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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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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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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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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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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