Running to lose weight is rather like eating an elephant!

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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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The best way to start running for weight loss is…

…walking!

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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