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

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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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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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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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Why is running so good for weight loss?

Running for weight loss really is the best way to shed those extra pounds. If you want to get in shape and lose weight, running is about as good as it gets and here’s why.

Firstly, running uses more calories per hour than just about any other form of exercise – typically 800 – 1000 per hour. To lose weight you have to burn up the calories stored in your fat reserves. The more calories you burn, the more you lose. Just make sure you don’t compensate for your exercise by consuming extra calories or you’ll never lose any weight.

Many people start running with a target in mind. This is a great idea if you are trying to lose weight. Having set yourself a goal, maybe running your first marathon or entering a triathlon, keeping the goal fixed in your mind helps keep you fully motivated to keep running.


We all know it’s too easy to ‘fall off the wagon’ when you are trying to diet to lose weight. After all, dieting is just about bad news, drudge and thinking of things you want but can’t have. However, if you are working on a longer-term project like your first marathon, you are much more likely to keep it going. And persistence is the key. Remember, you didn’t gain those extra pounds in one week, so you can’t expect to lose them that quickly either!

Another great benefit of running is that you can tailor it to your personality. Some people need the support of others and enjoy the camaraderie of getting fit with friends. And having a running buddy is a great way of overcoming the urge to skip a run because you can’t be bothered.

Other people may prefer solitude – quiet reflection on the universe without interruptions from other people. People like this (er, like me in fact!) will find the idea of joining a club or gym really off-putting. If you want to be alone, going for a run can be a great way of finding your own space.

Finally, a thought about why it’s easy to lose weight some ways but not others. Think about going on a diet. It’s all about not having things that you like. It is really hard graft, but you can have the rewards of a new slimmer you if you succeed.

On the other hand, running and other aerobic exercises have some killer weapons to help you through. They are called endorphins. They are Nature’s natural feel good drugs. After exercising vigorously, your body releases endorphins into your blood stream to give you a completely legal ‘high’. So in addition to burning through a load of calories, you also get a ‘feel good all over’ reward. You feel good at the time, AND you are completely motivated to keep on going out for your runs.

Soon you can get to the stage where you go out running because you enjoy it, and forget that you were meant to be losing weight. You will still lose weight, of course, but it is now just a natural by-product of doing what you enjoy anyway! Running really is the key to successful weight loss!

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Does walking to lose weight work?

Many people want to know if walking to lose weight really works. It can be difficult to find a clear answer to the question, as there is so much conflicting information available on the subject. So I’m going to try and shed some light on the real answer…

The short answer is ‘No’. When you realise that each pound of fat is the equivalent of around 3500 calories, you can see that just walking for 30 minutes a day isn’t going to make a huge difference. In round numbers it is reckoned that walking 1 mile uses around 100 calories. So 30 minutes a day walking makes about 10 miles a week – the equivalent of less than a third of pound of fat! If that was all you could hope for, you may well think that it’s impossible to achieve any significant weight loss this way.


Fortunately, this is not the whole answer. Extensive reviews of many studies on weight loss have clearly shown that the best way to lose weight is to combine vigorous exercise with control of the diet to create a significant calorie deficit. For long-term weight loss it is believed that 1 – 2 pounds per week is a good, achievable amount to lose. More than that is not sustainable. Less than means that will take too long to make a difference, so people tend to ‘fall off the wagon’.

So that means creating a deficit of 7000 calories a week, or 1000 calories a day. And cutting 1000 calories a day from your diet is going to make you really miserable and flip your body into survival mode, where it tries to compensate for your rash actions by using fewer calories to keep itself running. This does not help! It’s also why diets simply don’t work for most people.

Strangely it seems that the number of calories burned for running a mile is more or less the same as for walking a mile. The only difference is that you can obviously run more miles in 30 minutes than you can walk. The more vigorous the exercise (i.e. the faster you run) the more calories you burn in your allotted time. Hence you make more inroads on your target. Say you can run 4 miles in 30 minutes (and many people can after a few months of training). Then you can reach nearly half of you target calorie deficit in just 30 minutes exercise a day. Then you only need to save 600 more a day by careful eating and you can reach your target. Cutting out a couple of cappuccinos a day and a Danish pastry, or avoiding sugary drinks and replacing them with water or simple tea can easily make up that difference. Then you are on the way to your goal!

So is walking a waste of time? Absolutely NOT! The fact is that most people who want to lose weight cannot and SHOULD NOT try to run straight away. If you haven’t exercised for years you MUST give your body time to adjust to the new demands that you are putting on it. So walking is the essential first step in using exercise to help lose weight. It works for two good reasons:

  1. It gets you into the habit of exercising regularly. It’s often said that if you do something everyday for 2 weeks it will become a habit. So go for a 30 minute walk every lunch break, or when you get in from work and it will soon become a habit, so you won’t have to think about it or find any willpower.
  2. When you start out, this is probably all you can manage. So start with what you CAN do, and build up. Over the weeks most people are able to walk further and faster than they could before. Then they may start walking a bit then jogging a bit. And so on. Before they know it they really can start running for 30 minutes non-stop.

This is the best way to achieve long term weight loss that will not just be regained when the diet stops. And the other health benefits from all that exercise will make you feel so good you just won’t want to stop! Walking really is the best way to start losing weight!

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Running to lose weight – tips to make sure it works!

Don’t go on a diet – running to lose weight is much better!  Some people have trouble making it work so here are a few tips to make sure that your running weight loss program really works:

  1. Don’t over compensate by eating too much.   Many people give themselves a treat after going for a run.   Nothing wrong with that.   But if you eat more calories than you burn, you will actually put weight on.   For example, many runners like to have a beer after going for a run.  A typical pint of beer contains as many calories as you would burn by running 2 miles!   If you run 4 miles in 30 minutes, half of your run went into burning the calories from your ‘treat’!
  2. Don’t try to do all of your running in one or two runs per week.   You may be pressed for time (aren’t we all?), but to really make some inroads into shedding those extra pounds you need to run regularly.   Ideally 4 or 5 times a week.   Once it becomes a habit it’s easier to get those running shoes on and get running.   Also doing more frequent but shorter runs you will still use as many calories but you are much less likely to overstrain your joints and muscles.   If you haven’t exercised for a while (and since you are reading this I’m guessing that you haven’t!), you need to take care not to try too hard, too soon.

  3. If losing weight is your main goal, try thinking about what you eat as well.   You don’t need to go on a diet – we all know they don’t work – but you can still think about moderating your worst excesses.   We all have them.   Mine are glasses of wine in the evening (120 calories each!) and a cappuccino when I’m out shopping (100 calories a go!), not to mention the cake!   Incidentally, I know a place (a famous supermarket coffee shop) where you can have a toasted teacake with over 600 calories in it – and that’s before you add any butter or spread!   You don’t need to be too harsh – just think about what you can do without which is bad for you (you know what it is!), and try not to have one every time you go out.
  4. Make sure you drink enough water.   Running can really make you dehydrated.   You only feel thirsty when you are already dehydrated (i.e. it’s already too late).  Make sure that you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration – after all there are no calories in it and it really helps your body to get rid of toxins and keep you healthy.   In an ideal world we’d all drink only water – but I’m not giving up my occasional glass of wine, even if you are!
  5. Don’t try to run before you can walk!  The biggest problem new runners face is getting a niggley injury virtually as soon as they start.   It’s not surprising really.   Maybe you haven’t exercised since you left school (that was me!).  Trying to run a mile in 4 minutes first time out of the house will probably result in a hasty visit to hospital!   It makes much more sense to start out with what you can do – walking, or maybe (but probably not) jogging for a few minutes.   And slowly build up.   I understand the frustration.   And once you’ve decided to start losing weight by running, you expect to lose 20 pounds a week and be able to run like Usain Bolt.   However, you will make much quicker progress towards your goal if you start steady, exercise regularly, and slowly build up.
  6. Lastly, and most importantly, remember it’s meant to be fun.   Don’t go out for a run or a walk thinking that you’ve got to do this horrible punishment for all the bad things that you’ve eaten.   That will make it feel like HARD LABOUR, which no one wants.   Instead go out and relax.   You’ve got some YOU time.   You can just think about the things that YOU want, without any hassle from anyone else.   Enjoy looking at the scenery.   Watch how the trees are changing as the seasons change.   See how many different bird species you can spot in your 30 minutes.   Just enjoy it.   Then you’ll be home and ready for a nice refreshing shower before you even realise that you’ve been exercising.

Running to lose weight really is a great choice.   If you start gently, build up and make sure you enjoy it, it will soon become a great new healthy way of life.

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Is jogging for weight loss better than running?

Many people wonder what the difference is between running and jogging to lose weight.   I think that the answer is…time.   Let me explain.   When people set out to lose weight by exercising, they are not able to run for any significant period of time without overexerting themselves.   In fact most people are better off starting with walking and building up rather than diving straight in at running.

It is widely reported that it is better to exercise in the so-called ‘fat burning zone’, so jogging, being lower intensity, should be better for weight loss than running.   Whilst it is true that your body cannot burn fat as quickly as other forms of stored energy, what really matters for weight loss is the total number of calories used.   Where the energy comes from in the short term is irrelevant, as the short-term energy stores will be replenished after exercising by burning fat.


Incidentally, don’t be put off jogging or running to lose weight by the anti-running BS which lazy people like to promote, which says that runners are much more likely to get injured than non-runners.   There is evidence that starting any exercise can cause injuries.   Running for the first time in years without any build up can overstress underused muscles and joints.

How can people start losing weight by exercising?   All the evidence points to following some basic rules:

  1. Seek medical advice BEFORE starting out on an exercise regime, especially if you haven’t exercised for some time.
  2. Start with what you CAN do.   Usain Bolt wasn’t able to run 100m in 9.58 seconds the first time he put on running shoes, so why should you expect to be able to run continuously for 30 minutes if you haven’t walked for more than 10 minutes in the last 5 years?   Start with walking.   Aim for 30 minutes per day.   If you can’t manage 30 minutes, start with what you can do and build up.   Then start increasing your pace.  And so on.
  3. If it hurts STOP.

In a very short period of time most people will have reached the stage of running for 30 minutes per day.   That’s when the real weight loss kicks in.   But even before then the health benefits will have started – improvements to cardiovascular health, and an improved immune system to name just two!

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Running weight loss increases with distance.

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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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