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Benefits of Running for Weight Loss

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 5/28/2010

Everyone knows that to lose weight and be healthy one must eat right and exercise. One of the best exercises for facilitating a healthy lifestyle is running.

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    Why I Started Running for Weight Loss

    Although the mirror doesn't lie, our mind is capable of taking the image we see and making us think we see something else. That's why wedding videos are so wonderful. A wedding video gets all your angles. It lets you see what everyone else sees.

    I was the best man at my best friend's wedding. I was also the fattest man at my best friend's wedding. At first I thought it was someone else--Dom Deluise or Eric Cartman perhaps.

    Something had to be done!

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    Running for Weight Loss Tips

    There is no better exercise than running. Here are some tips for making your running a more effective weight loss activity:

    1. Eat smart. No amount of exercise can compensate for poor eating. For running to be an effective weight loss activity, it must be paired with healthy eating. A common mistake runners make is to think because they're running they can eat whatever they want and still lose weight. Following up your run with three Big Macs and a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper will more than offset any progress you make while running.
    2. Be consistent. The weight loss program that works is the one you stick to. Weekend warriors are fat for a reason. They do nothing for five days. Any exercise program should be done on a regular basis. For any cardio vascular exercise program to be effective, it must include at least 20 minutes of heart rate increasing activity three times per week.
    3. Drink water. The human body requires eight 8-ounce cups of water per day. Those who exercise require more. Water helps your body function efficiently. You'll also be less likely to cram down a dozen donuts after imbibing a glass of refreshing H2O.
    4. Long is good. Fast is better. Long and fast is best but will probably lead to excessive vomiting, heart attacks, and injuries. Because high intensity workouts burn more calories, running for weight loss should include some high intensity workouts, but only if you have built a sufficient base. If you're capable of running for 30 minutes comfortably, three days per week, then you can begin to incorporate higher intensity workouts.
    5. Cross train. On days when you're not running, do a different exercise. Lift weights. Bike. Swim. Get romantic.
    6. Rest. Incorporate at least one day of rest into your routine. Don't overdo it. Overly tired bodies retain fat. In addition to getting one day per week of rest, the experts at Runnersworld.com suggest not increasing total weekly mileage by more than 10% in any one week period. For beginning runners, walking for five minutes and running for five minutes is a much better alternative than shin splints, soiling yourself, and a pulled muscle.

    Speaking of injuries...

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    Injury Prevention When Running to Lose WeightTake it easy. I know you're running to lose weight but getting injured won't help.
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    Running to lose weight cannot occur if you are unable to run. You already knew that. What you may not know is how to prevent running injuries.

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    Injury Prevention

    The #1 reason there are more former runners than current runners is injuries. Here are some do's and dont's for injury prevention when running to lose weight.

    1. Buy running shoes. Don't be like my brother-in-law who hiked the Subway Canyon at Zion National Park in Birkenstocks and suffered from severe toe cramps, blisters, and the ridicule of his siblings for weeks. Take care of your feet. Those sneakers in your garage that you wear while mowing the lawn aren't going to work. Buy shoes specifically made for running. Buy them at a store specifically geared to runners or athletes. Talk to a salesperson trained to help runners find the specific shoes for specific feet.
    2. Stretch. Stretching warms up and loosens up muscles. You need muscles to run. Running with tight muscles causes injuries. Injuries are bad.
    3. Don't overdo it. Most running injuries occur as a result of too much training or trying to run beyond your abilities. You should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. If you choose to increase your intensity, don't increase your mileage too. If you're not sure how to progress, find a running program that suits your goals and abilities. There's hundreds of them on the web.
    4. Cross train. By doing multiple exercises--weights, biking, swimming, kayaking, those machines at the gym that make you look like a giraffe on cross country skis--you strengthen other muscle groups and create muscular balance.
    5. Don't come back too soon. Make sure you're fully recovered before strapping on the running shoes. The second most common reason for the high number of former runners is reinjuries.
    6. Maintain proper form. When form breaks down, so does the body. Bad form leads to inefficent running. This is especially critical when running on hills. Don't be the clown running down the hill with arms flailing or you'll soon be the clown icing shin splints.
    7. Drink water. Fatigue leads to a lack of focus, which leads to poor form, which leads to injuries. Not drinking enough water leads to fatigue.