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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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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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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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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How far do you have to run to lose weight?

Taking up running to lose weight is very popular, but some people don’t seem to be able to make it work. What are they missing?

There are a few essential ingredients to making a success of losing weight by running. The first and most obvious is to make sure you do the right quantity and quality. Twenty minutes light jogging on a treadmill per week just won’ t make a lot of difference. Conversely, if you haven’t carried out any serious exercise for years, you may not be able to manage even that to start with.

The solution? Start with what you can do and build up. Walk if that’s all you can manage, but make sure you do it every day, building up to 30 minutes per day. Then start interspersing walking and jogging for your 30 minutes. Slowly but steadily increase your level of exertion. This may seem like a slow way of losing weight, but it works.


A major study looked at people who started running as a way of losing weight. They all started out being seriously overweight or obese and started at a low level. Nearly all managed to lose significant amounts of weight AND keep it of after 12 months. The tipping point appears to be around 10 miles per week running. Above this level and almost everyone lost significant amounts of weight. And the more running they did, the more they lost, regardless of any other factors.

Now you have a clear target of running to workup to, all you need to do is start. The key is persistence. Most people didn’t put on their excess pounds all in one week. Therefore they shouldn’t expect to lose it all in one week either. But starting at a level they can achieve, doing it regularly (and I mean daily, not monthly!), and building up to a target of 10 miles a week of running or more, and everyone can lose weight. Just make sure you don’t treat yourself for your exertions by scoffing cream buns!

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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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