Running Tips – Running For Weight Loss

In theory, running for weight loss would seem to be the simplest concept. The more you run, the more calories you burn, the less you weigh, right? Except, of course it isn’t that simple.

Running Tips - Running For Weight Loss

Before we jump into tips on how to utilize running for weight loss, let’s take a quick refresher on the generally accepted calories in, calories out theory of weight loss*. Basically, one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Therefore, in order to lose one pound in one week, you would need to have a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories below the amount you eat in a week to maintain your current weight. That’s 500 calories a day, which you could cut from your intake either by eating less, or by exercising more, or by a combination of both.

*Of course, calories in, calories out has some flaws as a theory of weight loss. What’s often ignored is the quality of calories, as well as the individual response to foods based on genetics, hormones, allergies etc.

How many calories do you use up on a run? That depends on  a huge variety of factors, including age, weight, gender, genetics, speed, elevation, heart rate – like anything else it’s completely individual. To get a pretty close estimate, you can use a heart rate monitor which is programmed for your specifics, which will give you a calorie total at the end of your run.

Despite your best efforts, you may find that running either doesn’t seem to impact your weight loss attempt, or it’s become less effective over time as a method of weight reduction. Why? Here are three of the most common issues, with how to overcome them when it comes to running for weight loss.

You’re getting much better at running.

When you first try running, it’s really, really hard. Your lungs feel like they’re going to explode, your legs feel heavy and a minute seems to drag on interminably. Even if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape, running can be a tough new stressor on your body. Like anything, though, the more you run, the easier it gets – because you’re getting better with practice and your body has become more efficient. Efficiency means less calories used for the same run you struggled with weeks ago.

What can you do? The short answer is, you need to keep challenging your body. Running the same 4-mile run three times a week is going to become second nature to your body pretty quickly (we are very adaptable animals!). Change up how you run on a regular basis. Try running intervals. Do a longer run than usual at a slower pace. Do a shorter run than usual at a faster pace. Run hills. Try trail running. There are lots of opportunities for changing the stressors your body goes through on a run – what’s you’re doing is giving yourself less time to adapt and become efficient at something familiar.

You’re eating more.

Remember the article that was published in Time magazine, entitled “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”? I guarantee just about every trainer you know remembers it well, since it was all clients wanted to talk about for a while. Sensationalist headline aside, there are some truths to this piece. It’s easy to overeat when you start running (or even if you’ve been running for a while). This impacts any weight loss goal you may have hoped all that running would help.

What can you do? Planning is your friend in this scenario. Make sure you have your pre and post workout snacks or meals planned ahead of time, so you’re not just grabbing the first thing that looks good when you’re hungry. You can also keep a food journal for a week or so to get an idea of how many calories you’re actually eating on a daily basis, so if you are hungrier on your running days, you can try eating a little less on a less active day to make up for any extra you might consume after a run. Finally, don’t kid yourself as to what you can splurge on after a run. If you know how many calories you’ve used up on your run, then you can see if that actually equals the amount of calories you’ve been thinking about consuming since the first mile.

You’re neglecting strength training.

Like any form of cardio, you will burn more calories running if you have more lean mass on your frame – yes, muscle. Muscle is your friend. Muscle burns more calories at rest than your fat does. Strength training will make you leaner, stronger, less prone to injury and a better runner to boot.

What can you do? This one’s easy – you can strength train. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get results. If you have 15 minutes, you can get a good workout in with weights.

Running Tips - Running For Weight Loss


Have you successfully used running for weight loss?

Do you find you eat more on days you work out?


  1. I notice a big difference in my weight loss when I’m (semi) regularly running. I only run between 1-3 miles, but last year I couldn’t run a minute straight. I don’t tend to eat much differently on days that I run because, according to MFP, my speed and short distance doesn’t actually burn me that many calories. I’d love a HR monitor to figure out my actual burn because I definitely notice a difference on the scale.

    Thanks for all these tips! This is my second summer running (didn’t do much this winter) so I love learning!
    Kristin recently posted…Chocolate Caramel PB Bites {Protein Milkshake Bar Review and Giveaway}My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Anytime you start a new routine, you’re definitely going to see an effect in your weightloss. Just bear these tips in mind if you get to a plateau! 🙂

  2. These are great tips! And I will admit I was one of the people who gains weight when training for runs and usually it’s because I’m over eating. It’s hard but you have to be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Running doesn’t give you free calories for days!
    Renee @ Bendiful Blog recently posted…So You Want Some Back Muscles?My Profile

  3. Great tips Carly! I am not much of a runner but I think your article could apply to other forms of cardio too. I definitely think the eating one is key!
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…A Night Out With Kristi Yamaguchi and Alpine LaceMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, it definitely applies to all cardio! The eating one is a big stumbling block for a lot of people – when you’re hungry because you’ve been really active, you tend to gravitate to calorie-dense foods and that’s where it gets ya!

  4. I needed to see all of these tips! I recently finished my first half and am in a running funk. I’ve totally hit a plateau and it’s hard to stay motivated. I’ve started incorporating some speedwork into my running routine and have a plan to hit the weights hard. The eating thing is so interesting to me… my very first week of training for my half I was craving more calories like crazy! My body automatically knew it needed more. My challenge is to go for good calories vs cheeseburgers and ice cream, haha! Great post!
    Caroline recently posted…Summer Goals & Healthy HabitsMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Yes, yes! to speedwork and weights! They will both be so helpful for your running. A lot of runners shy away from strength training because they think being heavier = being slower, but if the weight is from muscle, that’s making it easier to run!


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