What’s the best way to lose weight? Book a place on a half marathon!


If you want to achieve something it’s often a good idea to have a target. So why not have two? Running a half marathon and losing some weight are like two sides of the same coin. And having the goal of a big event in the not-too-distant future helps keep your motivation going, even when you might normally be giving in to temptation.

Running is a great way of burning calories – it’s one of the most energy intensive exercises which you can do, burning around 100 calories per mile, and with training you can build up to running long distances potentially burning thousands of calories in one training session. There have been many scientific studies that show a direct correlation between running and weight loss. The more miles you run a week, the less you weigh. And I know from my own experience that this works. Whenever my weekly running total increases, my weight decreases. And vice versa.

Half marathons are an ideal distance to use as a target, as they are sufficiently demanding to require a bit of commitment over a period of months (probably between 3 and 6 months, depending on what shape you were in to start with), but still be within the reach of most people. Full marathons, on the other hand, take so much training that beginners often give up before achieving their goal.

Don’t forget that, as well as burning calories, running will also increase your muscle mass – especially if you do some toning exercises for you upper body at the same time. This can happen even before you can start to see the difference in your body. So sometimes you do a lot of exercise in a week, and hop expectantly onto the scales at the end of the week, only to be disappointed. If this happens, don’t worry about it. It’s probably just that you’ve put on muscle mass as well as burning fat. If losing weight is the only goal this can be very frustrating. But if your real goal is to lose FAT (and incidentally greatly improve you health and fitness) you can still feel smug, and think about the longer term gains you have made.

Also, many beginners fall into the trap of overcompensating. It’s easy to think that you’ve burnt a lot of calories on that 45 minute run, so you can have a treat. Maybe a four cheese pizza or some chips, all washed down by a Coke. Sadly you will almost certainly have consumed more calories than you burnt. And if your best efforts in running have still not led to any weight loss after a few weeks, that is almost certainly what you have been doing. The only solution is to learn about better things to eat. Nutrition is GOOD, empty calories and excessive sugar and fat are BAD.

So go ahead, book up your first half marathon, and set the goal of completing it. You can also make a goal of losing a certain amount of weight. Then just start the training, building up steadily – you don’t want to get injured, do you? – and try to eat more of the right things and less of the wrong things. Before you know it you’ll be fit enough to run for 13.1 miles, crossing the finishing line to cheers from the crowd. You’ll have lost some weight. And you might just have got the running bug. Which can lead to marathons (and more weight loss) and even ultramarathons (50 or 100 miles or more) and even more weight loss!

Copyright © 2012 Rob Knowles www.erunningweightloss.com

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Running to lose weight is rather like eating an elephant!


A long time ago, I was on a training course, and the trainer asked us ‘How would you go about eating an Elephant?’. Seemed like a strange question in what was a pretty boring course. And he certainly wasn’t suggesting that any of the participants should try scoffing a pachyderm.

After much bumbling around, one of the brighter of us (i.e. not me!) suggested ‘Start with an ear, then …’.

The point is, if a project is so dauntingly huge as to leave you unable to decide where to start, just break it down into smaller chunks, and start on one of those. Keep on consistently working at the chunks and before you know it you’ve reached your seemingly unattainable goal. You can use exactly the same approach with running to lose weight.

Think about how people gain weight. Most people who are, say, 50 pounds overweight did not suddenly wake up one morning having put on 50 pounds over night. They probably didn’t eat a baby elephant in one sitting. No, it all went on one Big Mac and one Pepsi at a time. Some days they probably ate healthily. They may have been out for walks or been swimming on holiday, or even cycling. But over a considerable period of time they just consistently ate too much of the wrong things, and did too little exercise.

Running to lose weight is exactly the same in reverse.

You don’t have to run every day. Some times you may skip a week. You might have the odd Big Mac day. But the key to success is the Elephant strategy. Try to do a little more exercise as often as you can.

People often talk about the 5 times a week idea. And certainly running 5 times a week will really make a huge difference to your health and your waistline. But don’t get too hung up if you don’t make it every week. The main thing about the 5 times a week idea is to get into the habit of exercising. As long as you take consistent, regular action so that, on average, you eat less of the bad things and do more exercise than you did before, you WILL make progress towards your goal.

Successful running weight loss depends on just one thing – consistent action. Not thinking about running. Not talking about running. Simply going for a run at least 3 times a week, ideally 5 times a week. What could be easier?

No Elephants were harmed in the making of this blog!

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Running weight loss increases with distance.


A study of over 120,000 runners has found that running weight loss increases with the distance run per week.   It sounds pretty obvious really, but the people that run most miles in a week weighed less and had smaller waist measurements than those who ran less.   This is a clear indication of just how effective running or jogging can be for reducing weight.

The fundamental reason that running is so effective is that weight loss depends upon creating a deficit of energy, or a calorie deficit.   Simply use up more calories everyday than you consume (e.g. from eating) and you will start to use up your fat reserves – and lose weight.  Running uses more calories per hour than any other form of exercise.   This is because it is fully weight bearing  – unlike, for instance, swimming or cycling.   It is also very intense – most other exercises are intermittent, but running is full on for the whole time.

Another study of mildly overweight people in their 50s and 60s found that, as long as the participants did not change their diet, those who started running regularly lost around 10% of their body weight in a year.   So much for middle age spread being inevitable!   At the same time they increased their VO2 max – the scientific measure of physical work capacity.   Whilst not covered by this particular study, the participants also will have benefited from improvements to their cardiovascular fitness, and a strengthening of their immune systems.   Running really is the best way to lose weight, and improve your health!

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Half marathon training weight loss

It’s a well-documented fact that runners lose weight, and the more they run the more weight they lose. So setting the target of running a half marathon can be a great achievement in itself and the springboard to a lighter, healthier person.

Half marathons are a great way to get into running. They are challenging enough that they are going to require a significant commitment to training to be able to complete one. Very few people can just go out and run 13.1 miles with out doing a bit of preparation first. But it is a distance which most can achieve with the appropriate amount of training before hand.

Typically a training schedule for beginners to run their first half marathon is around 3 months. In that time they will build up from walking for 30 minutes to running 10 or more miles in one go. The total distance run is likely to be between 150 and 200 miles. This may sound incredible, but with steady effort over a few months it’s amazing how many miles you actually cover.

The total number of calories burned per mile run (including the so-called ‘after burn’) is around 160 for a relatively light (156lb, 11stone 2lb, 71kg) runner. So even a lightweight, assuming no change in diet, would expect to burn up the equivalent of about 10 pounds in pure fat.

Most people who want to lose weight don’t start at 156lb! And the amount of energy burnt is proportional to weight – so if the starting weight were 50% higher (234lb, 16 stone 10 lb, 106kg), which is not impossible, the fat loss would typically be 15 pounds, just from the running.

The exciting thing is that then, most people start to notice changes in their body, and they realise that they really can make a difference to it. They become more and more motivated and start looking at their food choices and just eating more sensibly. It only takes small changes in lifestyle, but over time nearly all runners lose weight. Scientific studies have shown a clear relationship between increased mileage run and reduced overall weight.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t end there. Running tends to suppress the appetite. Everyone assumes that after a run you’d want to eat your own weight in chocolate. The truth is the exact opposite. After a run, the last thing I feel like doing is eating anything swwet, or a large meal. A small snack maybe, and plenty of water or tea to drink, but certainly not a feast. And it seems that I’m not the only one as a reduction in appetite (aka ‘the Holy Grail of those who want to lose weight’) is widely reported as a side effect of vigorous exercise.

That is why study after study shows that running more means weighing less, even if the calculated calorie burn initially looks rather unimpressive.

Starting to train for a half marathon can be a great step forward in helping to reduce weight. It is also proven to be good for the health of the cardiovascular system, boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of many different forms of cancer. It seems that more (exercise) really is more (good for you)!

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Running motivation – and how to get it.

When I ‘m looking for the motivation to run, I just have to use my memory! It’s surprising how quickly you forget…

I’ve just been out for an hour long run – was it a long one or short? You decide! One thing that never ceases to amaze me, and it’s a thing that non-runners will never believe, is that, no matter how you feel beforehand, when you get back from a run you feel good.

  • Whether it’s been a hard run or an easy one.
  • Long or short.
  • Hot or cold.
  • Raining or sunny.

Get back home – probably a bit puffed. Maybe feeling all those muscles a bit too much. Could have been pushing too hard this time. No matter.

  • Get showered.
  • Do a few stretches.
  • Have a cup of tea.

And I feel GOOOOD. Much happier than I was before I went out. Who says that endorphins aren’t addictive. My whole body feels comfortably warm, even though it was only 6°C outside and a bit windy today. I feel like I could take on the whole world. And win!

The feeling of well-being that a vigorous burst of exercise can give has to be experienced to be believed. That’s what gives runners their motivation to run.

Just lifting a few weights or going for a short walk, may help you feel a bit better, but there is nothing like a good run in the countryside to lift the spirits, make you feel good all over and give you the energy you need to tackle anything. Not to mention the huge amount of good it does for cardiovascular health, the boost to the immune system, or the huge number of calories burned during the run and, thanks to a boosted metabolism for the next 24 hours, during the rest of the day. Running really does make you feel good, improve your health and help you lose weight. So if you are lacking running motivation, just remember how you felt last time you finished a good run. Then nothing can stop you!

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Too old to run a marathon?

Do you feel that you are too old to start running? Running marathons is surely something for the youngsters, isn’t it? I’ve heard a work colleague complain that he was not physically as able to do the things he used to do when he was younger. I wouldn’t mind so much if he was old…but he said it when he was just 37 years old! Being a fair bit older, and feeling considerably fitter at the time than when I was 20 years younger, that really shook me!

I think that a lot of the time, age limits are in the mind, rather than real physical limits. Sure, some people have health problems which prevent them from doing certain things at particular time in their lives. But human bodies are very often capable of doing very much more than their owners realise!

You may have heard about the claims that a 100 year old man ran the Toronto Marathon in October 2011. Sadly, according to the Guinness World Records website that record has not yet been confirmed, as they have not been able to confirm the gentleman in question’s birth date. However, don’t think that means that older people can’t run. Just for the record:

  • The oldest female to run a marathon has been confirmed as 92 year old Gladys Burrill (Honolulu Marathon, December 2010).
  • The oldest couple to run a marathon together is Shigetsugu Anan (83) and his wife Miyoko (78) at the Nanohana Marathon in Japan in January 2008
  • And in case you think that these are the exceptions that prove the rule, there are a LOT of ‘less young’ people running marathons. For example, in the London Marathon in 2011, 156 runners in the 70years + category finished the 26.2 mile course. In New York on 6 November 2011 1096 Men aged 60 – 64 completed the full marathon – alongside 287 women of the same age, and 682 of their elders!

All of these people are stars in their own right. They’ve obviously been through enormous challenges to achieve such magnificent feats. But the shear number of them shows what humans are capable of. If so many people can manage to run 26.2 miles, why not you? Maybe you can’t walk to the bus stop without puffing and panting now. But with persistence and training who knows what you could achieve. In fact, YOU won’t until you try!

One final thought. It’s easy to think that some people are born with natural ability to run. But rest assured that Usain Bolt – the worlds fastest man (100m in 9.58 seconds – equivalent to 23 miles per hour or 37 km per hour) was not able to run that fast as a boy. He just worked and worked and worked at it until he COULD run that fast.

And in 1954 most people believed that it would be impossible for a human being to run 1 mile in under 4 minutes. They said that such a speed was simply not feasible. However, Roger Bannister managed 3mins 59.3 on 14 May that year, and the record has continued to drop ever since – it now stands at 3min 43 seconds.

Running as slowly as Roger Bannister did won’t even get you a county record where I live in Cornwall UK!

With training, humans are capable of incredible feats, even after 80 or 90 years. I wonder what YOU could achieve…

©2011 Rob Knowles

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How to start running to lose weight

Many people want to start running to lose weight. And it’s a great way to get fit and shed those extra pounds. But pushing an unfit body too far, too fast is a recipe for trouble.

Obviously most people who would like to lose weight have not exercised seriously for a considerable time. But running is one of the most vigorous forms of exercise you can get. It’s great for you heart, muscles and burning calories. But it does put a strain on the body. And if you put a strain on something weak, it will break.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use running to burn off those extra pounds. Just that you need to start out with due care for the current condition of your body. I speak from experience. Years ago when I first thought I’d try and lose a few pounds by running I did everything wrong. Tried too hard and pulled muscles. Didn’t get the right kit and overstrained joints. Tried to reach my goals by doing one huge effort a week, with 6 days of doing nothing. The list goes on.

Remember the hare and the tortoise? In this case the hare ended up in hospital, and the tortoise lost heaps of weight, got fit and lived happily for over a hundred years!

So, what’s the best way to start? The basics are:

  1. Get in the habit of exercising. You burn a lot more calories (and hence lose more weight) by going out for a fast walk of gentle run 5 times a week, than by doing a monster effort twice a week. And apart from that you are much less likely to get strain injuries. Not to mention the fact that it’s much easier to do something by routine than by individual effort. If you always go for a run when you get home from work, it becomes a habit and you don’t need to think about it. You don’t need any will power. It’s just a habit. Easy. If you only go out occasionally, each time you need to have the willpower to get going. Each time you have a million possible excuses which you could use to have just one more day off. You end up going once a week or less. Human beings like routines. They don’t like having to think.
  2. Get the right kit. You will need proper running training shoes. Not supermarket specials. Proper running shoes from a sports shop. Only they give the cushioning that old and / or unexercised legs need to avoid damaging knees and ankles. You will also need suitable clothing to support free-hanging weights. Ladies, that means a good sports bra. Saves so many black eyes for you and anyone around you. And Gentlemen need good fitting shorts to give suitable support a little further down….
  3. Get checked out by a doctor. It’s better to find out that you might have a minor heart weakness by having an ECG in a nice warm doctors surgery, than to find out the hard way. Your doctor can also advise you, based on your medical history, if there are any things you need to take special care of. .
  4. Start slowly. If you are going to have to go out everyday after work, the level of exercise need to be something you can manage daily. Not a superhuman effort which takes you two weeks to recover from. If you can only manage to walk for 30 minutes to start with, do that. After a few days you will start to get a bit faster. Eventually you can start to jog for 2 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes, then repeat until your half hour is up. .
  5. Warm up before you start. Start out fast enough to increase your body temperature, but not fast enough to break a sweat. Try to get all of your body moving – arms, legs, neck. Don’t start increasing the speed until you are nice and warm. .
  6. Record your progress. It’s amazing how quickly we forget. After 2 months when you can manage to run for 5 miles without stopping, you will probably have forgotten that you couldn’t walk for half a mile before you started. If you keep a record of your progress you will have a personalised, highly motivating record of how successful your health kick has been, whenever you have a lack of motivation. After all, if you can make such great progress in the last 2 months, what could you achieve in the next 2 months?

Following these simple tips can enable you to transform you health and weight, without suffering from any of the setbacks that can so easily torpedo your progress. And once you’ve started running to lose weight you just won’t want to stop!

© 2011 Rob Knowles

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Walking to lose weight – even celebrities can do it!

I just read a story that Victoria Beckham will be walking to lose weight, after gaining a few pounds (ounces?) during her recent pregnancy. No matter what you may think of ‘Posh’, as she was once known, you have to say that she keeps her body in pretty good order. I speak as man of an age who should know better than to think about it!

Moving on, I did a bit of research about her fitness history. And it’s certainly difficult with any celebrity to be too sure what is true, and what is made up just to sound good. Search Google for ‘how does Victoria Beckham keep fit’ and you get 860,000 results. I can’t believe that she has said 860,000 things on the subject!

None the less there are some ‘facts’ which appear on some big name websites that make you think they must be true:

    • Clearly VB is very careful about what she eats. She is reported to like Japanese food, which is very healthy – a lot of low fat protein, and not too many carbs. No surprises so far.
    • VB is also quoted as saying that she keeps fit by ‘running after her three boys all day’. This may be a joke, but having three active young children is going to keep any mother running.
    • Finally VB is famous for not being keen on gyms (who is?). But I understand that she normally runs 4 miles a day 6 days a week.
  • No great surprises then. If you want to have a fabulous body, you just have to do the right things. Ignore all of the hype about the latest hot diets or fitness gurus. Simply keep control of what you eat, do toning exercises to get the muscles you want, and do a good slug of cardio (walking, running, cycling, swimming) to boost your fitness and burn those calories. So simple even a celebrity could manage it! Walking to lose weight really works!

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    The best way to start running for weight loss is…


    Now don’t get me wrong – running for weight loss really works. But if you haven’t exercised for ages and are a bit overweight, jumping straight in to running is probably too big a step.

    Think about it.

    • You didn’t learn how to write by penning a 400 page novel.
    • Your first steps as a baby were not a full sprint at world record pace.
    • The first time you drove a car I’m betting it wasn’t in a Formula One race!

    When stepping up to a higher level of any endeavour – be it writing, walking, driving or anything else – it will take some time for your body to adjust. Exercise is exactly the same. And many people who just want to make excuses for not doing something for their health, will use this as an excuse not to try exercising. You must have heard it “Did you hear about poor old Sid – started running to get fit and twisted his knee. Exercise is too risky for me. I’ll just stick to eating the pies….”

    The fact is, running before you can walk really is a bad idea.

    • You need to build up a few muscles.
    • You need to lubricate your joints so they don’t feel the strain of the new level of exercise.
    • You need to stretch your muscles so they are not so tight and likely to get strained.
    • You may need to improve your circulation so that your lungs can supply enough oxygen for the amount of work that you are going to do.

    The human body is a wonderful thing. It can adapt enormously. It can adapt to living in very hot inhospitable places on earth. It can adapt to the solitude of living on tiny space craft Millions of miles from home. It can adapt to surviving where food is scarce. And it can adapt to doing a huge amount more exercise. It just needs time.

    It’s really difficult, I know. You have just decided that this year you ARE going to lose weight, get fit and run that marathon. GREAT! WELL DONE! And now I’m telling you to take it easy. But believe me, you will make much faster progress if you start with walking. Steadily increase pace and distance. Then start jogging a bit. Then a bit more. Then a bit more. Then running a bit. Then a bit more. And so on.

    If you go out for a run for the first time in 20 years with out any preparation you may get injured. Or you might just find it too much of a strain and give up. Either way is MUCH slower at achieving your goal than slow, steady progress.

    Running for weight loss really can change your life. But it’s taken you some time and effort to put on those extra pounds and do so little exercise. Now take the time to transform your body without pushing yourself too hard at first. It may seem like slow progress. But progress is better than having a setback due to injury. Continuous steady steps towards your goal are better that taking one step forward and two steps back!

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    Jogging for weight loss…

    Jogging for weight loss improves your health even if you don’t lose any weight! We’ve all heard tales of people who started jogging to lose weight, but who didn’t lose any at all. Well researchers have found that even these people significantly reduced total body fat, and visceral fat. And many studies have linked visceral fat (the fat stored around your organs) to risks of heart disease and of developing Type 2 diabetes.

    Incidentally, you may well ask why some people who start jogging fail to lose any weight. Well the research helps explain that too. In order for this group to maintain a stable weight, they had to increase their calorie intake. That’s right, they had to eat more! If they’d done the same amount of exercise (either brisk walking or gentle jogging in this study for 60 minutes a day) without consuming more calories they would have lost on average 8% of their body weight in 3 months. And before you ask, all of these people were in the obese category before the study started.

    So jogging for weight loss really works. The only thing that can derail the process is scoffing more to treat yourself for all that hard work. Or giving up all altogether. But if you really wanted to lose weight you would stick at it, wouldn’t you?

    The other good news is that all of the participants who exercised, even if they did not lose weight, significantly increased cardiovascular fitness (by about 16%), while the dieters showed no such improvement. And they prevented the slow down of their metabolism which often leads to weight gain. Once again, more proof that jogging for weight loss really works, and even if you sabotage your efforts by eating more, you still improve your overall health.

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    Forget the Caveman diet …

    Try LIVING like a caveman if you really want to lose weight:

    • Run 5 – 10 miles a day
    • Eat as much Wildebeest as you can, whenever you can

    You’ll have that slim, sexy body you were craving before you know it!

    Alternatively if you don’t live in Manhattan, so you can’t lay your hands on fresh Wildebeest, you could try the more convenient version. All you have to do to lose weight and keep it off is run 10 miles per week. A major scientific study found that, whatever else the participants in the trial did, if they ran more than 10 miles a week they lost weight. Amazing! Even despite modern humans having a pretty sedentary life, they still only have to run less than half the amount that our predecessors did to have a sexy slim body. How good is that!

    I know from my own experience that the amount I run correlates pretty well with my weight – the more I run, the less I weigh. I mean, I’m not perfect – unlike all those irritating robots whose body is a temple, who workout 3 times a day, and eat nothing but grass-fed beef. I’m actually a real human being.

    • Sometimes I run. When I do, I really enjoy it.
    • Sometimes I miss a few days. Busy / lazy / easily distracted…. Whatever.
    • Sometimes I miss a week, or even two. Now you know I’m human.
    • Sometimes I’ve even missed some months – usually due to an unplanned visit to the hospital. Nothing to do with running – it just turns out I really should not be allowed to handle craft knives when I’m working on the house….

    Anyway, being a sad geek, I have a record of my weight and the amount that I ran for the last 12 years. It clearly shows that running more than 10 miles a week causes my weight to drop to my target level. Then, when I ‘let myself go’ and ease off the running, the pounds just start creeping back on again. Great incentive to get the running shoes on!

    Please bear in mind that I don’t really control my diet very much. The robots would be horrified! I drink alcohol when I want to. I eat pretty much what I want. Fortunately I don’t want burgers – ever. Unfortunately I do like a nice pizza sometimes. And some say I could be addicted to bread and pasta. But still running helps keep my weight in the ideal BMI range, whilst all around me are expanding at an alarming rate!

    So forget the caveman diet, or any of the latest diet nonsense. Just start running. And keep doing it. Once you are in shape 10 miles a week is not much – maybe three short (i.e. 30 minutes or less) runs per week. And you can eat pretty much what you like, and still have sexy muscular legs, and no excess flab.

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