A Guide to Running for Weight Loss: Secrets to Help You Shed Those Stubborn Pounds

running for weight loss

Searching for a weight loss plan that actually works? Our guide will show you how to run into a healthier you—and you might even enjoy yourself along the way.

Hey, you. Feeling a bit dejected on your weight loss journey—or perhaps journeys? Maybe you started putting the effort in but stopped, discouraged by the lack of results, only to pick it back up and repeat the same cycle over.

Maybe the time and commitment got the better of you (understandable), or maybe this is the first time you’ve decided you’re ready for a life change.

However you got here, we’re about to drop some knowledge and give you the lowdown on the best way to lean down: running.

Before you start rolling your eyes in exasperation, take a deep breath and relax. We know what a daunting challenge running for weight loss may seem, but this guide is tailor-made for beginners.

It’s not as scary or impossible as you might think. Our running plan for weight loss is approachable, easy to follow, and guaranteed to give you the results you’re after—if you’re willing to commit. We’re going to teach you the science of running and weight loss, the overall benefits it has for your health, and how you can reap those juicy benefits—all while shedding pounds along the way.

So, let’s check that self-depreciation at the door and get started. Use our full guide to get started on your weight loss journey, or jump to a specific section by clicking below:

Does Running Help You Lose Weight? What Science has to Say

You want to lose fat? Let’s ditch the fad diets, empty claims, and bogus weight loss products. The breakdown is simple: to lose weight, you need to sustain a calorie deficit diet.

You might be squirming at the “D” word, and it’s understandable—healthy dieting is where most people struggle in their quest to lose weight. We’ll return to that subject later because, no doubt, which foods you’re consuming will definitely impact your results.

For now, let’s focus on how running for weight loss can also help you sustain a calorie deficit—and could potentially allow you to eat more food, so you can lose pounds without feeling like you’re starving yourself. Now that’s an idea that should make your stomach smile.

You need to burn more than you consume, so you’ll need to calculate a few numbers when running for weight loss.

Researchers say that in order to lose a pound per week, you need to maintain a 3,500 calorie deficit.

That means your running plan for weight loss needs to clock you in at about negative 500 calories per day.

Does math give you a headache? Fear not—we’ll break it down:

  • Your resting metabolic rate, sometimes called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), is the number of calories necessary to fuel your body for its life-sustaining, automatic functioning. Believe it or not, breathing and blood circulation require energy (A.K.A. calories), and that required amount is dependent on your age, weight, and height.

  • Couple your BMR with the calories burned from your daily activities. This not only includes exercise or the amount you run for weight loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead and the mindless tasks therein, such as taking the elevator versus stairs, and sitting or standing at work.

Combine those two numbers and stack the result up against the number of calories you consume per day. Ultimately, we’re creating a running program to lose weight that makes you burn more calories than you’re consuming.

That said, a number of factors will determine your weight loss endeavors.

Throughout your weight loss journey, you’ll need to consider the role the above factors play in your success—and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Can You Lose Belly Fat by Running?

In short, yes.

Out with the, “I’m too out of shape to run, too fatigued, too (insert your own excuse here) … I’ll just target my abs instead”. Sorry, that’s not how it works. You won’t lose fat from your abdomen by just lying on the ground and doing crunches all day.

To tone your tummy, you need to reduce your overall BMI (or body mass index, a measurement of your body fat based on your height and weight), and running for weight loss is the best way to do so.

Not sold? Trust the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory instead, whose 2012 study reports that runners are leaner and lighter than individuals who did equivalent amounts of any other type of exercise.

Do Morning Runs Help You Lose Weight?

You might have heard people preach about getting up early, rolling out of bed, sliding into their running shoes and heading out the door for a morning jog. If you value you your sleep as much as most do, you might think these people are crazy.

There is a method to their madness, though.

Not only does greeting the day with active energy get your blood pumping and body moving, but it’s also the best time if you’re running for fat loss. Exercising early in the day boosts your metabolism and creates an “afterburn effect”. This means it increases your BMR, making your body burn more fat even while you’re sitting or sleeping. Cut more calories while doing nothing at all? Yes, please.

The moral here: get up and move—the earlier the better. The more you run, the more potential you’ll reveal in yourself, the better you’ll feel (and the thinner you’ll look!).

How to Lose Weight Running

It’s clear that running and weight loss go hand in hand. However, if you’re just dipping your toe into the world of cardio, we’ll need to start slow and thoughtfully pace your running for beginners weight loss program. Let’s start with the basics, like what equipment you’ll need. (Pro tip: what you’ll need more than anything are determination and drive).

What Equipment is Needed to Run?

Above all else, you’ll need a solid pair of running shoes with cushion. You’re going to be doing a lot of work in these bad boys, so you need to make them your new best friend. Pulling those old Chuck Taylors out of your closest to pound pavement will set you up for a world of trouble—shin splints and knee pains galore.

If you’re serious about running for weight loss, you need to invest in a dependable pair of shoes that can take you where you need to go and help you achieve the results you’re after—without burning out on stress or discomfort before you can get there.

Shop men’s running shoes that can withstand massive amounts of impact without losing their cloud-like comfort. Trust us, when you’re just starting out on your running plan for weight loss, cozy cushioning will be priority number one. Ladies who are looking for a running program to lose weight should check out running shoes for women which are anatomically designed for narrower female feet.

You don’t need much else than a good pair of shoes and a positive attitude when you’re running for weight loss, but there are a number of handy accessories that can help track and promote your progress, such as:

Pedometer—unless you’re pre-mapping your routes, a pedometer will measure the amount of miles you log while you do laps and run for fat loss.

 

 

Heart rate monitor—these are critical for running and weight loss because your elevated heart rate will let you know how many calories you’re burning. Keeping track of this is paramount for staying in a calorie deficit, so we recommend keeping an activity log to record your data.

 

Running apps—instead of taking it upon yourself and measure your distance and tracking your calories, take advantage of a bevy of apps that can do it for you. After installing an app for running and weight loss, such as Couch to 5K, you’ll be asked to enter some data regarding your height, weight, and age.

 

Once your profile is complete, just open up the app to log each run’s performance and record stats such as distance, speed, and calories burned. Plus, you’ll probably get hit with a motivational push or two during the day that’ll inspire you to get out and get going—and let’s be real, we can all use a little kick in the butt sometimes.

Best Type of Running for Weight Loss

If you’re learning how to run to lose weight, you’re probably not aware of the many different types of running workouts out there and which ones you should be doing. Let’s take a look.

  • Base run: These are short to moderate-length runs done at a natural pace and not meant to be overly challenging.  Example: 5 miles at your natural pace.
  • Progression run: This workout is designed to start at your natural pace and end a bit faster. Example: 5 miles at your natural pace, 1 mile at a faster pace.
  • Long run: As you push your running plan for weight loss, you’ll eventually increase your distance as you improve your endurance. It might be difficult at first to press farther and farther, but remember, change starts at the end of your comfort zone. Example: 10 miles at your natural pace.
  • Intervals: These workouts contain bursts of high-intensity sprints separated by segments of lower jogging or walking. Example: 5 sets of 100-meter sprints followed by 20-minute jogs.
  • Tempo run: This isn’t an ideal workout with respect to running for beginners’ weight loss, as it encourages the fastest pace you can sustain for the longest time possible. Example: 3 miles of running at the fastest sustainable pace. However, there’s much to be said about working on increasing your speed. The faster you run, the more calories you burn. The proof is in the pudding: While a 155-pound person burns 298 calories during a 30-minute run at 5 mph, the same person could burn 372 calories during a 30-minute run at 6 mph.

  • Hill run: As the name implies, this workout involves running uphill for various intervals. Example: 10 sets of 45-second hill runs, with a 1-2 minute rest interval in between.
  • Recovery run: Also called easy runs, your running plan for weight loss will doubtlessly involve many of these cruisers. Take these as nice and slow as you like—you’ll still be lapping your former self on the couch. Example: 3 miles at an easy pace after a day of interval training.

Interval Running for Weight Loss

So, which style is the best if you’re running for weight loss? Interval training is definitely the most effective running program to lose weight. The periods of high intensity increase the stimulus in your muscles, thus achieving a much greater effect in the same amount of time as a moderate base run.

It’s math. Incorporating interval training into your running plan for weight loss will help you cut tons of calories in a relatively short time. As an added bonus, your muscles require a lot of energy after a high-intensity push in order to recover and regenerate, creating that after-burn effect while your metabolism stays elevated and your body continues to burn calories.

If your natural pace is 5 miles per hour, try to up your ante for a few segments. If it sounds challenging, keep in mind that you’re not running to win a race—you’re running to test the limits of your heart and drive. You’re here to take control of your health, and you’re capable of so much more than you think possible.

Here are some interval training tips to help you reach new running heights:

  • Don’t forget to warm up: When you’re interval running for fat loss, it’s imperative that you warm up with a 10-15 minute base run to prevent injuries. Base runs should be performed at a pace that’s comfortable enough to carry on a conversation, not gasping for air (psst… now’s a good time to encourage a friend to join in on your running plan for weight loss!).
  • Work periods: Once you’re nice and warm, your work periods should last about 15 seconds—shoot for a submaximal sprint, or in other words, not quite full speed. Follow this aerobic interval with a 45-second recovery period with slow walking. Work up to 15 intervals, which should amount to a 15 minute running for weight loss session. Cooldown is imperative, though; after your last push, be sure to walk it off for 10 minutes to naturally lower your heart rate.
  • Start slow: As you first get into running for beginners’ weight loss, make sure you don’t overdo it—starting at once a week should be fine. Once you get into the swing of things, you can start increasing the frequency of this running method, and can up your intervals to 20-second runs and 40-second rests.

Get some technological help: You don’t need a fancy timer to get good at these runs. Apps like Runtastic have an Interval Trainer feature with a Voice Coach that tells you when to start and stop each period. Prefer to run free and unencumbered? Try going by landmarks instead, sprinting and walking between each lamp post, for example.

Running Schedule for Weight Loss

We’ve covered the basics and you now have a solid understanding of running and weight loss—but taking those first few steps can be the hardest. How do you go from that couch you’re sitting on, to a run so epic Morgan Freeman should be narrating it?

Baby steps. Clichés aside, you really do need to walk before you can run—especially if your lifestyle is particularly sedentary. Here’s an introductory running plan for weight loss that can take you from walking to running in four weeks’ time:

Week 1

  • Monday—start with an easy 20-minute walk
  • Tuesday—rest or perform non-impact cardio (swimming, biking, etc.) for 20 minutes
  • Wednesday—walk for 25 minutes
  • Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 20 minutes
  • Friday—walk/run 4x (walk 4:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Saturday—­ rest or non-impact cardio for 20 minutes
  • Sunday—rest

Week 2

  • Monday—walk/run 5x (walk 4:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Tuesday—rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
  • Wednesday—walk/run 6x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
  • Friday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Saturday—­rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
  • Sunday—rest

Week 3

  • Monday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Tuesday—­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Wednesday—walk/run 9x (walk 1:00 minutes/run 2:00)
  • Thursday—­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Friday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
  • Saturday—­­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Sunday—rest

Week 4

  • Monday—walk/run 6x (walk 1:00 minutes/run 4:00)
  • Tuesday—­­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Wednesday—walk/run (walk 5:00/run 20:00/walk 5:00)
  • Thursday—­­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Friday—run for 28 minutes
  • Saturday—­­­rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
  • Sunday—rest

By the end of your first month of running for weight loss, you should be able to sustain a base run for nearly 30 minutes. It might not sound like much now, but it’s leaps and bounds better than where you started—and you’ll probably be asking yourself why you didn’t start sooner.

Going into month two of your running plan for weight loss, you can start hitting those aforementioned interval runs—this is when you’ll really start to see those pounds falling off. Remember, you’re not just running for fat loss, you’re training to become a badass.

You’re shedding your old skin as you shed that weight, turning into someone resilient, someone motivated to take care of their body, and someone who’s going to drag their butt out of bed to run and work out—no matter how tired or unmotivated you might be feeling.

How Much Weight Can You Lose if You Run Two Miles per Day?

We said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no concrete answer to this question; running and weight loss depends on a bunch of different factors.

If you improve your diet with loads of leafy greens and lean meats, you’ll get significantly better results. If you run at a faster pace than a light jog, you’ll burn more calories in your two-mile trek, which again complicates this answer.

If you make no change to your diet, it could take you around 18 days or so to drop a single pound. Cut out 300 calories from your diet and perform the daily two-mile jog—you could lose a pound per week.

Health Benefits of Running

You’ll probably shake your head at this, but—dare we say—you might actually develop a love for running, and it could turn into a passion rather than a chore. Running releases so much more than just energy and sweat.

Run to explore, run to escape. Take your running for weight loss to the trails, get into nature, away from the congestion and clear your head a bit. The massive flood of endorphins released when running can make you feel like you’re on cloud nine.

Your running plan for weight loss will do a lot more than help you thin down. You’ll feel better mentally thanks to a confidence boost, greater self-esteem, and pride in your relentless dedication. You’ll also feel (and look!) better physically on account of your running program to lose weight. Some additional health benefits you stand to enjoy include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stronger immune system
  • Increased joint and bone strength
  • Greater lung capacity
  • Improved sleep

The list goes on and on. When you want to take control of your health, you need a paradigm shift. The goal here isn’t to run for a few weeks, lose your desired weight, and then fall back into bad habits. This is a lifestyle change that includes healthy eating and exercising—even after you’ve hit that magic number on the scale. Hopefully, by understanding the awesome mental and physical health benefits of running daily, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Running for Weight Loss: Final Tips

There are a million and one reasons you could lose motivation while you’re running for weight loss, but impatience and a lack of visible results probably take the cake (please, stay away from cake while in your weight loss running program).

Here are a few tips to keep you on your grind:

  • Record your progress—keep track of your mileage to ensure you’re gradually pushing your distance.
  • Strength train—leg muscles are a kinetic chain, and strength training can ease your running program to lose weight by correcting weaknesses and imbalances.
  • Stretch—minimize common injuries by making sure you stretch before and after each run.
  • Running shoes—make sure you wear shoes designed for running, contoured to your specific foot shape.

Road Runner Sports has you covered on all things running, from shoes to apparel to expert advice. Stop by one of our locations and let one of our Fit Pros analyze your run to help you find the perfect shoe, or browse our online catalog to explore the ways we can help you on your running and weight loss journey.

22 thoughts on “A Guide to Running for Weight Loss: Secrets to Help You Shed Those Stubborn Pounds

  1. Gerty Gift says:

    Thank you for talking about how important it is to warm up to prevent injuries. I feel like this is something that I always forget when I’m exercising. I’ll be sure to implement this into my running and hope to see some results afterwards.

  2. ANGIE says:

    Have just started to try beginner interval running in one of my many attempts to lose weight and follow a healthier lifestyle
    Am hoping that this will eventually become a sustainable passion for me .
    As your blog says, it is always discouraging when results don’t show quick enough but will try to persevere.
    Wish me luck 🙂

  3. Priya Aurora says:

    To lose weight faster, you need to avoid doing the same workouts every day. Running does help a lot, but you should essentially mix it with some cardio and other exercises. And the most important we often forget is diet.

  4. Rae says:

    Truly inspiring, I am buying new running shoes today and getting my fat behind back out there! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • skerstetter says:

      Go, Rae, go!!! We’re behind you 100%. Please reach out and keep us updated on your journey. So excited for you!

  5. Latrina says:

    Love this! It is exactly what I needed to motivate me to begin a love for running. Seemed so daunting at first, but I know I can do this! Excited for this new journey! Thanks

  6. Dan says:

    A month ago I decided to start walking (making it a goal to get 10,000 steps minimum). I also am motivating myself to stop smoking. I’ve been thinking about running, slowly at first as I also want to lose weight and not worry about putting on weight when I quit. This is a great article for me to see the benefits of running and weight loss and am ready to start. My plan is to quit smoking in 6 months, but the way I’ve been feeling just by walking is motivating me to do it sooner. Not to mention how winded I get when I do run on occasion. Looking forward to continuing the journey. Thanks for this!

    • skerstetter says:

      Hi Dan! So glad you found this article helpful and congrats on committing to a healthy lifestyle. Good luck and let us know how it’s going!

  7. Coni says:

    I have exercise induced asthma, which only kicks in when running. I have learned to run slower so I can run further, but still have to do run/walks to be able to run at all. I’m 67, so I have no problem with that! Recently ran a 5K…with my daughter and granddaughter. Can’t beat that! Thanks for all of these great tips!

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