctuate within a given range throughout the day and the week. When you watch the trend line, it’s easy to see if you’re trending up or down. This also makes it easy to see if you need a course correction, or if you’re on the right path.
The easiest way to get these daily measurements is with a Wifi/Bluetooth scale. It takes just a minute or two first thing in the morning when you get up and after you go to the bathroom. I just keep my phone connected to the scale, step on, it takes about 10 seconds to get my measurements, and then another 10 seconds to send those to my phone.
Then, I have the scale app sync directly to my Fitbit app, where I can track my average weight for the week and my trend line over time.
Bluetooth Scale Recommendations:
- Fitbit Aria 2 Wifi Smart Scale
- Withings Body+ Smart Body Composition Scale
- Greater Goods Bluetooth Smart Scale
Find Another Challenge to Take Your Focus Away from the Weight Loss
You might just need to focus on a different goal for a while. Maybe you want to focus on lifting more weight, getting faster, or running farther. You could even tackle a new race distance. When I decided that I needed a new physical challenge to focus on instead of staying fixated on the scale, I decided train for a half marathon.
Training for my first half marathon completely changed my outlook on life, gave me a different focus, taught me how to structure my different runs throughout the week, forced me to emphasize nutrition that fueled my body, and gave me a deep sense of satisfaction when I crossed the finish line of something that I had no clue if I could actually complete it before I started training.
If you are looking for your next challenge, it’s the half marathon.
Are YOU Ready to Train for a Half Marathon?
Let’s get started! It’s time to pick a race (at least 12 weeks away) and start training.
Here are 2 methods to get you started on your half marathon quest:
- Join my FREE 6-Day Half Marathon Training Kickstart Course. This course will set you up to get your training started including a workout tracker, training plan recommendations, and mindset training.
- Enroll in the “12 Weeks to Your First Half Marathon” course. This is the FULL course where I walk you through your training plan week by week with advice, helpful things I wish I knew while training for my first half marathon, and what to focus on during that phase of your training. This course is a great way to save you from scouring the internet for information and making painful mistakes!
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- How to Pace Your Half Marathon with 4 Simple Strategies
- Ultimate Direction Women’s Race Vesta Review
- What is a Recovery Week and How it Can Boost Your Running
About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>