/ 8 min

Running for Weight Loss: Beginner’s Guide

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By: KURU Footwear
Man running up a set of steps on his journey of starting a weight loss running regimen.

Running is a simple, powerful exercise that most people can do anywhere, anytime.  You don’t need fancy equipment, special training, or a gym membership to run. That means many people interested in living a healthier and more active lifestyle turn to a running plan to lose weight. 

Combined with proper nutrition, running can help you sustain a caloric deficit. Maintaining a consistent caloric deficit is the key to losing weight. Running can help increase your metabolism and has many other health benefits, from enhanced circulation to improved sleep.

Key Takeaways

  • Ultimately losing weight primarily comes down to maintaining a caloric deficit. That means burning more calories than you consume each day.
  • When paired with proper nutrition, aerobic exercises like running can help you burn calories and maintain a caloric deficit to lose weight.
  • Running plans for beginners should focus on reasonable goals and gradually build up to higher intensity. Going too hard too fast can lead to foot pain and increase your risk for injury.

Understanding the Benefits of Running for Weight Loss

Running has various benefits, from reduced stress to increased mood, but when paired with the right nutrition plan, running can also be a great way to help you feel more comfortable in your body. Let’s take a look at some of the ways running can help you lose weight.

Improved Calorie Burn

Losing weight relies on maintaining a caloric deficit, so burning calories is one of the key benefits of running to lose weight. The best running plan to lose weight will factor in the number of calories you consume in a given day vs. the total calories you burn. This helps keep you at a healthy, sustainable deficit aligned with your goals. 

Let’s start by talking about your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This calculation is designed to determine how many calories you burn on an average day before you start to factor in exercise. The fine details of these numbers vary a lot based on genetic factors and environmental conditions like temperature, so most calculations use averages to give you an estimate based on your gender, age, weight and height. 

Any exercise, running included, will burn calories on top of this BMR and help you work toward a caloric deficit. So, once you calculate your BMR, you can add the calories you burn in your running plan and then determine how many calories you want to eat to get the desired deficit. Running is an excellent choice for burning calories because it’s easy to do without training, expensive equipment or a gym membership.

Infographic comparing calories burned by females and males over time intervals from 10 to 60 minutes, differentiated by activities: walking, jogging, and running.

Enhanced Metabolism

If the goal is losing weight, maintaining that caloric deficit is the main factor. One factor in that complex equation is the speed of your metabolism, essentially how quickly your body burns fuel to give you the energy you need. A faster metabolism will burn excess fat more quickly than a slower metabolism.

Most forms of aerobic exercise do a great job of speeding up your metabolism during the activity, and running is no exception! You will burn more calories and generally more fat while running than at rest. Even better, some research indicates that higher-intensity activities can grant more of a metabolism boost throughout the day. We will discuss the value of high-intensity intervals later.

Muscle Toning and Strengthening

One of the most common debates among fitness enthusiasts is whether to focus on cardio or strength training, but the two activities aren’t mutually exclusive. Running works out the muscles and ligaments in your legs and lower body, building strength, flexibility and cardio benefits.

Runners are known for lean, toned physiques, but if your goal is weight loss, it’s best to combine running with strength training. One study found that overweight people who combined aerobics and strength training were dramatically more effective at reducing body fat than those who only did aerobic exercise.

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Creating a Running Routine for Weight Loss Success

Running can be a great way to get more physical activity, so setting yourself up for success is important. A running workout plan to lose weight needs to focus on more than just a caloric deficit. You also need to protect yourself from discouragement, injury and unhealthy expectations.

Set Realistic Goals

If you’re looking for a running plan to lose weight for beginners, you may be at the beginning of a journey toward a more active lifestyle. It can be exciting to leap headfirst into something new, so congratulations! And keep in mind that setting realistic goals is crucial in this process. 

You matter and deserve love regardless of your size. Setting extreme goals can lead to negative feelings about where you are presently. Extreme goals may also take a lot of work to achieve, setting you up for disappointment.

Starting small is also crucial for your physical health. Trying to lose weight too rapidly is a common way to come down with one of the overuse injuries many runners become familiar with.

Design a Progressive Training Plan

Realistic goals are a fruit most often rooted in gradual increases in intensity. Leaping right out of the gate with a plan that has you going from no exercise to running 3 miles every day may feel good for a short while, but your body simply cannot keep up and you’re more likely to hurt yourself. 

Overuse injuries usually occur when you go too hard too fast. Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, runners knee and more can all be overuse injuries. If you suddenly put your body through more strain than it is used to, you open yourself up to problems. This can include tears, sprains, strains, and general aches and pains. Give your body time to adjust to any new activity, with plenty of rest in between.

Prioritize Consistency with Frequency

It may be tempting to focus on long distances or daily outings right when you begin. But far more important than the number of miles is the slow, steady process of building new habits and easing your body into new heights. 

Working out five times a week is a great habit, but most people aren’t going to sustain that pace if they haven’t been working out regularly. Running every other day may mean fewer workouts in those first few weeks, but the person who focuses on consistency will always go farther than people who bite off more than they can chew and revert to their old routines after a brief burst of change. 

Find a frequency that works for you, and stay consistent. If you can’t always go as far as you like on a given day, try to at least get out and run on the same days each week or on the same cadence.

Fuel Your Runs with Proper Nutrition

The rate at which you lose weight varies based on so many factors, but at its core, losing weight is about a steady caloric deficit. Running burns calories and can play a role in maintaining a healthy and sustainable deficit, but if you are eating more calories than you burn, you aren’t going to lose weight. Any how to lose weight running plan must also consider your nutrition. 

The main factor is burning more calories than you consume. But beyond the math of tracking calories, some foods are more nutritionally dense than others. Meaning they are more likely to leave you feeling full on fewer calories. Other foods have vitamins or minerals that can help promote better health, from avocados to eggs to full-fat Greek yogurt.

Build a nutrition plan that allows you to keep up a caloric deficit while feeling full, and remember the goal is to keep eating healthier and healthier than you were before, not to deny yourself every treat that crosses your path or to cut out forever that one food you love most.

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Running Programs for Weight Loss

There are so many exercise plans out there, and if you are looking for a 4-week running plan to lose weight or a 6-week running plan to lose weight, it may be worthwhile to consider running in terms of building a new habit rather than losing X amount of weight in Y amount of time. 

Crash dieting and exercise routines that peak briefly before descending back to a valley of inactivity may help you lose a few pounds for a trip or outing, but a healthy lifestyle is about adjusting your habits and inviting sustainable changes into your life. 

Think of these thoughts on running programs less as self-contained experiences and more like springboards to build up the stamina and routine you need to make physical activity a regular part of your everyday life.

From inactive to active

One 4-week running program from RoadRunner Sports is designed mainly with beginners in mind. It’s easy to hurt yourself by jumping into a robust running routine right out of the gate, especially if you aren’t active on a regular basis already. Also, keep in mind that if you are carrying extra pounds, that puts increased stress and strain on joints like your knees. Running is relatively high impact, so starting with walks and building up to jogging and running may be just what you need to find success. 

This running plan focuses on a gradual start, so the first thing you’ll be doing is walking. You will also mix in low-impact cardio like cycling or swimming to build endurance and stamina as you work up to higher-intensity running–going longer and running more often as you progress along the plan.

Interval running plans

One of the key features of interval running plans is mixing in periods of low-intensity running with high-intensity running, so you may walk for 90 seconds and then jog or sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds–repeating this process several times. These intervals are often bookended by longer sessions at less intensity. 

Higher-intensity workouts burn more calories and accelerate your metabolism, but you can’t full-on sprint indefinitely. Interval workouts allow you to push yourself hard for a moment, rest, and then push yourself again so you get more time overall at that higher intensity. 

This program combines short sessions with longer sessions and hill runs for even more intensity on some days. It also recommends strength training exercises on the days you don’t run so you get maximum results.

From plan to routine

No matter the specific plan you choose to get into running, the goal is to ultimately build up the strength and stamina you need to make physical activity a regular part of your routine. Recasting these running plans in that way can also help you keep up motivation if you happen to miss a day because you’re busy or need extra rest.

After all, you didn’t mess up your 8-week plan, you just took another step toward a routine that includes more activity than it did before and that’s always something to celebrate! 

Remember to focus on consistency and frequency more than distances and times. The goal is to keep regular running in your routine, not cross the finish line first or beat yourself up if you aren’t able to exercise every day. Consider running at the same time when you go, and consider tying it to an existing routine like breakfast or a morning meditation. 

Always consult with your doctor before starting a new workout regimen, and remember that your nutrition is an equal partner with exercise in the equation when it comes to managing your health.

Four-week beginner's running schedule for weight loss, detailing weekly progressions, recommended distances, and rest days.

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Staying Motivated and Overcoming Challenges

Change is often uncomfortable, but you don’t have to take this journey alone… and try to remember to have fun!

Find a Running Buddy or Join a Community

A little company and conversation can go a long way, so see if you can find a partner or group to go running with. Aside from the companionship, a little external accountability can make you more likely to stick to a new routine, so grab a friend or family member and head out.

From online groups to classes at your local gym, there are a variety of ways to find a community to run with. Or if you like the solace of running solo, several apps or online tools let you complete challenges or set goals as part of a team or group, so you can compare progress and cheer each other on virtually. And after you get in your moment of zen for the day.

Mix Up Your Running Routes and Workouts

Variety is the spice of life, and that applies to staying active! We talked earlier about the benefits of combining strength training and aerobic exercise, but beyond the math of metabolism and calories, it can be helpful to avoid repetition. Consider mixing in a cycling or swimming day for a change of pace or to activate different muscles, and look for a variety of strength exercises so you aren’t always doing the same dumbbell curls every session.

Another way to keep it fresh can be to lean into the fresh air aspect of running. See even more of the great outdoors by turning left instead of right on your normal route, and keep an eye out for flowers to smell or bird nests to observe. A quick drive to a nearby park or trail may be just what you need to keep your next run feeling like an adventure instead of a chore.

Achieve Weight Loss Goals with KURU

One of the many benefits of running is that you don’t need a gym or expensive equipment to get into a routine. With that said, the shoes you wear while running can significantly impact your happiness and health. Runners often combat overuse injuries, but the right shoes can help reduce your risk.

One factor is the amount of cushion and support in your shoes, and another is the shape of your foot and how your shoes compensate for things like flat feet or high arches. Your foot shape, and other factors, can also cause overpronation or underpronation (also called supination). These abnormal gaits can increase general pain, discomfort, and risk of injury. Fortunately, the right shoes may help correct pronation problems, so footwear should be a factor in any good running plan to lose weight. 

KURU Footwear specializes in protecting the natural shape of your heel, and our shoes are designed to reduce pain and maximize your body’s natural cushioning. The contoured heel cups and ergonomic fit can help guide you to a more natural gait, correcting for over or underpronation. 

Your heels are already carrying a lot of weight and taking tremendous impact each day, and running adds to that stress and strain. KURU shoes blend soft cushioning with structured support to cradle each step, so you can keep moving comfortably and enjoy the health benefits of running.

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