Many people equate running and exercise with immediate weight loss. While this notion holds some merit, it’s not entirely accurate. Although running speeds up the metabolism and offers a slough of health benefits, there are four common hazardous mindsets that must be addressed regarding running and weight loss.
1. “If I run I can eat whatever I want”: Diet is at the top of the mistake list for an important reason. Even the most committed running enthusiasts must monitor what they put in their body. It’s easy to rationalize gorging junk food by saying “I ran today”. If you burn 500 calories and presume to eat a large piece of cake with a few crackers as a snack, your diet will essentially cancel out your run. Even if you’re an avid fitness enthusiast, avoid processed sugars and limit dairy and processed meats. Here is a list of my favorite “feel amazing, look amazing” foods:
· Veggies: Kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens, carrots, corn, peas, celery, sweet potatoes, squash, beets, onions, garlic.
· Fruits: Apples, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, kiwi, mango, bananas, pomegranate, tomatoes.
· Carbs: Brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, oats, dried fruit, dates, tempeh.
· Protein: tofu, soy protein shakes, lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, red beans, hummus, soy yogurt, lean chicken, fish.
· Fat: Organic peanut butter, seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, avocados, olive oil.
· Drinks: Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, herbal teas, water with lemon/lime, fresh squeezed juices (consider buying a juicer), seltzer waters.
Here is a great collection of videos about running and nutrition!
2. “If I run the same 2 mile loop every day, I will keep losing weight”: Your body knows you very well. If you perform the same exercise routine day in-and day out for years, you’ll stop losing weight and becoming fitter. You must mix up your routine and promote muscle confusion to gain fitness benefits. Variety comes in many forms. If you’re a runner, here are some fun workouts to try out:
· Hilly Runs: (30-45 minute run on a hilly course). Hilly runs build strength, endurance, and improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
· Long runs: (ex. 60-90 minutes at a conversational effort) Long runs build endurance, burn fat, and are high-calorie burners.
· Short, fast runs: (ex. 10-30 minutes of running at a difficult, but maintainable effort): burns fat, improves efficiency, builds speed, improves heart
· Fartlek runs: (ex. 30-45 minute run with 30 second-4 minute bursts of speed) Fartlek is French for “speed play”. During this run, warm-up for 10-15 minutes and integrate 30 second-4 minute bursts of speed with 30 second-4 minutes of recovery time. You can play with the time of bursts vs. recovery. This run improves metabolism, leg turnover, speed, and endurance. It also promotes muscle confusion, which keeps your body working hard throughout the duration of the workout.
3. “My bodyweight will rapidly drop when I start running more”: Often times, when you begin running and/or exercising, your body gains muscle mass. Although muscle gain looks scary on the scale, you should welcome it with open arms. Instead of focusing so intently on weight, focus on body composition. Measure fat percentages, circumferences, and dress sizes. The old cliché “muscle weighs more than fat” is a good thing to remember when it comes to obtaining better fitness.
4. “I am not an athlete, I’m just doing this to lose weight”: You don’t have to be an athlete to think like an athlete. Instead of using running as a “means to an end (i.e losing weight)”, use it as a means to improve performance, get faster, stronger, and fitter. Furthermore, think of food as fuel rather than things that “will make me skinny” or “will make me fat”. This shift in thinking will not only help you lose weight, it’ll also help you enjoy exercising a lot more.
Long story short: pay attention to the feedback of your body. When you exercise, eat, or engage in any activity, focus on your body’s response. Ask yourself—when do I feel best when I’m exercising? What foods make me feel energized, light, and confident? What does my day look like when I’m in a good mood? How does my body feel before and after a specific workout? Take note of the foods, workouts, and mindsets that keep you the sharpest. And remember, running in-and-of-itself is not the magic solution to weight loss. There is a combination of important factors that promote optimal health!